Homestead / Florida City

  • WeCount residents cheering
  • Seminole Theatre sign
  • Homestead Historic Town Hall

Homestead is in many ways what social scientists refer to as a “sacrifice zone:” a space that, in practice, has become a site where the most toxic by-products of modern urban life are concentrated. Sacrifice zones are tightly coupled to local, national, and global economies. These economies flourish—that is, grow, develop, and produce value— only to the extent that they are able to externalize the social and environmental costs of this growth. This externalization, in turn, takes the form of environmental degradation, such as air, water, and land pollution that create toxic living environments harmful to human health, and also the exploitation of precarious workers who have few options but to work in low-paying, dangerous, and unhealthy living conditions

Homestead exemplifies these characteristics of a sacrifice zone. The region developed as a key location for commercial agriculture in the early 20th century, and has become the second-leading consumer produce region in the country. It is also the site of the Homestead Air Reserve Base, as well as a detention center for undocumented and unaccompanied children. Together, these conditions produce multiple and intersecting harms. Agricultural laborers are particularly vulnerable to economic exploitation and environmental toxicity. Many laborers are undocumented or speak limited English and/or Spanish, and are subjected to low wages, harsh working conditions in extreme outdoor heat, and exposure to dangerous levels of pesticides and fertilizers. Pollution from the Air Reserve Base creates high levels of soil and air contamination and extreme levels of noise pollution, especially for migrant children detained at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children.

A defining characteristic of sacrifice zones is the way the harms and damages are often kept out of public view. Justice organizers working in Homestead accordingly focus on bringing to light these toxic conditions, through both public awareness-raising campaigns and workplace organizing to empower agricultural laborers.