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When The Journey Leads To Where You Started

2012 November 15

By Paula Flores

I never imagined myself leading binational programs – much less championing an effort to introduce a serious message…and yet, here I am.

My parents’ first job in the USA was migrant farm work. During my childhood, my parents traveled throughout the states picking different crops according to the seasons. Kids often joined their parents during the summer and even during the school year. For me, those were the best summers ever! Disney World could not compete with the opportunity to playing in the dirt all day, having a picnic with your entire family under the sweet-smelling citrus trees.

I don’t remember ever thinking about pesticide exposure risks in the fields.

Many years later, I was hired by EPA where the opportunities to learn are endless! I have worked on a variety of issues. Nonetheless, I’ve always gravitated towards community involvement.

So in 2005, a group of us launched an initiative called Beyond Translation. The purpose of this effort was to go beyond the mere translation of documents and truly expand the environmental conversation with the Latino community – especially with respect to those issues that most impact our communities. Other EPA offices, including Research Triangle Park, Headquarters, and Region 3, followed suit to have a meaningful impact within their multilingual communities.

The BT Initiative resulted in the creation of a theater production called “El Moscas” y Los Pesticidas. Through clever characters and dialogue, a family learns about pesticide risks in agricultural fields and at home, as well as tips to minimize exposure. The play has been performed in San Juan, El Paso, and San Elizario, Texas and even in Wanachee, Washington.

Just a few weeks ago, a group of migrant students from Laredo performed the play to one of the largest audiences yet. Over 800 individuals filled the seats of Laredo’s Convention Center to see “El Moscas”! It was evident that the pesticide awareness message hit a cord in light of the increasing demand for more performances.

Imagine how proud I felt, when I saw the many faces of migrant workers in the audience. It has been a pure joy to be able to give back to the community who prepared me to take on just about anything. And as I watched their reactions – I thought I spotted my dad…and he was smiling.

About the author: Paula Flores-Gregg’s passion is turning community challenges into opportunities for collaboration. In her 25 years of service, she has embraced every assignment with creativity and enthusiasm. Paula is currently part of the U.S.-Mexico Border 2020 Program, serving as coordinator for the Texas – Coahuila – Tamaulipas – Nuevo León region.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. John Porter permalink
    November 16, 2012

    Great story! Everyone in Laredo certainly appreciates your hard work and dedication to the program and to our city! Thank you again.

  2. Rafael Casanova (Environmental Scientist) permalink
    November 18, 2012

    I participated during the initial “Beyond Translation” conferences began in 2005 and organized by Paula Flores and others at the EPA. At that time I could not have imagined that this effort/initiative would gather so much momentum to this day. This is awesome.

  3. Paula Flores-Gregg permalink
    November 19, 2012

    My e-mail box was flooded with notes and comments about this blog entry, but the following note from a student truly made my day…

    “This play helped me realize how bad pesticides are if they are not used correctly. I thought they were simple substance, but now I see how they can cause big trouble. Also, I lived the way they interpreted. A serious subject in a fun and entertaining was a plus. It has alot of information about pesticides like how to take care of them and me. Also, how to avoid getting them into your house. I think this play was a great show. ” …Joselyn Garcia – UISD

    Plans to post the video of “El Moscas” performed by Laredo’s UISD students are underway.

  4. Leonel Vela, Jr. permalink
    November 19, 2012

    This is great work and an excellent effort to reach the migrant population with very important information on health issues. I applaud your efforts and think that this has been a good effort to get the word out.

  5. Thomas Ruiz permalink
    November 19, 2012

    Paula and her team came to southern New Mexico in November of 2009. Helping them to coordinate the “Beyond Translation” forum held here has been a highlight in my career as a state employee working with EPA. The forum was actually a springboard for other events my department has held within colonias to help educate community leaders and residents on the basics of environmental permitting. This empowerment and other related outreach activities are part of what provide community members fair treatment and meaningful involvement in environmental decision-making. Paula and crew definitely helped facilitate this in southern NM through Beyond Translation.

  6. Lina-EPA permalink*
    November 20, 2012

    Yes, thanks to Paula and the team in Region 6, the Beyond Translation effort took a life of its own. Glad to see that the initiative lives on, especially through the Las Moscas Play. Keep up the good work.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2012

    EPA needs to continue its efforts with Beyond Translation. This effort is critical to Environmental Justice by reaching out to communities in a positive and meaningful way. People in these impacted areas are always asking EPA the same questions – is the water safe to drink, is the air safe for the elderly, can my kids play in the playground. Beyond Translation can be that bridge from science and technology to providing answers to people in the community. EPA needs to continue Beyond Translation Forums and listen to what people have to say regarding the environment they live in. Please start planning the next BT Forum and keep us all in the loop. God bless EPA for protecting our environment.

  8. Tony Robledo permalink
    November 20, 2012

    The efforts of Beyond Translation are critical to the Environmental Justice efforts at EPA. Every BT Forum that I attended people are always asking the same questions – is the water safe to drink, can I breathe the air, can my kids play in the playground. The BT Forum can be a bridge to link the science and technology to the community. EPA needs BT Forums to listen, learn, and help others in these EJ communities. Let’s start planning the next BT Forum now.

  9. Noemi Ochoa permalink
    November 20, 2012

    Thank you EPA for affording MIA-Migrants in Action, the opportunity to present this play. “El Moscas Y Los Pesticides” presented a very serious message in a comical and culturally relevant venue. As the Executive Director of MIA, I experienced first hand the impact this performance had in the community, but coupled with that, the positive effect it had on the students. As their testimonials say it best, it sky rocketed their self-esteem. The migrant students from United ISD did a great job and now we are in the process of bringing it to Edinburg CISD with the migrant students from Economedis High School. We are also planning to have a city proclamation on pesticide awareness as was done in Laredo TX via the Migrant Education Program from United.

  10. Julia Perez permalink
    November 26, 2012

    The play is a creative way to communicate the hidden dangers of agriculture. I applaud the efforts of Paula, Noemi Ochoa of MIA and Veronica Burgoa of UISD for there behind the scenes roles in putting together this incredible event. The information shared is important and the positive memories for the children is intangible. Thank you!

    However, as a former child laborer I would NEVER describe my experience as Paula. I’m glad she recognized that children working in the fields face harsh temperatures, back-breaking work, pesticide exposure and a compromised education. Please watch The Harvest on Netflix. I spent years as Associate Director so people would know the truth about the legal exploitation of our children.
    My behind the scenes book in progress, Among the Forgotten, will further share the untold stories of children who are separate and unequal in agriculture.

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