image of Boca Chica Beach, courtesy of CBBEP Coastal Bird Program

Rio Grande Valley Against SpaceX

Words by Ismael M.
Edited by Omar C. and Josue R.

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Criticisms against SpaceX have increased online as residents of Boca Chica and the surrounding area are raising concerns about the environmental impact and political issues such as economic inequity and gentrification. Xandra is one of many residents organizing public testimony against the Spacex development in Boca Chica. The following interview was completed in anticipation of their testimony presentations at the commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at 5 pm. Edited for clarity

Interview with Xandra, Brownsville activist

First of all, go ahead and let us tell us a bit about yourself and how you’ve been involved with the community before.

I’ve lived in Brownsville my entire life 29 years and I’ve been trying to be more involved in the community, since 2016. I’ve met a number of people who are involved with different causes and the more I’ve gotten to know them the more I’ve gotten to learn about what they do. I’ve just been here to support everybody else’s efforts.

I’m kind of in the middle. I feel like for this situation specifically, I was in a perfect place to communicate with everybody who knows more about their specific causes and just try to bring them together for this. In the past, I’ve seen that whenever a specific person or a specific organization tries to speak with local leadership, they’re usually brushed off so what I was told hoping to do is get all this information together from different people, from different organizations and bring it all together into one. I don’t know if we would call it a movement, it would be a collection of people and organizations and ideas instead of just one that you know leadership could brush off like I have seen it happen before.

Then can you tell us more about how specifically it started organizing against or for this meeting? who’s idea was this? How are y’all organizing for the commissioner meeting?

I’ve known Becca Hinojosa from Save RGV From LNG. I know she’s involved with helping people take care of the environment over on Boca Chica before it was because of the LNG pipelines and more recently it’s been because of SpaceX and the expansion that they’re planning. I was just hoping at the start that I would kind of help gets her letters across. She’s also been sharing a letter to the Army Corps about halting the plans for SpaceX expansion. I’ve just been wanting to amplify what she had already been doing and what Save RGV has been doing for a while now.? I didn’t mind answering messages and so that that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been getting messages from people. Pretty much all over the country, you know, a lot of bad, but a few people who are willing to listen to the experiences from the Valley.

As far as the meeting where we will be presenting our public comments on April 6th at the Brownsville City Commission meeting. Right now they’re being done virtually and I’ve messaged a lot of people who seem to understand our perspective. I asked them to send public comments to the city, to send emails to the local leaders, and submit a letter to the Army Corps.

I’ve shared the link that Becca had worked on and we’re just hoping that leadership listens. I know over the last few years a lot of people from Boca Chica had been trying to voice their concerns about SpaceX coming in and taking up more and more land.

I’ve seen people from the Carrizo/Comecrudo  tribe post on Facebook. I can’t speak for them, but I’m just kind of throwing some attention their way. They’ve been actively trying to protect this land that they’ve been protecting for generations and this is just another fight that they shouldn’t need to be fighting. Having a billionaire come in and just occupy more of their land, We’re hoping that first of all, the city or the Brownsville mayor and city commissions will listen to this and that the community can get to know more about what SpaceX will be doing if we let it continue here in the valley specifically in Boca-Chica Village.

What is your response to people who support what is going on with Space X in Brownsville?

First of all, I want to say that I understand the excitement around space development.
Ever since I was a kid. I loved space. I loved science. The problem that I have is that I’ve seen the way Elon Musk, the way he has been online. He is a bully.

I know he lied about Tesla going private when I don’t think he had the authority to do so especially on Twitter. Lately, he’s come under fire for some anti-union tweets basically threatening people if they wanted to unionize through a tweet. I read that the FEC told him to take down that tweet and allow his workers to speak freely without explicit written consent from the company about their labor conditions. So he’s been doing a lot of shady stuff and I don’t understand why local leadership has praised him online if all of this information is out there. I just recently saw that one of the rockets exploded a couple of days ago and there are pictures of all the debris that’s falling into the wildlife areas.

I don’t want any of this debris landing on people disrupting the environment there, you know, just destroying the land there. I know that’s a big concern. There are a lot of ways that Space X could benefit society in the long run, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore all the damage it will do along the way to the people to the animals to the environment. We can’t destroy Earth to get to Mars.

Is there something else that worries you about what Space X is doing in Brownsville?

Again I mean long-term I mean, I know I mentioned the environment. I mentioned the people who are being affected.

I also saw a tweet that Musk shared. He tweeted inviting people from all over the country to come down to Brownsville come and live here come in work here, I know one of the main things that people locally have been saying is Elon Musk is gonna bring jobs to Texas, he’s gonna bring jobs to the Valley. Well, he’s just giving them away to people outside. Anybody who was excited about working for SpaceX locally, I mean that job might already be taken by somebody he’s inviting. People coming from outside, they’re all gonna be enjoying the resort that he wants to build on Boca Chica Village. It’s gonna be gentrification all over. The minority and the lower-income residents down here are gonna have a much harder time existing because of all the “development” he wants to do down here.

So it’s again, it’s not just short-term harm but in the long term. It’s like anybody who doesn’t live here who doesn’t know the struggles that the communities down here face on a daily basis just think Elon Musk is doing good but they don’t know how it affects these kinds of communities.

What happens after the meeting? Are there plans for something to do after the meeting?

The best-case scenario obviously is that we would put a halt to the plans and find other ways to strengthen our communities. Worst-case scenario, which, I’m still a bit iffy about but I know a few others have messaged just trying to figure out if Brownsville is adamant on supporting. Or If Brownsville’s adamant about taking this money that Musk promised Cameron County and the Brownsville downtown area after the rocket exploded and sent debris everywhere. Then our next course of action would probably be to maybe set up a committee that holds our local government accountable on how these funds are used because again as much as we would like this initial plan to work, things aren’t things are not guaranteed to go the way we would hope. But the most we can do after that would make sure this money is being used fairly for the community not just pocketed by officials not just used to promote their own businesses too.

You know, do things that only benefit them and not the middle to lower-income residents of our area. So maybe form a committee maybe obviously communicate with officials more and make sure they know we’re watching them make sure they know we’re on their case to see how that money is being used and we’re still gonna be here for the community regardless of whatever happens.

Thank you. The final question, is what would you tell your fellow citizens?

Again, I’ve never really been affiliated with the group but I mean, I think that I can still bring attention to their ways since a lot of times the only people who bring attention to them are themselves, you know, please listen to the Carrizo tribe because they have survived many things, they have survived, fighting against the broader wall, fighting against the LNG pipelines, they’ve been doing a lot of work a lot of people do a lot of work to keep our communities protected but I feel like they are very often overlooked so please do your research on what they do, they’re still here indigenous people still exist and I feel like even more than what I’m doing, even more than what other people are doing, we need to pay attention to them because They were on this land first and their voices should play a role in this in all of this in this situation.

Anything else you want to share?

I mean, I say this because even among all of the messages that I got with clown emojis, or the brown squirrely emoji, a lot of immature messages, a lot of rude messages. I do get a few messages from some younger people 14, 15 years old that they wouldn’t be when I was that age really into science really into STEM and they want to see SpaceX succeed but they’re also at that age where they, are open to listening to other perspectives.

I spoke to a few of them and they understood so I guess another message I want to bring across is that if you’re into science keep going for it because It can help a lot of people but make sure that when you get to the point where you can start on projects and where you want to help the community, make sure you’re actually in tune with the needs of the community and not just doing it for your own sake for the sake of your brand or the project, because everybody should be considered on this journey towards the future, this journey should be accessible to everybody.

That is my message of encouragement to those younger people who are at that point where they can see both sides of a thing.

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