Residents in Valley colonias like Mi Sueño, Mi Suerte, Buena Vida, Buena Fe, Serenidad, and Eduardos 2 are among the RGV residents who find health care impossible to afford, and even harder, a sanitary nearby place to “walk it off.”
While many city parks are located within a couple miles of residential neighborhoods, colonia residents often travel five or more miles to the nearest playground or soccer field. And without pavement, streetlights or side walks, not even colonia streets provide adequate conditions for regular exercise. Combine that with no car or money for gas and you have the perfect recipe for a stationary, in doors lifestyle and fertile ground for diabetes, childhood obesity, and other stationary lifestyle-related problems.
While colonia residents of precinct 3 work towards their long-term goal—a park for the six colonias to enjoy—we have found an immediate opportunity for Joe Flores to help combat the neglect of poor communities who are simply looking to better their lives and that of their children.
Las Colonias del Norte in Alton have located a perfect location for a walking trail around a 3-mile-long canal in a conscious effort to remain healthy. Canals like these have been turned into hike and bike trails in McAllen and San Juan. And Field Operations Director of Hidalgo County Precinct 4, Humberto Garza, has promised to look into creating a similar walking trail north of colonia Trenton Mirrors in Edinburg.
“The main problem is the dog corpses which smell, tire and trash dumping, and tall grasses which harbor dangerous insects,” says Ana Garza from Buena Vida. Just like lack of access to recreational areas has helped increase health problems in poor communities, structural problems related to waste removal and official neglect have contributed to the unsanitary conditions in and around the canal.
With a little trimming of grass and leveling of dirt around the canal, coupled with colonia residents’ own effort in combating trash dumping, the walking trail will be a scenic and safe path and pastime for the neighboring six colonias to enjoy.
Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE) initiative of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation is correct when stating that “the childhood obesity epidemic facing the nation is a byproduct of years of neglect and disinvestment in communities that has undermined our children’s ability to eat well and be physically active.”
“People need to get back to being more physically active,” says LUPE Organizer Yvette Salinas. “There are people who drive to the gym to lift weights and tone up, but we shouldn’t have to solely depend on expensive gyms or far away parks. Physical activity should be fully integrated into our lives, no matter where we live. And with facilities like these, it can be!”