Natalie Arroyo started off 2023 as Humboldt County’s first Latina to be elected to office on the Board of Supervisors to represent District 4.
Arroyo was introduced to the Watershed Stewards Project through AmeriCorps and started working in this area doing fisheries conservation in Petrolia, California. Coming from a Puerto Rican background and growing up in Miami, Florida, she first came to Humboldt in 2006 from New Orleans. Arroyo stayed in Humboldt largely due to the natural and architectural beauty of the area. Having grown up primarily on military bases, these features intrigued her.
The small and rural characteristics of most towns in Humboldt County reminded her of her family’s Puerto Rican culture, where people are very welcoming and embrace one another. Food and culture are ways that Arroyo remains connected to her heritage.
“Growing up Puerto Rican and eating all the flavors, and the family experiences that come with food, are some of the warmest experiences in my personal life,” Arroyo said.
To Arroyo, Puerto Rican tradition values warmth and kindness towards all people, as well as a connection to other Latinx cultures. “That’s something I grew up with that I have to pull back in our culture here,” Arroyo said. “I feel I’m very warm and familiar with people in a way that they’re not expecting. Sometimes that can seem confusing to them when I’m just bringing what’s normal for my family into the space.”
Arroyo began her political path in her early twenties by volunteering to serve on nonprofit boards of directors. She served two terms on the Eureka City Council before advancing in her career to now serve on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.
“I think a lot about language and policymaking and whether information is accessible to people in their language. There’s also a lot of need for more housing,” Arroyo said. “Just as much as it’s important to house students and house people who are currently houseless it’s also important to welcome people in from outside the community including people who have immigrated here from other countries.”
As a politician, Arroyo is a vocal advocate for women’s rights, in favor of abortions-rights and is passionate about supporting organizations that provide reproductive healthcare. She wants people to have the right to make their own bodily decisions. Arroyo acknowledges that the right to choose has been pivotal to where many people are in life today.
When it comes to her work, she is excited to be an example for other Latinx people to see that they can potentially serve their community as government officials in ways that are meaningful to them. Also teaching a class at Cal Poly Humboldt on Environmental Conflict Resolution, she expressed that Latinx students had taken her class because they felt that familiarity and inspiration from her being a Latina.
“It’s interesting to me how people sometimes don’t want to talk about racial, cultural, or ethnic diversity. There are times when I’ve been in a room to make a decision and if I hadn’t been there, the decision would not have gone that way,” Arroyo said. “I’m very proud to be Latina and to be in a leadership role. It’s groundbreaking for this place and this moment in time.”