My name is Luis Cisneros from Schuman Estates/Brothers Road in Canutillo – which is a small community west of El Paso.
In the 1990s, I was paying over $1,600 a year for property taxes. But my family and community had no water, no gas, no sewer. I felt robbed.
Let me share what it means not to have city water – water from the well always stinks like rotten eggs and we suspect some of kids’ skin problems like rashes are caused by the contaminated water. Also it is very expensive to replace piping and water pumps for the wells – maybe once a year.
This is what it means not to have gas. Propane is very expensive – one winter I spent $1,300 just for propane for heating. There is also some danger in handling propane – so you have to pay someone to do it for you. This is an additional burden on many families.
I went to county offices once a week for years trying to find out who was responsible for getting water, sewer and gas services to my community. But all I got was the run-a-round. No real answers.
I became frustrated and angry – not only with the lack of services but also my inability to get straight answers and be taken seriously. My frustration and anger became overwhelming. Sometimes I refused to leave the county offices until I got some answers. I called them free-loaders and worse! And since I didn’t get answers, I got in trouble with the law – even thrown in jail a couple times.
Then I found Border Interfaith. In working with Border Interfaith I learned how to make my anger effective instead of destructive. I learned I couldn’t get things done alone. I needed others. I needed a power organization to get things done in a civil but effective way.
I started working with Alicia Franco, a Border Interfaith leader, and she introduced me to Father Matta and others working for water in my area. Leaders from BI then attended an EPISO meeting with USDA Director Paco Valentin in Horizon City and I invited him to come to Canutillo the next morning.
We had several community meetings in our houses not only to discuss the problems but to start educating ourselves about what we needed to do. With the help of Border Interfaith, meetings were set up between leaders in Canutillo, the USDA, The County of El Paso, and the PSB.
The Border Environmental Commission awarded the County a grant for $50,000 to conduct a study on the wells. The study proved that the wells were contaminated with fecal matter.
Then 4 years later and after many meetings and trips to Austin, the USDA awarded the County a $1.3 million grant to begin the infrastructure to bring water to Schuman Estates and Brothers Rd. I donated the easement. I was part of Border Interfaith’s victory in getting over $1 million dollars from the USDA for water and now I’m also part of the effort to bring gas as well.
Now that’s effective anger!