The campaign ‘Don’t Be Deceived’ launched in California aimed at Latinos against pollution.

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A coalition of environmental organizations and residents of contaminated areas in California launched the ‘Don’t Be Deceived’ campaign this Thursday, aimed at the Latino community, to warn about the responsibility of large non-renewable energy companies in global warming.

“It is necessary to become aware of the damage caused by pollution from oil companies and the excessive use of gasoline,” said Guatemalan Sandra López, her voice choked by the asthma she suffers from. 

The immigrant has been living in Lincoln Heights for 25 years, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, located near Highway 5, which runs along the West Coast of the United States from south to north.

“We can’t take it anymore with so much pollution; you can feel it in the air. Everything is covered in black or brown. Even the plants have gotten sick like me,” said the 56-year-old domestic worker. 

López blames pollution for the asthma diagnosed a few years ago. She says there is no history of respiratory problems in her family and that her illness has worsened due to the air she breathes. 

She says she has to live with the windows closed and use an air purifier inside the house. But sometimes, even that doesn’t make it easy to breathe. 

She complains that in her neighborhood, densely populated mainly by residents of Latin and Asian roots, parks and trees have been disappearing.

“We have to stop complaining and take action. The first thing is to educate ourselves and stop thinking that big companies are not responsible for all this,” she argued. 

Lincoln Heights has been in the sights of environmentalists for 40 years, since dozens of rusted 55-gallon barrels filled with toxic chemicals were found buried there. Until two years ago, there were still concerns about the waste that might have remained in the soil. 

Martha Argüello, founder of La Mesa, the coalition behind the ‘Don’t Be Deceived’ campaign, said that eight out of ten Latino children under 10 years old live in the most contaminated areas and “have a much higher risk of developing asthma and type 2 diabetes than their white counterparts.

“The activist, who is director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, partly blames large non-renewable energy companies for these health problems, which have done “nothing” to prevent pollution and also “deceive” communities with false messages. 

She recalls that the big companies have opposed for years the laws that have been passed in California to avoid having oil wells near schools and hospitals.

Among the actions that participants in the campaign will undertake are educating the community and pressuring local, state, and national legislators to pass measures that help counter pollution.

In the city of Los Angeles, there are more than 5,000 oil and gas wells, active and inactive alike.

But pollution problems do not only exist in the southern part of the state. Rey León, director of the Latino Equity Advocacy & Policy Institute, said that farmers and the Latino community in California’s Central Valley are being victims of pollution. 

“That region is a pressure cooker about to explode,” he warned.”People are dying from pollution in California, and many of the victims are Latinos,” the activist said.

He cited the problem facing the community in Richmond, in northern California, because of the Chevron refinery, which processes about 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day and has been operating since the beginning of the last century.

“We have that source of pollution, but fuel prices are the highest in the country. That cannot be possible,” he pointed out.” 

That’s why it’s necessary for us to raise our voices and for the entire community to join us. Together we can save our state, our lives,” he added. The ‘Don’t Be Deceived’ campaign seeks to end excavations and oil wells in neighborhoods, make oil companies clean up places where they no longer operate, and have the California Legislature adopt more measures promoting eco-friendly transportation.

“Our children will inherit this state, and it’s time we leave them a clean future,” Argüello concluded. EFE

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