As Pajaro is part of my district for the Cabrillo Community College Board of Trustees, I have asked our campus president to provide financial help for evacuees that are either students or employees of the college. Matt tells me that we are setting up $1,500 grants for evacuees, either employees or students at Cabrillo.
The Monterey County Health Department has now said that the conditions of sewers in Pajaro make life for evacuees “uninhabitable” for the 1,700 who were forced to leave. They cannot live there until the sewers are either repaired or replaced. That could take months or longer. Businesses cannot operate as you cannot drink tap water or use it for washing or flushing toilets.
I cannot emphasize what a wholescale calamity it is for the evacuees. They have few of their possessions. Farmworkers can’t work as the fields are filled with water. Many of their cars were severely damaged by water or are now unusable. Those with pets went to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds or gave them to friends or family who do not live in Pajaro. If this is not wholescale misery, then I do not know what is. I want our Watsonville City Council to honor the first responders who rescued all the evacuees.
I want to honor our graduates this year from Pajaro with special recognition. It is incredibly difficult to study and attend class when you have no home and no idea where your next meal is coming from or where you can study or sleep.
There are a variety of community-based organizations in Monterey County that are helping. But you can as well. Contact the city of Watsonville at 768-3133. There is also a collection center for durable goods and packaged food and water in the lobby of Gold’s Gym.
Although I have only lived in the county since 1998, it is clear that Pajaro has suffered due to environmental racism. Pajaro is largely made up of poor Mexicano campesinos who have little formal education, low income and few personal possessions. Many are not registered to vote as they are not citizens and have no idea how to complain to elected officials. Some will not do so as they are worried they will be deported. As this article in Good Times suggests, the ramifications of this catastrophe reach far beyond Pajaro. Even if you don’t eat broccoli and cauliflower (I love them both), this flood will affect all of us to some degree for some period of time. And it makes the need for decent, low-cost housing for all our residents just that more important. —Steve Trujillo
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