While this is a serious issue, one might ask why the coalition decided to tackle this problem in a city that struggles with security, drug abuse and access to education and healthcare. As Elizabeth and I walked behind women with megaphones announcing “¡Buenos días! Vengan a tirar los neumáticos, cubos, cacharros y recipientes que acumulan agua para prevenir el dengue!” (Good morning! Come throw away your tires, buckets, pots, and anything that accumulates water to help prevent dengue!), we also wondered why we were walking door to door, meeting skeptical faces when we asked the residents for old tires and buckets. But after an hour into the day, a garbage truck showed up with a woman from the local municipal government, and the residents started thanking us profusely. A volunteer told me that the first time she started volunteering in Villa Juárez, the garbage hadn’t been picked up in a month, something that wasn’t unusual, we learned. This explained the piles of burning garbage we walked by in the streets and the other piles accumulating in the canals.
When I watched the municipal officer talk with Rescatemos Villa Juárez organizers, I realized she had been successfully shamed into showing up. If the municipal government wasn’t going to take care of the people, the coalition of community leaders, found a way to provide instead. This action in turn pressured the municipality to bring the garbage truck to Villa Juárez and do its job. However, even as the municipal officer walked with us, she made discriminatory comments about “how dirty the people were” and about how cleaning the town was hopeless. This prejudice has exacerbated the poverty of people living in Villa Juárez.