It began with a simple dream of a small group of resolute mothers discussing community problems in a one-room apartment in the Segundo Barrio during the 1960s.
Through stiff determination and unflinching courage, the “Mothers of La Fe” cobbled together a non-profit organization to empower families immersed in poverty, unemployment, lack of health care and gang violence.
Since that day more than four decades ago, Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe has helped countless families, many of them recent immigrants to El Paso, resulting in the empowerment of a predominantly Latino community.
Segundo Barrio, located south of downtown El Paso near the U.S.-Mexico border, is the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhood, housing a community deeply rooted in Mexican culture.
“I have always said that all the people in La Fe are my second home,” said Esperanza Tijerina, who attends citizenship classes and English at the La Fe Culture and Technology community center and is preparing to apply for U.S. citizenship.
“Every person (here), from the teachers to the administration, are my family, and I will do whatever I can to keep the legacy of La Fe alive in future generations,” she said.
Tijerina, the widow of recently deceased Mexican-American activist Reies Lopez Tijerina, is one of the hundreds of neighborhood residents who benefit from affordable health care, English classes, elementary and middle school education, a Women, Infants, and Children’s Program, and a Culture and Technology Center.
La Fe is dedicated to promoting human rights and advocating for justice within its community. It is one of the oldest and largest federally funded health-care centers in Texas.
“It’s important that for a low-income community like ours that we teach the community how to empower themselves, ” said Estela Reyes-Lopez, media relations and public information officer for La Fe.
“To empower a community means to give them the tools and resources [and make them] available so that they can use them to lift themselves up,” she added.
Recently, local residents, teachers as well as staff, and volunteers at the non profit organizations working to improve the quality of life in Segundo Barrio celebrated the installation of a new mural at La Fe Preparatory School, a charter school that provides dual language instruction to 275 children.
Reyes said that “art makes us look at ourselves in our mind’s eye” and helps Segundo Barrio residents and community leaders “realize what our community could have done better, what we can do better now, and how we can inspire others.”
She said the extensive art by local artists displayed on walls and interior spaces of clinics, schools and community buildings in Segundo Barrio also serves the purpose of helping residents learn how to “change something that might be taking us down the wrong path, and getting everybody on the right path.”
Residents like Wendy Michelle Navarro, 19, agree that La Fe fulfills its mission statement of, “improving the quality of life…by continuously enhancing the health and human services provided.”
This organization is unique from other health centers because of its belief that “health is a holistic circle,” not just focusing on the physical well being of an individual but also the emotional and psychological health of residents, Reyes said.
She adds that La Fe helps liberate Segundo Barrio from the stereotypes that most people have about low-income communities.
“La Fe” translates to “Faith,”which represents a people at the heart of one of the most historically and culturally diverse neighborhoods in El Paso.