Wednesday, September 7, 2011

¡Basta con las Aguas!:  Colonia women set an "¡hasta aca!" on flooding

by Michael Seifert
September 7, 2011

Hidalgo County, Texas -- This past Thursday, the strong women of ARISE gathered neighbors together in the colonia neighborhood of  Hidalgo Park. The oppressive heat was no match for the spirit of some thirty members of this neighborhood in south Hidalgo County who had gathered to meet with local government officials and engineers. The meeting was held, appropriately, on the property of one of the hundreds of families that had suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Dolly’s flooding.

Martha Herrera, neighbor
A sofa and an easy chair, victims of the water damage from the floods of more than three years’ ago, were piled up behind the group, stewing in the morning heat, and adding visible support to the testimony of the neighbors who, one after another, offered their views of the infrastructure failures.

Martha Herrera, one of the neighbors, noted,  “We pay taxes, we are citizens, and it makes me so angry to see raw sewage running through our streets after a heavy rainfall. Our children deserve better than this, and so do we.”

The Texas Organizing Project, LUPE, the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and other members of the Equal Voice Housing Working Group were present at the meeting. Ramona Casas, of ARISE, led the meeting, one of a series of such gatherings called to establish for county officials the gravity of the drainage troubles that have afflicted colonia residents for decades.

Raul Sesin (Hidalgo County Planning Department, Mario Garcia (Program Administrator for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council) and several engineers listened as the women laid out their concerns.

In the end, Mr. Sesin agreed to a number of commitments on behalf of the county. Apart from officially certifying the area as one which in fact suffers significant flooding, Mr. Sesin agreed to do a study of the area, work to make the drainage ditch wider, add some gates on the canal and install a system of pumps. In addition, the county official said that he would work with engineers so that during a flood event, sewage would not back up into the streets of the area.

Mr. Sesin and his team will be meeting with Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia to work out a plan for informing the public about the next steps.

The neighborhood meeting is one of a serious of steps organized by Equal Voice Housing organizers and Mr. Mario Garcia, the Economic Development Program Director for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council.

As the meeting wound up, a Pharr police patrol stopped by, wondering what all of the commotion was about. “Just doing our job,” the patrolman was assured, “we are all just doing our job.”