Actor/Comedian takes water issues to new level
The Latino Journal E-News
Paul Rodriguez was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, a birthplace he shares with Boxing Champion Julio Cesar Chavez. Both became celebrities and extremely popular among people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Today, one is known among Latinos as the best pound-for-pound fighter, the other is known for taking on a fight that will make a difference to thousands of Latinos.
Raised in East Los Angeles by farm worker parents, Paul Rodriguez says he wanted to be a lawyer until he discovered comedy. His success in comedy has afforded Rodriguez to actively participate in numerous causes, but none has been more serious for him than seeking water for the farms in California’s central valley. As a farmer and now head of the California Latino Water Coalition, Rodriguez has put a serious face on to fight those who are harming the farming and Latino communities.
“What we are fighting for is something (Cesar) Chavez himself, were he alive, would be fighting for, the Campesino,” says Rodriguez. “We’re not people who are here asking you to give us anything. Just let us do what we do. But we haven’t figured out a way to grow food without water.”
Known as the “Nation’s Bread Basket” because of the abundance of agricultural produce it provides the nation, California’s central valley farmers have been told they will receive “zero” allocation of water for their farms. This has left 100,000 acres to be fallowed and is expected to grow to as much as 850,000 acres left without planting, almost one-fifth of the state’s farmland.
“We are in the middle of a drought,” says Rodriguez. “But in urban cities, most of us are oblivious to that because when we turn on the faucet, water comes out, so there is no problem. But, there is a problem, the (water) conveyance system for this state is antiquated,” adds Rodriguez. “It was built, more or less, for 18 million people.” (California’s population is pushing 38 million.)
The impacts are significant, if not gross. Unemployment rates are running as high as 35 percent (80,000 jobs) in this mostly Latino region. Without farming, there is no need for workers, packing sheds are closing, local stores are closing, and all agricultural related businesses, including trucking, are being adversely impacted. The cities where these Latino families live are unable to help as their tax base deteriorates. And, as the area becomes ideal for dust storms due to the fallowed lands, the area’s residents could be exposed to air-borne contaminants from years of agricultural chemical use.
“What I’m advocating for is legislation that will put funds into making our conveyance systems larger for more dams, more water stored above ground and underground,” says Rodriguez. “This would create jobs and a win-win situation and we Hispanics must use our muscle, our power, political and economic, intelligently, soundly, without ego, without prejudice. Others have done it. Let’s emulate them.”
The California Latino Water Coalition seeks to benefit all California residents including Latino farm workers, families, businesses and communities by advocating improved water supplies. The CLWC believes additional water resources are directly linked to creating jobs and providing economic stability and opportunity throughout California. The Coalition engages in public education and outreach to generate support among elected officials, influential Latinos and all Californians. For more information visit www.gotwater.org.
(The Latino Journal wants to congratulate Paul Rodriguez’ son, Paul Jr. ‘P-Rod’ for his accomplishment this past weekend as a professional skateboarder.)