Juntos: Engaging the Latino Community on Renewable Energy

Juntos New Mexico is a new program of Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund that uplifts the voice of Latino communities in Albuquerque. Through outreach, community organizing, and leadership development, we build the power of Latino communities to safeguard the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Wow.

That is the immediate word that comes to mind when I reflect on the past six months of organizing with Juntos New Mexico. When I first started, Juntos did not have an office or even a name. Now Juntos has a team of four organizers that works every day to elevate the voices of the Latino community in support of clean, renewable energy – like wind and solar. Here’s a timeline of some of Juntos’ biggest milestones so far this year:

We debated many different names, but finally decided on Juntos. Why? Because “juntos” means “together.” As Latinos and New Mexicans we know that we cannot do anything without our family and without each other.

Six months later, we are growing strong. Currently, our campaign is focused on fighting for more renewable energy in New Mexico. We have a team of three dynamic community organizers and one fearless lead organizer. As a team, they are out in the community every day educating and inspiring people to get involved in ensuring that New Mexico will have a clean energy future. And we are accomplishing this. Our activist base continues to grow stronger and stronger every day. As a testament to that fact, here are some quick numbers. Since July, Juntos has: knocked on over 3,000 doors, made over 12,000 phone calls, and taken 550 volunteer or advocacy.actions in support of our campaign (including phone banking, writing letters to the editor, door-knocking, attending a house meeting or volunteer meeting, attending a large scale event or rally, or joining with Juntos to talk to decision makers).

Our accomplishments are coming at a critical time. Currently, the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) is slated to make a decision that will affect our energy future for years to come. Two units of the San Juan Generating Station coal-fired power plant will be shut down in northwest New Mexico. The shutdown is a result of critical safeguards recently put in place by the EPA to reduce regional haze. However, PNM must now plan how to replace the power from the coal plant partial closure. Right now, before the PRC, they are proposing that New Mexicans use the same sources of dirty energy that we fought so hard to transition away from, with only a small percentage of renewables.

The plan weighs heavily on coal and nuclear, two of the most damaging energy sources — not just to our air, land, and water, but also to those of us affected by asthma and increased rates of cancer and diseases. We can do better. Renewable energy allows us to preserve our precious resources. As a Latino, I inherently understand this. When I was growing up, I remember hearing stories the older generations told about life in Mexico. Everything was always saved, local herbs were used as remedies, water was never wasted, and most of all you never took more than you could give back. These are important values to live with. We care about the environment. We care about our families and future generations. And for many of our families that have held roots in New Mexico for generations as caretakers of the land, renewable energy is the best option to preserve our beautiful home and communities — not dirty coal and nuclear. That’s why we are out there every single day. That’s why we care so much about what we do. When the PRC rules on PNM’s plan from now and into the coming months, we will be there doing whatever it takes to stop PNM’s dirty plan dead in its tracks.

Juntos we can!
The PRC hearing on PNM’s power plan is scheduled for January 5, 2015. We’re gathering petitions asking the PRC to reject PNM’s plan. Add your name at http://bit.ly/PRCPetition
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By Vicente Garcia, Juntos Program Director