The part of the human impact and suffering she was referring to is the disenfranchised in the Imperial Valley, particularly the residents displaced by the magnitude-7.2 earthquake of April 4. Their suffering and need for representation was finally heard as a small group voiced their anguish.
“We have been told to be patient and we have been disrespected,” El Centro resident Erica Vargas said of the treatment of displaced residents by city and county officials.
“A lot of people have looked at us and said (to deal with it ourselves through work). They don’t seem to understand that we are already stretched to our limit from the extra expenses from the earthquake,” Vargas said, stating that the only local help available is in the form of a loan with 30 percent interest from the city of El Centro.
Another speaker, Jane Williams of the California Committee Against Toxins, touched on the need for social change by highlighting various examples she has witnessed as the CCAT executive director.
“The outcome of these stories,” she said, “is that when people take a stand they have an amazing power to get other people to stand with them. The ability to have clean air in the Imperial Valley it can exist; it will.”
Other calls to activist action for social change rang on throughout the summit.
“The purpose of this event is we will no longer stand on the sidelines,” Luis Olmedo of the local Comite Civico Del Valle Inc. said. “We will be part of the process for the future of Imperial County.”
Williams agreed with Olmedo’s statement but also stressed the importance of recruiting help and having fun in the process.
“Find a way to create family, a network,” she said. “And have fun with it because that’s how you’ll sustain it and that’s how social change will happen.”
>> Staff Writer Roman Flores can be reached at 760-337-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org ROMAN FLORES PHOTO
El Centro resident Erica Vargas (left) and other displaced residents of the Imperial Valley speak to those gathered for the Environmental Health Leadership Summit in El Centro on Saturday.