This is an excerpt of an article written by Dominique Rémy for Remezcla titled, “Environmental Justice: These Latina activists Are on the Frontlines.” Three of our Moms Clean Air Force staff and state coordinators – Gabriela Rivera (regional field manager), Columba Sainz (Arizona state coordinator) and Nicole Hernandez Hammer (former Florida organizer) – are highlighted in this important article. Remezcia started as a grassroots project among writers and creatives sharing one common point of view: there were so many great stories about new Latin music, culture, and events that no one was covering.
One day, Columba Sainz’s daughter started wheezing. And then it happened again and again. Sainz soon realized there was a pattern: Her daughter would play in Phoenix’s Central Park and then she’d have trouble breathing. It didn’t take long for Sainz to make the connection between the symptoms – which her daughter had never exhibited before – and the air quality. The Central Park area, located in Downtown Phoenix, sees heavy traffic from freeways during rush hours in the morning, noon and afternoon.
A trip to the pediatrician yielded no solutions, but Sainz, a 33-year-old mother of three, and her husband learned that the air in their county of Maricopa wasn’t great. In fact, the American Lung Association provides Maricopa county with an F grading for air quality. As a result, their air filters were filthy. Instead of changing them once a month, as recommended, they needed to replace them every two weeks.
Their situation isn’t isolated. All across the United States and the world, it is communities of color that feel most of the effects of climate change. While the topic is now gaining traction, particularly among younger generations, climate change has disproportionately impacted lower-income neighborhoods with majority Black and brown residents for much longer. And as the environmental movement charges on, it’s them who we should uplift and prioritize.
For Latinas involved in environmental justice, its stories like that of Sainz and her family that inspired them to get involved in advocacy. While impoverished communities of color are often an afterthought when it comes to green efforts, these activists ensure Black and brown neighborhoods are not forgotten and, instead, are prioritized in their work. Here, some Latinas from all over the nation fighting to ensure a safer, more sustainable and healthier future for our communities.