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‘Survival first, health second’: Geographies of Environmental Racism and the M(other)work of Promotoras de Salud

Authors: Cristina Faiver-Serna*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Gender, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Latinx geographies, critical environmental justice, spatial fix, neoliberal governance, racial capitalism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Promotoras de salud (community health workers) are central to a public health model of care that addresses asthma in Southern California’s Latinx communities. Toxic effects of pollution are countered through state-based programs that use promotoras to teach families home environmental management and proper medication technique. A cornerstone of many promotora’ care-work is the experience of learning to manage their own children’s asthma, and becoming empowered to help others. The environmental justice movement has always included public health services as part of its platform to achieve justice. Yet, EJ Studies has failed to critically interrogate the state’s provision of public health services as means to achieve long-lasting EJ. Simultaneously, critique of the state’s appropriation of the promotora’s cultural education praxis, and the roles ‘she’ plays in her community’s survival is an area of much needed inquiry in Chicana and Latina Feminist Studies. Building on Latinx Geographies scholarship at the intersection of Critical Environmental Justice studies and Latina Feminist Theory, this paper examines the interpellation of promotoras de salud by the state public health apparatus, and the ways in which their care-work operates to (de)construct geographies of environmental racism. Put another way, I ask: How is the promotora called upon by the state to remediate and resolve environmental injustice in her own community? How does ‘she’ respond to this call?

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