Comité works to empower Mexican-Americans and new immigrants to help them overcome the many barriers they face, including very low wages, little access to conventional financing and limited political representation. Founded by farm workers in 1977 and incorporated in 1981, Comité is a membership non-profit that focuses on helping members build assets and strengthen the whole community. Four years after it started by pooling member savings, Comité purchased its first hundred acres for development for $1.4 million.
"I've been here since 1949. There were only five houses then. Together we've made a lot of things happen. Young people have opportunities now."
- Delores Ybarra
Comité is located in San Luis, Arizona. San Luis, a town of about 19,000 in Yuma County in the southwestern corner of the state where agriculture is the major industry. The town is just across the river from California and the border from San Luis de Colorado in Mexico, a city of 300,000, many of whom work in multinational maquiladoras. During the height of the Yuma harvesting season, 30,000 to 40,000 Mexican farm workers cross the border each day.
Over and above the 111 children and their parents that Comité serves with center day care; the public schools that its land development makes possible; the training it provides for young people and adults; the work ethic it cultivates; the skills it imparts to entire families building self-help housing; and its culture and reaction activities for youth - Comité also helps more than 275 low income women deliver home day care to up to six children each by providing them with:
- Training in nutrition and how to prepare nutritional meals and teach children and parents to t eat them
- Assistance in upgrading their homes to qualify as day care sites
- Income supplements for each child served nutritional meals
- Inspections to insure that they continue to receive supplements
- Encouragement to improve their childcare skills and make the transition to being center providers
"I worked here in the fields in 1969. There was nothing here. There was nothing in 1979 when San Luis was incorporated. This is a first generation community. Most of the people come here from Mexico with very little English. That makes us totally different from other border towns like Nogales, which has existed since the early 1900s."
- Dr. Aguilera
Becoming a Comité member
Anyone can become a Comité member by paying an initial $650 deposit, a $40 membership fee and $5 per month thereafter. There is no payment schedule and members make payments as they can afford to do so, but a monthly deposit of about $150 is expected until we complete the development of the land (about 18 months). When a member has accumulated $2,500 (in addition to fees) he/she is eligible to choose a lot. The cost of a lot minus the amount the member actually has on account (their equity), leaves a balance, for which we arrange financing. The Comité acts as a fiduciary agent and facilitates transfer of the deed of trust; the member makes monthly payments to Title Company into a restricted trust account to pay off the development/permanent loan to the bank. We establish a reserve account that covers any "delinquent" member so they maintain excellent credit.
Over a period of about 18 months, a member develops equity which now provides them with a vehicle for leverage on a mortgage (increased home ownership, HUD Priority). They can take up to five or even ten years to pay off their lot, or may decide that the time is right to build their home; this is the time we provide the majority of our housing programs and services to alleviate financial duress or other impediments to affordable housing. Learn more about our housing programs