Alaí Reyes-Santos

Oregon Water Futures

UO Professor Alaí Reyes-Santos Collaborates with OEC to Elevate Water Justice

“A changing climate, aging infrastructure across the state, and lack of ongoing investment in clean water have left Oregon’s water systems stressed, putting our health, safety, economy and environment at risk. Communities of color, particularly those that are rural and low- income, are often on the front lines of these impacts, facing a wide range of threats, including rising utility rates, disparities in drought and flooding vulnerability, and exposure to nitrates, pesticides, and heavy metals. In some rural counties, Native peoples and communities of color represent 30–40 percent of the population, yet face significant barriers to participating in state policy and infrastructure discussions. In metropolitan areas such as Eugene, Salem, and Portland, low-income communities and communities of color find themselves at high risk for water insecurity and climate-related disasters as documented during wildfires and seasonal flooding events.” — Project Overview / Oregon Water Futures Project Report

September 27, 2021—In fall 2020 Alaí Reyes-Santos, a UO associate professor of indigenous, race and ethnic studies, along with others working collaboratively in the Oregon Water Futures Project, interviewed more than 100 people in Native, Black, Latinx, and migrant communities throughout Oregon, holding conversations with them about water challenges and culturally specific resiliency. They collected a range of stories that underscored the threats and impacts to Oregonians, particularly Native peoples and communities of color, of an aging water infrastructure, climate change, and lack of public investment in clean water. They found that many of the people they interviewed did not trust their drinking water, and that they often faced significant barriers in participating in policy discussions.

A synopsis of their findings, along with the full report, can be found at:  https://oeconline.org/new-report-elevates-water-justice-in-oregon/. The project website holds relevant op-eds, interviews, and report summaries in four languages.

Alaí Reyes-Santos

In a letter sent mid-September 2021, Prof. Reyes-Santos offers a gracious thank you to CLLAS and other UO units that supported her research on Oregon Water Futures. Starting out in 2019 as a collaborative effort with the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), this project has since attracted “a historic 340 million dollar investment on water in the 2021 legislative session; with 1.5 million dedicated to engaging communities of color and other historically underserved communities in conversations about water in the state,” Reyes-Santos wrote.

CLLAS was among the first to provide seed funding for Prof. Reyes-Santos’s Oregon Water Futures Project, awarding her, along with the OEC, a CLLAS Faculty Collaboration Research Grant in 2019. Other UO funders include the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, the Center for Environmental Futures, and the Vice-Provost Office for Research and Innovation. The collaborative later received funding from Meyer Memorial Trust, the Collins Foundation, and the Lazar Foundation. The Meyer grant was renewed and now includes a collaboration with UO’s School of Law’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center. 

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Monday, September 27th, 2021 Affiliated faculty, Public Policy, Research No Comments

Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Provides Ethnic Studies Lesson

From Oregon Quarterly, Summer 2019
https://around.uoregon.edu/oq/puerto-rico-s-hurricane-maria-provides-ethnic-studies-lesson

Alai Reyes-Santos / credit: Julia Wagner, University Communications

When UO ethnic studies associate professor Alaí Reyes-Santos flipped on the late-night news on September 19, 2017, she saw something she’d been dreading since childhood: a category four hurricane was barreling toward Puerto Rico from the southeast.

“My mother always warned me that if a hurricane started in the southeast and curved up, it would wipe out the entire island,” remembers Reyes-Santos, a native Puerto Rican who hails from a small town in the Cordillera Central mountain range.

Reyes-Santos stared in horror at the screen, transfixed by the arc of Maria’s storm graphics spiraling from sea to the country’s southeastern shore.

“There was nothing I could do from thousands of miles away, I felt powerless,” she recalled recently from her small office on the outskirts of the UO campus.

For the rest of this article, go to: https://around.uoregon.edu/oq/puerto-rico-s-hurricane-maria-provides-ethnic-studies-lesson

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Alaí Reyes-Santos: “What It Means To Be a Black Latina in Higher Education”

by Alaí Reyes-Santos, Associate Professor, UO Department of Ethnic Studies
posted in Hip Latina,

“I have been asserting my blackness since I can remember.

“Growing up in the mountains of Puerto Rico, my curls —‘pelo malo,’as friends called it—betrayed my family’s attempts to claim whiteness by invoking our Spanish great grandfather. Why would my grandmother, who loved me deeply, say that my hair ‘does not come from our side of the family’?

“As we experience university responses to the Black Lives Matter Movement, Black Latinxs relive the everyday violence I faced during my childhood. Black Latinas are made invisible by intellectual and pedagogical initiatives. Data rarely documents Afro-Latino experiences in education, housing and employment, though they are similar to African American ones; AfroLatinx activists and Afro-Latinx Studies scholars seek that recognition.”

For the full blog post

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Eye of the storm: UO students reach out to hard-hit Puerto Rico

Alai Reyes-Santos

From Around the O

April 13, 2018—UO ethnic studies professor Alaí Reyes-Santos made a major revision to the curriculum for her “Race, Ethics, Justice” course last fall: She added a trip to Puerto Rico.

It was week three of the term and Reyes-Santos, a native Puerto Rican, was frustrated with the lack of federal aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. It had been weeks since the storm devastated the island and there were still widespread power outages and severely limited access to potable water and medical care.   

She saw an opportunity to have her students consider how the overarching questions they were examining about race, ethics and justice were applicable to the crisis, and to use that analysis and knowledge to create resources to help educate the public and spur conversations about those issues. The resources the class created were just published on a new website, “The UO Puerto Rico Project: Hurricane Maria and its Aftermath.” › Continue reading

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Why Oregon should care about Puerto Rico

Alaí Reyes-Santos

CLLAS Editor’s Note: Alaí Reyes-Santos is a member of the CLLAS Executive Board and an associate professor in the University of Oregon’s Department of Ethnic Studies.

Source: Why Oregon should care about Puerto Rico

By Alaí Reyes-Santos

For The Register-Guard

SEPT. 28, 2017—Puerto Rico is an archipelago in the Caribbean and a U.S. territory since 1898. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, serve in the U.S. military and have contributed to the economic growth and defense of the United States. Yet most Americans on the mainland ignore Puerto Rico’s existence and its significant place in U.S. history.

This is dangerous at a time when Category 4 Hurricane Maria has left the island and the U.S. Virgin Islands devastated — without electricity or water; with limited access to food, water, medicines and transportation; with thousands of people displaced from their homes; and with floods and ruptured dams that threaten its most vulnerable populations. Public health and safety are compromised more by the minute. › Continue reading

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