Monday, July 05, 2010

Responding to the Hunger Crisis Just Across the Border in Palomas

Our efforts on hunger this year have focused on the big picture and long-term and broader solutions to addressing hunger and poverty.  They include this year's efforts to protect and strengthen tax credits for low-income families and to increase funding for child nutrition.  We do respond to an immediate crisis during an event of high magnitude (like the tsunami in the south Pacific and Indian Ocean and the earthquake in Haiti) or when someone points out a situation that is occurring under the radar.

It is one of those "under the radar" situations that I would like to address with this blog post.  I'm talking about an ongoing crisis in the community of Palomas in Chihuahua, just across the border from Columbus, N.M.

Palomas has been hit by the global economic downturn (which led to the departure of a manufacturer of auto parts), increased insecurity due to the activities of drug traffickers, and tighter enforcement by U.S. authorities, which keep many residents from crossing into the U.S. for jobs in the service industry in cities just across the border.  As a result, many members of that community are having problems obtaining food to meet their nutritional needs.

It's not that this crisis has not received some publicity.  The Palomas Hunger Project highlighted an article by Rene Romo in the Albuquerque Journal, December 2008.  And Marjorie Lillie, a resident of Deming, N.M., discussed the problem in a guest column in the Albuquerque Journal, May 28, 2010. 

The truth is that the situation has worsened significantly over the past year.  Victoria Tester, the U.S. coordinator for La Luz de Esperanza Palomas Outreach, on June 23 issued an urgent appeal for help via the Las Cruces Forum and The Deming Headlight.  She also wrote a letter to John Garcia, a cabinet secretary in New Mexico. Here are a couple of excerpts.
One of the main tasks of the Outreach is to distribute emergency food to many families who can show they would have no food otherwise. Our most current experience records this figure at approximately 325 families in Palomas in dire need of emergency food...
A mother told us recently that children felt fortunate that they had at least a bowl of eggs in their otherwise empty refrigerator, because “we go to our aunts and uncles houses, and they have nothing...
We’re receiving information that families are eating rats, or surviving on horsemeat, mothers sending their children to bed early, with only a teaspoon of sugar as their food for the day...        
You get the picture.  Please read the full letter to get a better sense of the full extent of the crisis

There has been some responses to the worsening crisis.  The state of New Mexico is offiering lunches for those who can get across the border to Columbus, and Roadrunner Food Bank has sent a mobile pantry to help. 

And in Las Cruces, Catholic Charities and the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces are also trying to provide some assistance. A trailer of food has been donated in Colorado, and they are trying to coordinate transportation to get the donation down to Columbus-Palomas.

We recognize that there are significant structural problems (related to immigration, the economy, trade, the role of Mexico's federal and state governments) that must be fixed to develop a long-term solution to the problem.   But in the short term, our faith requires us to respond with whatever help we can give. 

Here's a note from a Bread member in El Paso, Texas.
My church is mounting an emergency campaign this week (First Christian Church of El Paso, TX) and we are sending the letter to other churches in the downtown El Paso area.  Please keep me on your e-mail list.  We feel a close kindred with the people in Palomas and plan to continue to provide support in other ways.
If you want to help please send a note to Victoria Tester, or Esperanza Lozoya,, or visit La Luz de Esperanza Palomas Outreach


Tom Aageson said...

There are two notable efforts to support. Border Partners in Deming works with a cooperative of 8 women in Las Palomas who are making beautiful oilcloth aprons, tablecloths, bags of different sizes. You can buy them at Jackalope in Santa Fe and they are trying to get them the same ABQ stores. Border Partners is teach high schools kids to make solar ovens and sell them as propone is so expensive for cooking. Also, La Casa de Amor Para Ninos is an orphanage of 20 plus kids that needs support. They also are doing a great job. Contact BPartners or me for more info...Tom Aageson in Santa Fe.

BreadNewMexico said...

Tom: Can we Peacecraft in Albuquerque to carry the crafts produced at Las Palomas? I have some contacts there if you need them.