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for people who care about the West

Witnessing injustice


Ruxandra Guidi’s exceptionally good piece “Los Promotores” (HCN, 8/7/17) could be subtitled “Welcome to America! Harvest Our Food and We’ll Give You a Nice Little Place Next to the Dump.” Her article takes us into the remote desert corners of Southern California where the nearly concealed sins of environmental and social injustice become so terribly visible. Given the facts of toxic waste, open sewers, and human exposure and exploitation, this could have easily become another liberal rant against the dark forces of our agro-industrial machine and institutional indifference. But to her credit, Guidi raises up the voices of those who want to cast off their cloak of victimhood and take matters into their own hands.

The best line is from community organizer Griselda Barrera, who asks Guidi, “Please tell me you won’t write a story about how poor we are, how we can’t help ourselves.” And Guidi complies, by revealing the ways that people in these isolated communities have chosen to exert agency in the face of conditions so deplorable they’d be an embarrassment in an impoverished nation.

I love it when HCN “goes deep,” bears witness to injustice, and lifts up the humanity of those whom society has abused and neglected. That is how we create empathy; that is how change begins.

Mark Winne
Santa Fe, New Mexico