WESLACO, RGV – A common refrain during the City of Weslaco’s emotionally-charged flood forum on Wednesday evening was “Make Weslaco Drain Again.”
Dozens of residents flocked Weslaco City Hall to let city commissioners and administrators know just how bad the torrential rains of June 20 and 21 were and how their homes and communities were impacted. Many had lost their homes to flooding. Many wanted to know why the city’s drainage system did not work as intended.
One of the last speakers was Rosie Coronado, who has lived in the Las Brisas neighborhood for the past 15 years. This was one of the worst affected areas for flooding.
Coronado made the point that if residents are unhappy with the city’s efforts to improve the drainage system, they could vote in a different group of commissioners. However, she also noted that not too many people vote.
“One thousand voters, versus 40,000 people? We need to change that. A lot people do not know what is going on or what is happening. We want everything to be transparent. We want everybody to be accountable. We want everybody working together to make something happen,” Coronado said.
Coronado also said if the current administration in Weslaco needs more resources, the people should help it out. “We love Weslaco. We are still here. Some of us will be here for a long time. We do need to make it better. We need to make it drain again.”
Coronado ended by alerting the audience to a page on Facebook called “Make Weslaco Drain Again.”
Interviewed after her speech by the Rio Grande Guardian, Coronado said the “Make Weslaco Drain Again” Facebook page had been started by her husband, Israel Coronado. Israel Coronado had caused quite a stir earlier in the evening by storming out of City Hall and telling TV reporters waiting outside that city officials had turned down his microphone when he tried to speak. He urged city residents to forget about the Flood Forum and instead hold their own town hall meeting at a nearby park.
Weslaco residents whose homes were flooded during recent storms want answers from city officials.
Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Wednesday, July 11, 2018
In her interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Rosie Coronado said her husband was not looking to make a name for himself with “Make Weslaco Drain Again.” Asked how the Facebook page came about, she said:
“I had nothing to do with it. My husband came in one day and said, guess what I did. I said what. He said, I’ve just started a Facebook page, “Make Weslaco Drain Again.” I said, okay, and it just took off.”
Just took off is an understatement. A recent post attracted 22,000 hits. The site has become the place to protest for those unhappy with Weslaco’s drainage system and flood recovery efforts.
Rosie Coronado was quick to point out that her husband was far from just an armchair critic.
“He did not just write something, he started acting. He started going to houses with his little trailer, asking the people, who needs help. Once we started helping those people, they would offer to become volunteers themselves. They felt the help first hand so it was easier for them to go back and help another person in need. It just creates a little chain,” Rosie Coronado said.
“That is what we need. Volunteers, even if it is just one hour a week. The same people, over and over again, they get tired. So, we just need to rotate more people.”
Asked if, three weeks after the storms, the help is still needed, Rosie Coronado said: “Absolutely. Even now we need more help. Some people had to wait up to two weeks before they could get back in their home. For them, the damage is twice as much as everyone else because the mold has gone all the way up the wall.”
Asked how badly her neighborhood was impacted by the flooding, Rosie Coronado said the recent flooding event was worse than 2008’s Hurricane Dolly.
“When we walked the streets during Dolly, the water was up to our knees. This time, the water came up to my thighs. It was definitely worse than Dolly. Back then, the water reached halfway up our yard. This time it reached all the way up to our door. It only needed one more inch to rise up into our house.”
Asked how the recovery efforts have been going, Rosie Coronado said: “We have been going house by house around our neighborhood, to see who needs help moving furniture, who needs us to cut sheet rock. We are trying to reach as many people as possible. It is not the first time this has happened.”
Asked about the impact of the “Make Weslaco Drain Again” movement, Rosie Coronado said she is proud of her husband’s leadership.
“I thought, wow, honey, you are making a difference. But, we are not looking for credit. We just want to help people. We are not trying to get famous, we are not even trying to raise money. We just want physical help. The currency we are using is kindness. People with kindness.”
Rosie Coronado said as best she can tell this is the first time a local grassroots group in Weslaco has made a significant impact to affect change.
“It has nothing to do with the city or any other organization. It is just one guy with his trailer, his friends and volunteers. They are noticing him because a lot of people are angry and upset. They are coming to us and asking for our help. Whatever we can do.”
Asked if she had any advice for City of Weslaco officials, Rosie Coronado said: “From my understanding, there is not even one grant writer in the City of Weslaco. That does not make sense. I used to write grants myself. If they had someone looking for grants I am sure the monies would come in.”
Asked what message she has for those who want to help flood victims, Rosie Coronado said: “Volunteer. Please. We need help. It is heartbreaking when the elderly have lost everything they have worked for. They have nowhere else to go. We are trying to help those people that really need help.”
POSTSCRIPT: After the interview with Rosie Coronado took place, the community leader reported that her husband’s Facebook page, “Make Weslaco Drain Again” had been removed. A message by Facebook stated: “It looks like recent activity on your Page doesn’t follow the Facebook Pages Terms. If you think your Page was unpublished in error, you can appeal and we’ll take another look.” Rosie Coronado called it censorship.