Consuelo Garcia, Environmental Health Coalition
As a result of the border industrialization program that
the U.S. and Mexico signed, as well as the North American
Free Trade Agreement, we have here over 300 maquiladoras — foreign-owned
companies that operate in this industrial park behind me.
This site is Metales y Derivados, a highly toxic site abandoned
by a foreign owned U.S. company. And the people who live
around here, in this valley, they live with the constant
exposure to the toxics that come out of this maquiladora.
The health problems that people suffer from are related to
contaminants in the water. We know they don't drink but they
can't help using it to wash their clothes, to wash their dishes,
so eventually some of it does get into their system. Kids who
bathe in this water suffer from skin rashes and constant stomach
Salvador Torres, Artist and Barrio Logan resident
Here we are. We’re faced with pollution of our community.
The freeway’s coming through, the bridge. Suddenly
industry starts developing here, and with this comes our
community being assaulted with toxins.
Chicano Park, to me, represents
the struggle of our community. This idea was to develop
monumental murals that would represent our history, that
would represent the feelings that we have growing up in
this community — our successes and our
failures, our victories.
Paula Forbis, Environmental Health Coalition
have been done across the country showing that people of
color and low-income communities are much more subject
to being the targets of industrial sources moving into
those neighborhoods than into other neighborhoods. This
has resulted in a variety of health impacts — 20
percent of the children in Barrio Logan have either asthma
or probable asthma.
is to mark the closing of Master Plating and the reduction
in toxic emissions from that facility. We’re happy
to report that there will be a 75 percent decrease in chrome
levels at the houses around Master Plating and that results
in much less of a cancer risk to residents in this immediate
November Second is known as the Day of the Dead, Mexico's most
important and festive holiday. In Tijuana, families are joining
together at the graves of their closest relatives to honor and
celebrate their memories. It is believed that the souls of children
will be the first to be saved — food and gifts appropriate
for their age decorate their gravesites. Unfortunately, there are
too many graves of young people in Tijuana.
Not far from the center of town, along the border with the United
States, is a tariff-free industrial trade zone. Thanks to NAFTA,
these factories provide nearly 140,000 jobs for the people of Tijuana.
But at what cost?
Discarded tire near the Alomar
in the poorest part of Tijuana.
In 1994, the Mexican government cited this American owned battery
recycling plant for failing to dispose of hazardous waste. In response,
the owner abandoned the location. When threatened with arrest unless
he cleaned up the site, he fled across the border to San Diego.
Left behind were over 46 million pounds of toxic waste baking in
the sun. It's been poisoning the soil and the air for more than
In a valley just below the industrial park is Colonia Chilpancingo,
a community of about 10,000. When it rains a nearby creek is flooded
with chemical wastes from the industrial park. They include lead
oxides, sulfites, heavy metals, sulfuric acid, and arsenic.
Over 90 percent of the children of Colonia
Chilpancingo tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood.
As this highly contaminated waterway weaves its way through the
shantytown community, it poisons everything and everyone in its
path, including the community's only source of water. Recently,
over ninety percent of the children of Colonia Chilpancingo tested
positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood. An abnormally
high number of them suffer from birth defects.
For years, the community petitioned the Mexican government to
clean up the site. Their pleas were always turned down. The six
million dollars needed to stop the pollution was never made available.
And the children — whose toxic playgrounds are less than
a mile from the United States — are the innocent victims
of a trade agreement that has no provision to force compliance
with environmental laws. Even worse, the parents of these children
have few choices other than to labor in the same factories that
are poisoning their families.
Girl behind slats—Colonia Chilpancingo,
located at the foot of the Otai Mesa
At the end of the day, thousands of workers head home. Though
their jobs pay about fifteen dollars for a ten-hour day, they still
cling to the dream of living in a healthier and better place. It's
an optimism sparked by the recent success of a Latino community
located just 17 miles away in one of California's largest and most
San Diego has always been known for it's scenic waterfront. Its
nearly perfect climate also makes it a popular sailing and tourist
destination. But tourists never see a small neighborhood hidden
away between the Coronado Bridge and a large waterfront industrial
Barrio Logan is three miles long and just six blocks wide. This
is one of San Diego's poorest Mexican-American community's and
its residents have long been the targets of environmental discrimination.
Forty years ago, the city of San Diego tried to force people out
of Barrio Logan to make room for commercial development. Zoning
laws were changed overnight. Small factories, junkyards, and auto-wreckers
were encouraged to move into the residential neighborhood. The
community was outraged.
Unable to stop the construction, anger surfaced. And when the
city reneged on its promise to build a park under the bridge,
the people of Barrio Logan demonstrated.
But most families were strongly attached
to their neighborhood and refused to move. It didn't take long for city planners
to try another tactic. They cut off Barrio Logan from the rest of San Diego
by making it the site of an expanded highway system and a new bridge. Once
again, the neighborhood was under attack — this time by enormous amounts
of auto emissions.
Unable to stop the construction, anger
surfaced. And when the city reneged on its promise to build a park under
the bridge, the people of Barrio Logan demonstrated. They formed a human
chain around the site and refused to leave until the city gave them their
After a two-week standoff, the demonstrators
won their recreational area, which they proudly called Chicano Park. Today
the pylons that support the bridge are covered with murals that celebrate
Barrio Logan's Latino culture.
Though Barrio Logan won its battle for
Chicano Park, it still struggles in its fight for clean air. Each day hundreds
of diesel trucks, nearly 300,000 cars and dozens of factories operate in
and around this residential neighborhood.
The failing health of the children sparked
a new community protest. This time they went after Master Plating, a
factory located in the residential heart of Barrio Logan that used hexavalent
chromium — a known cancer-causing chemical. A few days after Master Plating
closed down, the people of Barrio Logan gathered to celebrate the shutting
down of a factory that has been poisoning their community for decades.
For the people of Barrio Logan this victory
is one more milestone in their against discriminatory zoning regulations
and their struggle for environmental justice.