California Watch’s Public Engagement Manager Ashley Alvarado visited Maywood, Calif., to listen and learn from community members. Read her full report here.
The invite was a pleasant surprise. Janet Wilson’s excellent report on the severe health struggles of one Maywood family and the polluted conditions that envelop them had run recently, and I was doing research for “A Field Guide to Maywood Pollution Issues,” a downloadable directory of key players. I reached out to Héctor Alvarado (no relation), an activist with Padres Unidos de Maywood. And he invited to me to one of the weekly Comité Cívico del Agua meetings.
That I was the guest of honor came as a complete shock. One night this week, I walked into the Unión de Vecinos office space on East Slauson Avenue a few minutes before 6:30. I was early, and yet 20 people sat in a circle, waiting for me. Handwritten posters outlined goals for the community; two bookshelves stood crammed with bottles of polluted water. Héctor introduced me, and then, one by one, Maywood residents stood to introduce themselves.
Over the next hour and a half, I listened as people shared their Maywood stories. Some, like Cristóforo Castro, have lived in Maywood for more than four decades. All have been affected by its polluted water. They pay for water three times, they said: at the meter (with prices that rise and that residents are unable to monitor), large decanters for everyday water use and the bottles they drink. That does not include what they pay for all the health issues: “There is illness all over Maywood,” Cristóforo said in Spanish.
Photo: Bottles hold water samples taken from Maywood residents’ faucets.