When The Journey Leads To Where You Started

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.