MISSION, RGV – A community activist who has suffered serious illness and injury in recent years has explained why she has thrust herself back into the political spotlight.
Ester Salinas filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas over his what she argues is his failure to submit campaign finance reports accurately and on time. Mayor Salinas (no relation), disputes this. Mayor Salinas is the highest profile elected official campaigning against a healthcare district in Hidalgo County.
“I have chosen to get involved again because for me the healthcare district is personal,” said Ester Salinas. “So many of my friends have wrongly died of cancer. I have been diagnosed with cancer. We have all suffered tremendously because of the pesticide manufacturing plant that operated in Mission for decades. We need a healthcare district to help our families, the families in the Superfund area.”
Ester Salinas has been described as the Rio Grande Valley’s Erin Brockovich. Actress Julia Roberts played Brockovich in the hit movie, which was based on a true story. Working for an attorney, Brockovich found evidence that the groundwater in Hinkley, Calif., was seriously contaminated with carcinogenic hexavalent chromium.
Ester Salinas spent years researching the damage caused by the highly toxic substances used to make agricultural pesticides at the former Hayes-Sammons plant in Mission. She documented the cancer suffered by hundreds of families living near the Superfund site and presented the information to local attorneys. Many families are still waiting for compensation.
“We needed biomarkers, a medical study done by a medical research center for the victims living in the contaminated area. We never got them. I believe the healthcare district will help all our families. There will be more money for medical research,” Ester Salinas said.
Ester Salinas said that as a property owner she expects to be taxed more should Hidalgo County voters approve the creation of a healthcare district on Nov. 8. She said paying higher taxes will be worth it.
“It will be an $80 increase in property taxes a year for every $100,000 of property valuation, I am told. That is okay. I do not mind paying more taxes because it is something that is needed. My grandson has never walked a day in his life. There are days when I cannot walk because I am so weak recovering from cancer. Lupita died, Oscar died, baby John died, Mr. Garza died. All of these good friends of mine died because of the cancer caused by the pesticide plant.”
Ester Salinas was forced to retire early as a Special Ed teacher for La Joya ISD after a violent physical assault by a student. This past the summer, she was diagnosed with cancer. She said doctors have advised her that the cancer was caught in time.
“Right now, my cancer is contained and I am recovering. But, I have a lot of weakness. It would be easy for me to stay quiet but when I see all these ads in the paper paid for by Norberto Salinas attacking a healthcare district, I feel I must speak out. He may be mayor of Mission but he does not speak for me. He never has. We need a healthcare district,” Ester Salinas said.
“There are so many citizens in Hidalgo County involved in agriculture that are suffering now. They have been suffering for years. Why don’t we have a medical district already? It is something we should have had 30 years ago. It could have helped a lot of families in the Superfund area who have seen loved ones wrongfully die of many different cancers.”
Ester Salinas said she has been asked to speak at town hall meetings in support of a healthcare district. She said she has had to decline.
“I have declined the requests because I would have broken down. I would have been so upset. It angers me too much. For the sake of humanity, we need a healthcare district and, I’m sorry, too many of the people against it are being selfish. We should make this investment for the good of the community, for the good of humanity.”