The M(other)work of Survival

Authors: Cristina Faiver-Serna*,
Topics: Environmental Justice, Latinx Geographies , Feminist Geographies
Keywords: Chicana and Latina Feminist Theory, social reproductive labor, racial capitalism, environmental racism and injustice, public health practice
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Promotoras de salud, or community health workers, are described in public health literature as “bridges” between their communities and the health care system. In Southern California promotoras work with patients and families to help them manage asthma, an illness largely out of their control. In the shadow of two of the largest ports in the United States, promotoras in Los Angeles County return collective breath stolen by sedimented encounters with toxic pollution deposited over a lifetime. With each diesel truck that creeps along the 710 freeway the ports turn a profit, the state invests in expanding capitalist projects, and, in turn, sanctions the racial and environmental violence that poisons communities: majority Latinx, Black, Brown, immigrant, poor, working-class, adults, children, and babies. Promotoras guide patients in healing past wounds and violences inflicted on them, they teach patients to be present in each moment, and help prevent future harms. Of bridges, Anzaldúa (2002) writes: “Bridges are thresholds to other realities, archetypal, primal symbols of shifting consciousness. They are passageways, conduits, and ancestors that connote transitioning, crossing borders, and changing perspectives. Bridges span liminal (threshold) spaces, between worlds, spaces I call nepantla, a Nahuatl word meaning tierra entre mundo” (1). Drawing from Anzaldúa of the temporal and spatial linkages that bridges provide, and the Chicana M(other)work paradigm (Caballero et al. 2018), I examine the layered m(other)work of promotoras de salud, and the spatial and temporal impacts of community mothering on conditions of survival for communities on the frontlines of racial and environmental injustice.

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