Latinos gain ground in the environmental movement
Plenty of reports have detailed the ways in which minorities are left to bear the brunt of environmental degradation. Landfills and garbage incinerators are more likely to show up in minority communities than in others across the United States. Air pollution violations spike in many of these neighborhoods, taking a toll on residents' health, particularly children's. And then there's access to green spaces, or lack thereof. Writing for Los Angeles Alternative, Evan George reports that some Latinos aren't waiting for the environmental movement to address their concerns. Instead, they're forging ahead with their own green revolution. 'For so long we wanted to have a place at the table in the environmental movement,' says Irma Muñoz, founder of Mujeres de la Tierra (Mothers of the Earth). 'We knew that wasn't happening, so we built our own table.'
Muñoz started Mujeres de la Tierra after a local news story on environmental issues in Latino neighborhoods failed to feature any interviews with Latinos. The Los Angeles-based group banded together with Latino soccer enthusiasts, law experts, and others to form Alianza de los Pueblos del Rio. The aim of this umbrella organization is to get the Latino voice heard in the effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River, which, George writes, is 'a symbolic and literal convergence of a myriad of issues confronting LA's Latino population.' With an inverse correlation between pollution exposure and access to parks and open spaces, the mujeres have adopted the river's resurrection as their hope for a greener future and a healthier environment for their children.
While small organizations are popping up in Latino populations across the country, Ivan Mejia reports in Hispanic Business that the National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC) is bringing these concerns to a larger arena. Founded by Roger Rivera in 1996, NHEC was created to speak for Latinos when they 'had no place in national ecological politics.' The organization champions Latinos' rights to clean air, clean water, and other basic rights that all Americans should enjoy.
The efforts by these groups have raised the visibility of Hispanics in the American environmental movement as of late, but Latino leaders point out that they've long been fighting for green causes. 'The only time we get quoted is when it comes to immigration, and that's very bothersome to me because what happens is you get stereotyped as only caring about a single issue, and that's furthest from the truth,' says Muñoz. The present green crusade can be traced back to the indigenous roots of many Latinos, which is why Muñoz calls them 'the original environmentalists.'
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