Holding Back the Flood

In a bright turquoise house on the outskirts of San Juan in the Rio Grande valley, Josué Ramírez, the millennial co-director of a housing nonprofit, stood at a whiteboard with an Expo marker in hand. Around him, about a dozen people, community activists from the valley’s colonias, were seated at plastic tables, some eating homemade shrimp tamales. Ramírez’s subject was hardly riveting; he was talking about drainage, the mechanics of getting water out of colonias with little or no infrastructure at a time when extreme storms are getting more frequent. That was all too clear three weeks earlier, when October’s Hurricane Patricia dumped 11 inches of rain on the valley. In the colonias, front yards turned into lakes, and weeks later, vast stretches of still-standing water bred swarms of mosquitoes so thick that people avoided going out in the evening. Insects and vermin took refuge in people’s houses, and a scourge of skin rashes and head lice followed. Communities reeked of raw sewage, and residents believed contaminated water was the cause of a spate of stomach illnesses. Keep reading at the Texas Observer.

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