The California Endowment and the Knight Foundation are supporting a youth media initiative in California's Central Valley, and judging from the quality of the writing, the investment is paying off. Here's Jesus Vargas, a resident of Coachella, CA, writing about the Coachella Festival, a music festival which triples the population of this town, where 35% of the 18 and under residents live below the poverty level:
"Most people who frequent Coachella Fest or stay at the nearby resorts in the west side of the valley, know nothing about the real Coachella. I live in the actual city of Coachella, less than a 10-minute drive southeast from Indio, a small 40,000 person town that is economically depressed, mostly rural and agricultural and predominantly Hispanic. Further east of the city are the unincorporated communities of Thermal, Mecca, and North Shore, which are home to the migrant workers who toil in the area’s agricultural fields. Many live in poverty. The environmental conditions – contaminated drinking water, toxic landfills, dilapidated mobile home parks – are terrible, and the landscape is desolate. Trash heaps and illegal dumps litter the area. A nearby soil recycling plant emits a stink that many residents say causes them extreme discomfort. The region sits in stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the western Coachella Valley that’s only a few minutes up Interstate-10.
When my friends and I tell our fellow concertgoers that we live literally five minutes away, they are incredulous. They seem to have had the impression that nobody under the age of 40 lives here. When I tell them I’m not from La Quinta, Indio, Palm Desert or Palm Springs, they ask, “What other cities are there here?”
Many times, we just say we’re from somewhere else to avoid the inevitable bemused looks and questioning. Why should I kill their Coachella buzz with tales about Mecca and Thermal, and the poverty and pollution endemic to them?