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Mapping Social and Environmental Risks with Young Students from Lubbock, Texas 

By Rodolfo Hernández-Pérez
December 2022

How to represent the history of a city while mapping social and environmental risks and hazards? "Envision: Cartographies of Risk in Lubbock" (hereafter, Envision), a full-day workshop organized by the RED Lab, proposed a social cartography exercise to Estacado and Frenship High Schools students in Lubbock (TX) to encourage them to solve this challenging question. Two groups participated during November 4 and 11, 2022, of the workshop consisting of a morning walking journey to historical places and a guided visit to a city air quality lab on Texas Tech campus, followed by an afternoon of hands-on cartographic activities. 

Students on a tour of Lubbock, Texas. They take notes to make maps later.

Bilingual research materials were designed for the workshop. In the image, students develop a mapping journal that captures their views and reflections about the places visited.

​During the walking journey, the students learned different approaches to one of the most remembered disasters in Lubbock, the tornado of May 11, 1970, which shaped the modern city landscape and today's relation of different communities with their neighborhoods. In the Tornado Memorial, located Downtown, the group was exposed to the official version of the event, which honors the lives of the victims and the meteorological achievement of Dr. Ted Fujita, who tested his well-known tornado intensity rating (F-scale) after the disaster (Tetsuya, 1970). In Northeast Lubbock, students visited the Guadalupe Mural, located at Aztlan Park, in the Guadalupe neighborhood, where impoverished Mexican-American families and workers (known as Braceros) lived segregated in tents and shanty houses that were destroyed in the tornado. The mural is an artistic representation of the community resilience emerging from this event and one of the few public memories of the struggles suffered by segregated people in Lubbock.

Along the journey and during the visit to the air quality lab on campus, students used a bilingual EN-SP mapping journal (download), co-designed by RED Lab with the high school teachers and TTU's partners (Stem Core, Tourism RESET, AEROS, and YouthMappers). This pedagogical tool invited them to activate their senses in every activity and visited place by registering with visual notes and personal thoughts about the changes in the city landscape, the quality of air, and socioeconomic vulnerabilities. In the afternoon, they use the journal notes to create maps of Lubbock's past, present, and future social and environmental hazards.    

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Students visit iconic places, that reflect the history of the city and socioenvironmental hazards experienced by people. Left image: "The May 11, 1970 Lubbock Tornado Memorial". Right image: Peter Hurd's "Pioneer Mural" at Holden Hall, Texas Tech University.  

Envision instruments and activities were designed based on social cartography. This method attempts to represent diverse geographical and social aspects of a place through the participation and collaboration of local communities. In social cartography, the map-making process is collective and encourages people to create alternative narratives of place, differing from or complementing those displayed in official maps. The outcome of the process is not only a map, but the encounter of ideas, the dialogue and exchange of memories, and the reflection on further actions to positively transform realities and spatial configurations (Ares & Risler, 2016). This method is common in finding a shared ground of actions to protect the environment (Milagres et al., 2020), revitalizing non-written historical memories of events and places (Sepulveda, 2021), or building alternative narratives of official discourses (Barragán-León, 2019). 


After mapping out different topics by groups, students discuss the results of each map.

The workshop is part of the educational outreach strategy of the project titled "Improving Knowledge about NWS Forecaster Core Partner Needs for Reducing Vulnerability to Compound Threats in Landfalling Tropical Cyclones Amid Covid-19" (NOAA grant NA 210AR4590214), led by RED Lab.

Cited Articles

Ares, P., & Risler, J. (2016). Manual of Collective Mapping: Critical Cartographic Resources for Territorial Processes of Collaborative Creation (1st ed.). Iconoclasistas. 

Barragán-León, A. N. (2019). Cartografía social: lenguaje creativo para la investigación cualitativa. Sociedad y Economía, 36, 139–159. 


Milagres, C. S. F., Ferreira Neto, J. A., & Sousa, D. N. de. (2020). The power of maps and participatory approaches: the use of social cartography in the territorial representation of rural settlements. Interações (Campo Grande), 21(2), 273–286. 


Sepulveda, B. (2021). Conflicto y (re)producción de espacio en tierra pewenche: disputas en torno a la Reserva Nacional Alto Bío-Bío, Lonquimay. Revista Cuhso, 30(2), 41–70. 


Sletto, B., Bryan, J., Hale, C., & Wagner, A. (Eds.). (2020). Radical Cartographies: Participatory Mapmaking from Latin America. University of Texas Press. 


Tetsuya, F. (1970). Lubbock Tornadoes of 11 May 1970. 

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