Lyvia Rodríguez

After earning her master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Florida, Lyvia Rodríguez Del Valle moved to Paraguay, where she worked with a community fighting gentrification after a natural disaster.

When Lyvia came home to Puerto Rico, she saw the very same issues at play.

For the past 12 years, Lyvia has served as the executive director of the ENLACE Project, a community-led initiative to restore Caño Martín Peña, a polluted channel of water in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and respect the dignity and rights of the people who live nearby. Eight densely populated communities, where blue-collar families have settled for generations, are situated around the channel.

The ENLACE Project has built momentum in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which intensified existing flooding and health issues in the communities.

Lyvia believes other communities in the throes of gentrification and disenfranchisement can replicate the project’s crowning achievement — the establishment of the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust.

The Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust, which won the United Nations World Habitat Award in 2015, gives more than 2,000 people collective legal rights over the land on which their houses are built, and it guarantees their right to affordable housing, fair resettlement prices, and access to loans for home improvement projects. Post-Maria, it could also help vulnerable families without traditional land titles fight denied FEMA claims.

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