By: Jackson Monzon -Hood College.
With bags of clothes, food and guitars strapped to our backs we entered into the Barrio Mitre Community Centre. Upon entering the centre, we saw dozens of water bottles, cleaning supplies, and other donations being organized by a handful of volunteers. Our work began with a discussion and detailed briefing of the history and mission of the centre given by Patricia, a veteran volunteer. We were told of the prejudices the children of the neighborhood face at the schools they attend, the scarce medical attention the neighborhood receives, and - most surprising of all - the effects of the massive flood which occurred 2 weeks ago. Patricia explained to us that underneath the neighborhood is a creek which floods during heavy storms and causes sewer systems to malfunction. "The creek was cleaned a while back, an old corroded car was removed and the flooding stopped for a while," she explained. Sadly, however, she pointed out that the Dot Baires Shopping Centre has been responsible for the most recent flooding of the neighborhood, but not the first time. Other flooding occurred in the month of December when Barrio Mitre flooded 3 times.
The shopping centre, situated on the hill above the neighborhood, empties its water pump into the underground creek and causes it to flood. The steep incline of the hill makes the situation much worse; upon descending from the mall you'd swear it was a mountain. When you come face to face with the neighborhood, you see that the houses are made of brick with no outer protection, the streets are bare without any pavement, and exists in the shadow of the 5-story shopping. The floodwaters that drowned the neighborhood were not the same ones that the television stations broadcasted, but rather, "water from the septic tanks, backed up sewer systems. It was water that damaged many personal possessions," exclaimed Patricia. She brought to our attention that many people in the neighborhood lost schoolbooks, official documents, and even their own beds. Her accounts of the flood victims were heartbreaking and eye-opening glimpses into the tragic series of events during the flooding in early April. It was brought to our attention that the government of the city has not taken the measures to fix the problems plaguing the neighborhood and that the Centre will be seeking reparations from the Dot Baires Shopping Centre and from the government of the city. When leaving the Community Centre, we were able to reflect once more on the conditions of the people in the neighborhood and the differences that are seen on a daily basis between those up on the hill and those down below.