Starting at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

This summer, I am working at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, located a bit north of downtown San Antonio. The Esperanza Center serves primarily the Westside of San Antonio, but also reaches out to other underrepresented and marginalized folks—women, people of color, queer people, the working class and those with low income. The most condensed way to explain what Esperanza actually does is arts programming and community organizing, but that includes a broad spectrum of activities. The Esperanza Center will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 2017.

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Esperanza Peace & Justice Center (photo: A.Christilles)

Since there are only five full-time staff, interns take on various responsibilities. I am more involved in Esperanza’s environmental work, which consists primarily of reading and analyzing the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan and writing about the proposed Vista Ridge Pipeline. SA Tomorrow is a three-part future plan for the city. This week, my job has been to read and critique the Sustainability portion. Often, “sustainability” or “green” measures detrimentally affect low-income and marginalized people by raising prices and forcing people from their neighborhoods. Much of the critique I am doing revolves around implementation of the plan and gentrification. Representatives from Esperanza and the greater community will meet city officials to address these concerns while the draft undergoes finalization this summer.

I will also keep track of the Vista Ridge pipeline. The proposed pipeline will transfer water from Burleson County south to San Antonio. The pipeline poses different issues pertaining to privatizing water. The financial instability of the project, only recently addressed, and steep water rate hikes are the top of these concerns. The Esperanza Center and other organizations like Mi Agua Mi Vida Coalition have demonstrated against the pipeline’s construction.

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Proposed Vista Ridge Pipeline (image from the San Antonio Water Authority website)

With all of the other events going on at the Center, information about this deal has fallen to the wayside, so part of my job is keeping folks updated about this through La Voz, the Esperanza Center’s monthly publication.

I’m excited to be back home and interacting with the issues that first led me towards environmental justice. I have already seen firsthand how climate change affects my home, and I appreciate the opportunity to approach these issues from an intersectional perspective. Environmental destruction affects people on different axes, and the Esperanza Center takes this into account. I find it more productive to work in a place where I grew up and where have context. I also appreciate the opportunity to work off of a college campus. I hope pursue a career in grassroots activism and social justice work, and this would internship would grant me the opportunity to see how it works in the real world and not just a campus bubble. This internship will guide me in exploring parts of the city I’ve never seen before and hopefully inform me more about my Chicana culture as well.

Anastasia Christilles, ’18