From Indigenous resistance against colonial oppression to folk heroes who fought back against state-sanctioned violence, self-determination and community resistance are integral parts of the region’s history. These brave actions were precursors to or catalysts for social justice movements that define generations of the Rio Grande region. The Farm Worker and Chicano Rights movements of the 1960s and 70s paved the way for organizing around public infrastructure and land-use equity in colonias—informal settlements often lacking infrastructure—in the 1980s, 90s, and more recently.
La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a community-organizing nonprofit founded by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez in 1989 and established in the Rio Grande Valley by current director Juanita Valdez-Cox in 2003 has been a force behind significant achievements in the region’s fight for social justice. A major focus of LUPE has been equitable land-use practices and access to public services such as street lighting and drainage infrastructure for colonia residents.
This feature explores the ideas of Martha Sanchez, the coordinator for the organizing department at LUPE. Sanchez has spent years thinking about the region’s infrastructural needs and the ways in which residents might organize for greater control over their built environment. In this interview, she explains how to mobilize communities around local issues. —Lizzie MacWillie, Kelsey Menzel, Jesse Miller, and Josué Ramirez, Brownsville Undercurrents editors