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Statewide Latino Advocacy Meeting To Address Environmental Issues

Markus Spiske

The environment for many Latinos in Iowa includes natural factors, like air quality and climate change, but it also includes the economy, business and public health, according to Cristina Muñoz De La Torre. She's the first Climate and Environmental Justice State Director for the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Muñoz De La Torre will lead the statewide conversation Wednesday evening.

“My long term vision that I hope that they'll be able to fill in and change as we have this conversation is to, first of all, have a Latino and BIPOC network for climate and environmental justice to support ongoing local efforts in Iowa," she said.

Muñoz De La Torre’s position was created based on LULAC membership feedback during a legislative input process the organization held. She is also serving on the local LULAC chapter in Iowa City. Outside of LULAC, Muñoz De La Torre is also a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa where her dissertation analyzed the distribution of FEMA assistance and its equitability in different communities.

Kassidy Arena
IPR file
Cristina Muñoz De La Torre (table, left) helped emcee LULAC's Day on the Capitol in March. LULAC leadership announced its policy priorities at the event, including the newly added Environment division.

The 13-year veteran of environmental justice and disaster equity leadership said the topic will be how to balance protecting the environment while also protecting the people who work for industries that most impact it—like agriculture and meat packing. Both sectors have large Latino populations.

“With the pandemic and climate change, and just the compounded disasters over existing environmental issues, it felt very evident to bring all these local efforts into a statewide collective," Muñoz De La Torre said.

That way, Muñoz De La Torre said, they can better advocate and organize around environmental issues in Latino communities. She continued many times, she has seen environmental shortcuts institutions or companies make that disproportionately impact Latinos and where they live.

"That's why it's important to have a Latino voice around environmental and disaster and climate justice, especially in Iowa," she said. "Because to the greater world and to the rest of the United States, it may be less obvious that there's a big Latino presence in Iowa, let alone that the kind of environmental and climate justice issues that we're facing are unique in Iowa. Thus, we need to bring that attention to the state and national level."

Muñoz De La Torre said she hopes to identify new environmental issues Latinos are facing around the state. She has been working with national LULAC leadership on the topic.