José González, Recycling Por La Causa, watercolor & ink, 2009.
“Por La Causa” means “for the cause” and it is a term directly connected to the struggles of the Chicano movement and beyond. It specifically frames the issues and work that was done “for the cause”, meaning to directly benefit, betterment, and advancement of the community.
In this piece, the term “recycling,” which can evoke a mainstream conservation action and frame of thinking, is reframed por la causa. This is a deliberate attempt to connect a mainstream conservation action to a social justice frame that will opens up a discussion on contrasts. The contrast is further illustrated by having the figure in the piece directly referencing a Meso-American codex. The idea here is to reframe, own, and adapt as necessary certain conservation actions por la causa.
In thinking about climate change, we need to think how it is being done “por la causa” and what it means. What would it look like as Latino communities take action on climate change por la causa? How is this already being done, with a focus of dealing with climate change not just for the planet’s sake but for our families’ sake, our communities, and in direct connection to the social justice lineage of the Chicano and other civil rights movements?
The fact is that many communities of color, and especially Latino communities, already care about taking significant action on climate change, as noted in poll after poll. The interest and focus is already there—but it is worth it to point how these are culturally relevant actions in intent and outcome. Sometimes the work is not recognized because it does not look like “my type of climate change action”. We may not be out there calling for change to save the polar bears or keep the permafrost from melting. But we are out there for cleaner air and water for our children, healthier food access for our communities, and meaningful employment opportunities in new green technology industries. The planet can be saved, but our communities are part of this planet, and this work can be more meaningful and relevant when it is done por la causa.