Violence in Reynosa impacts health care needs in Las Milpas

Steve Taylor of the Rio Grande Guardian attended our Equal Voice Network community meeting. Residents got together to decide what they wanted local candidates for office to address during a coming community forum.

Narco-violence continues to plague our border community.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Increased violence in Reynosa has made Las Milpas residents more wary of crossing the Rio Grande to see a doctor, community leaders say.

As a result, there is an even greater need for more community health clinics in one of the fastest growing parts of the Rio Grande Valley.

Photo from the Rio Grande Guardian

“One of the options that has always been open to those of us who can freely cross the border is to go into Reynosa to seek medical attention,” said Project ARISE member Maria Esparza, speaking in Spanish. “Now, however, that is becoming less and less of an option because of the increased violence in Reynosa. We really need a county health clinic, particularly for those adults who do not qualify for Medicaid.”

Las Milpas is otherwise known as South Pharr. Its population in 2000 was about 10,500. Because of the increased trade with Mexico that flows through U.S. 281, its population has shot up. Pharr Mayor Polo Palacios said he would not be surprised if the Census 2010 count puts the figure at 20,000 to 25,000.

“From what I have been told by those that read the meters, there are now more water meters in South Pharr than there are in the City of San Juan,” Palacios told the Guardian. “That tends to suggest there are more families south of Pharr than in San Juan. It is growing very fast.”

Project ARISE and other community groups that work within the Equal Voice for America’s Families network, recently held a town hall meeting at Centro Comunitario to document the issues that matter to the residents of Las Milpas.

Access to health care topped the list but residents also said they want more green space and recreational facilities for children, better public transportation, more street lights, improved drainage, and better paying jobs.

“The transportation is important because Las Milpas residents do not have the health clinics they need. They have to go to Clinica del Valle, in San Juan, or HOPE or El Milagro in McAllen,” said Sanjuanita Martinez, a community organizer with
Project ARISE.

Martinez said she first moved to Las Milpas 22 years ago when it was all green fields and colonias. “Now, we have a pharmacy, Junior’s Supermarkets, doctors. It has really grown,” Martinez said.

The infrastructure needs of Las Milpas are being added to those of other communities across the Valley in preparation for a major Equal Voice event. On Oct. 16, the Equal Voice network will host a Candidate Education Forum at the McAllen Convention Center. Gov. Rick Perry and his gubernatorial challenger, Bill White, have been invited.

“We are calling it a Candidate Education Forum because we want the candidates to learn of the needs of the community,” said Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez, of Proyecto Azteca. “We do not just want the candidates to come and tell us what they are going to do if elected. We want to tell them, in an amicable way, of our needs. And, we will not just list the problems, we will offer solutions.”

In addition to the gubernatorial candidates, those running for Congress, county judge, state representative, the 13th Court of Appeals and school board are being invited to attend. “We have given the candidates a questionnaire ahead of time so we can get their answers, even if they do not show up,” Garza said.

In addition to the Candidate Education Forum, Las Milpas residents also plan to attend an upcoming Hidalgo County Commissioners Court meeting to press their case for a county health clinic.

“This Equal Voice platform is the voice of Valley working families. They created it and they want our elected officials and those who want to represent us to take notice of what it says,” said Project ARISE’s Ramona Casas. “We want to be listened to. We want health clinics, day care facilities, educational opportunities and scholarships, better public transportation. We are talking about quality of life issues.”

Pharr Mayor Palacios acknowledged that Las Milpas or South Pharr, as he prefers to call it, needs more infrastructure and facilities. However, he said the improvements that have taken place over the past decade are vindication of the City of Pharr’s decision to annex the land south of the interior flood way system back in the late 1980s.

“Look at what is available now. We have a Jack in the Box, a Subway, drug stores, restaurants, and all sorts of businesses. Our industrial parks are providing employment opportunities. You can really see the entire city coming together, with South Pharr almost at the levee. We are becoming a big city,” Palacios said.  

© Copyright of the Rio Grande Guardian, http://www.riograndeguardian.com. Publisher: Steve Taylor. All rights reserved.

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