Home > colonias, environmental justice, health, US-Mexico border > Returning to the EJ Texas Blog

Returning to the EJ Texas Blog

My return to blogging on environmental justice in Texas follows a month of field work in South Texas colonias. Frequent trips to the region and the communities in which I conduct my research on drinking water remind me that the most difficult struggles for equitable distribution and access to key resources for a health life lay ahead of us, not behind us. Residents have witnessed progress, no doubt, and much of that spurred by the unyielding determination of community-based organizations, residents, and like-minded academics and public officials. From the Colonias Bill (1989), which set up the framework to build water and sanitation infrastructure, to the Colonias Program and the army of promotoras serving the residents of this forgotten place, much has improved. Rather than 50% of the population lacking water service, it may be 10%. Residents may no longer be dependent upon cesspools and outhouses for sanitation, as new developments must meet minimum requirements for septic tanks or sanitation connections. However, many challenges remain. Poverty, economic, social and environmental marginalization, and fear along with resignation create “the normal.” Decades of extreme poverty and neglect have normalized the conditions under which hundreds and thousands of people, mainly Mexican Americans, live, work and play.

What does it say about a society when people are not shocked by the fact that there are families that live on less than half of the federal poverty level, or other individuals living on $2.00 a day? The other side of normalization is also resilience and survival on the part of residents. So in both representing and trying to explain and understand the current status of colonias communities as places of environmental “injustice,” I also want to retain in my approach that the residents are resilient and struggle to maintain dignity despite the tremendous challenges faced on a daily basis. So, for the next several weeks, my focus will be on environmental justice, but within the context of colonias and their residents.

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