‘Negligence on behalf of the government’: Yaritza Perez discusses the importance of voting for climate

‘It’s all about action now’: Yaritza Perez fights for clean air in Latino communities


In an interview with Front Page Live, Moms Clean Air Force field organizer Yaritza Perez shared her story and her motivation for joining the fight for clean air and water.

Perez, a Marine veteran, said, “I just found myself wanting to continue to serve somehow in my community, so I learned how to repurpose my service from active duty into my community.”

Environmental activism was something she stumbled across while working for the National Parks and Conservation Association. She realized it was time to start becoming an advocate for the environment: “I’ve got to do something that’s bigger than me.”

Moms Clean Air Force

Perez joined Moms Clean Air Force, a community of parents fighting for clean air and water for their children. Through this work, she realized just how important it was for her community to have clean air.

“I found out that Latinos are at a higher risk, brown babies are at a higher risk, of growing up with respiratory issues,” she said. They are also at risk of things “getting worse over time depending on where in the city or where in the state they live.”

“How is it that I’m going to serve my country — and then I come back here — and my people are getting treated as second class citizens?”

Perez described how the quality of the air really affected the quality of life for her community and for her family personally. “My mom has asthma and it keeps on getting worse,” she explained.

“How is it that my brother’s and sister’s kids can’t go outside on certain days because the air quality is so bad that it’s gonna flare up some sort of asthma or skin irritation?”

‘I started to discover my Latinisma’

Her concerns for the future increased after Hurricane Maria hit, and she saw just how much the devastation affected her family. “I saw my mom cry for her island and that changed my entire perspective,” Perez recalled.

‘I started to discover my Latinisma’

The aftermath of the hurricane opened her eyes to what was happening to her people “generationally” and pushed her to learn more about her heritage.

It also made her look more closely at her community and its leaders.

‘Everyone has their job’

Perez pointed out that the government in Florida does not pay attention to the residents in cities like Orlando, but instead caters only to the tourists. “There’s this negligence on behalf of the government and taking care of the people who live here,” she said.

But instead of focusing simply on the personalities in charge, Perez emphasized that it was time to focus on the mission. “Everyone is so focused on the actual individual instead of the actual mission,” she said.

“In the military we know that if you just focus on one person there’s no way the entire mission is going to fall into place. Everyone has their job, everyone has their thing to do, and if one person doesn’t complete their mission, you are now compromising the entire mission. We have to think about that when it comes to our community. If we have certain people in our community who are compromising our mission and damaging land and water and air, then that’s going to trickle down, and it’s going to infect other people that live here.”

Perez wants everyone to vote, because “It’s so important for our voices, as Latinos, as moms, as veterans, to be heard. People don’t understand the importance and the power that each of our voices has.”

If the mission is to succeed, it will take all of us doing our part.

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