Home > Uncategorized > Disappointment…


After visiting the communities in Houston and Port Author with Juan Parras and Hilton Kelley, I was in shock. Actually, as I write this, I still find myself in shock and in disappointment. In Port Author, it was the dynamics of the day that made the trip memorable. The camera crew, Hilton’s passion, his family and friends’ hospitality, and speaking with the residents made the experience seem surreal—as if we were watching a documentary unfold in front of our eyes.

As I recall the day that we spent in Houston with Juan, it was not the dynamics that captured my attention, but it was the images of the city: Cesar Chavez school with a refinery in the backdrop, scrap metal loaded on a barge going to China, trash and debris in residents’ yards, homes squeezed between refineries, chain linked fences with the Houston skyline in the background, two women collecting cans off the street, and crumbling homes located around the block from new condominium development. At times on this trip, I did feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I thought to myself, ‘Why is this occurring and why is there such an evident pattern in both Houston and Port Author?’. I felt like these injustices would have been solved if the land was zoned in the first place so that neighborhoods and schools would not have been placed next to industries and vice versa. This issue with zoning, however, is that zoning would come a little too late. The neighborhoods and refineries are grandfathered and the petrochemical industry is agglomerated in both of these regions.

So if zoning cannot solve the problem, then what can? The only reasonable solution is relocating the citizens because the industries will refuse to move because they have the power and resources to refuse. And do not expect the industries to relocate residents; it will have to be fought for and this is where the real underlying problem comes in: money. These industries can get away with almost anything because they are billion dollar companies and because they contribute immensely to the local economy. Everyone in Houston and Port Author is paid off by these companies except those that are negatively affected by them. Should you try to fight against them, your small amount of money will be no good compared to what’s in their pockets. The residents who work in the industry will not side with you and the city council that depends on the industry’s money for economic growth (and their campaigns) will not stand with you either. Even people of your minority who are involved in the well-being of the minority (NAACP, LULAC) will not stand with you since these industries provide money to their organization. In fact, people in your own community may not support your cause as they can be paid off by the industry as well (even though the amount of money given is insulting).

In Port Author, Kelley finds this to be an issue when trying to organize the community. The refineries can pay citizens approximately $200-$500 when there is an explosion or a leak as long as they do not pursue a law suit against them. Of course, these people would rather take the money since they are most likely out of work or working for a small income. Can you blame them? In my opinion, it appears to be environmental blackmail by the industries. It appears that the residents are in a lose-lose situation when fighting against these industries. There was a moment at the scrap metal facility that sums up my experience. It was when I heard the loud screeching noise of the metal and saw the immense Houston skyline under a veil of smog, I remembered the documentary “Green” and the infamous quote: “some people will sell their soul for a dollar”. (Supak)

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