Comite de Familias Unidas del Chamizal , A Fight to
"Take Chamizal Neighborhood Back"
According to the 2010 Census, out of El Paso's total population of 832,764, 65,537 are residents of the Chamizal Neighborhood. In Chamizal, the vast majority of the population is Hispanic at 96.9% compared to 76.6% for the City as a whole. 41.4% of Chamizal households have an annual income of less than $10,000, compared to 13.9% of the City as a whole. Nearly 30% of households in the City make more than $50,000 annually. In Chamizal, only 4.6% of households make over $50,000. Barrio Chamizal has been identified by the city of El Paso as one of the poorest in the city, almost 80% of the households in Chamizal have an income below that of the City’s median, an nearly 88.9% are below the national median household income. Despite this demographics, Barrio Chamizal is a viable community for Immigrant and Low Income Families and the Elderly. Its proximity to the US and Mexico Border and downtown El Paso and the county hospital/clinics, and its central location has made it an ideal place for low income families, especially immigrant women and children that are in need of a temporary home. Many families depend on Barrio Chamizal,
Environmental and Economic Racism
Studies performed by some El Paso University professors/doctors show a link between low academic grades in children, and poor air quality due to diesel emission and exposure to lead by certain industries. Border communities like the Chamizal Neighborhood, are more susceptible to these exposures, due to the proximity to the US/Mexico border. These diesel emission not only pose a threat to the residents, but also a threat to the environment, vegetation and animals.
Throughout the years, Barrio Chamizal has been seen by the majority of the city as the gateway to Mexico, generating income for multimillion dollar transnationals crossing their product to and from, creating wealth for others, but nearly none for community infrastructure. Negotiations between these companies, and developers/investors that are pushing restructuring plans in the name of economic progress, have made the families susceptible to environmental racism, and displacement. This has allowed for outsiders to plan and decide for the community without considering the needs and adverse effects these plans would have on the children and elders. Also the isolation created due to lack of representation at the city level, has put Barrio Chamizal in a disadvantage of obtaining future city resources that could help with the social needs/problems that they face on a daily basis. Language barrier, diverse social composition of families, and a limited mobility, keep residents out of the planning processes aimed towards improving the lives of the Chamizal Neighborhood residents. Unable to participate, due to systemic discrimination embedded within the current government structures has kept families from Barrio Chamizal in extreme poverty, the community underdeveloped, creating a cycle of poverty hard to overcome by current and future generations.
Current threats of possible school closures and of a major public housing project, future plans to create more high traffic highways next to neighborhood schools, and an increase for the need for safe community spaces for the youth and elders has force the community to fight back, organize and demand the stop of the destruction of their community and for the resources needed to start to rebuild it.
Our History, our Barrio, our Fight to preserve it
From the land dispute between Mexico and U.S due to the shifting of the Rio Grande that ended with the creation of the Chamizal National Park, to the Mexican Women Workers constant battle for better working conditions within the garment factories and their historic fight for the replacement of 35,000 jobs that were lost after the North American Free Trade Agreement. Not many recognize the Chamizal Neighborhood as a historic place, yet the women workers, parents and community residents continue to make history through their struggle to defend and create a more stable and dignified community for themselves and other generations to come. Every Chamizal resident deserves to know who they are through the recognition of past/ current struggles for a better life within Barrio Chamizal and the preservation of community spaces and their history, what they are fighting for and how they will fight, through community outreach, participation and advocacy, and to be able to know where they are going, to be able to envision a new community, and for the right to collectively plan and practice the creation of one for "all" of the Barrio Chamizal families.
Familias Unidas Del Chamizal Committee
A committee, Familias Unidas, was formed to help develop a constant and organized effort lead by Chamizal residents to fight against the injustices they are currently facing and to bring stability to the community and families in the Barrio Chamizal. Creating a more stable community would help the residents prepare themselves as well as together defend and find solutions in the areas that currently are being threaten or have been identified as problem areas, like the environment health dangers from maquila truck traffic and potential community school closures. Through community outreach, 4 areas have been identified as areas of work for the organize committee. These areas are as follow: