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Activists Ask Coachella Festival Goers To Support Local Farmworkers

Amid a lush green grape vineyard, a farmworker in a dark navy hoodie, pants, baseball cap, and bandana pushes a rusty brown wheelbarrow filled with large white containers holding juicy bunches of green grapes. He has a dark blue bandana over his nose and mouth as he walks on the dirt ground littered with leaves, rocks, and fallen grapes.
Activists are seeking donations to support their work on behalf of Coachella Valley farmworkers.
(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
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While many Californians might envision a bohemian-glam music festival when they think of Coachella, a few organizations are working to show another side of the Coachella Valley community.

Farmworker rights groups want music fans coming to the desert for the second Coachella concert weekend to know what it's like for those who work the fields there all year.

They're asking Coachella fans to support their work with donations.

Elvira Herrera is an organizer with Líderes Campesinas, an organization that advocates for farmworkers who face harassment and domestic violence and works to increase their standard of living.

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Líderes Campesinas is working with Alianza Coachella Valley, Pueblo Unido, and other groups on an Instagram campaign about living conditions for farmworkers and their families.

“We have one-on-one talks with these families. We hear their pain and we see their tears when they're telling us the water they're drinking is contaminated,” Herrera said. “We see their children walking in the dust or in the mud going to school, depending on the weather. So a lot of work needs to be done here.”

Herrera said many farmworkers work at Coachella Fest to make extra money since fieldwork doesn't pay much. Farmworkers sell tacos and other food for vendors or will pick up trash at the event.

However, she points out that while the festival brings jobs for farmworkers, the financial impact is not being felt in the surrounding areas. In return, Herrera said the community would like to see the money put into Coachella Fest be invested in the surrounding low-income communities.

“Kind of take a look at our cities, we have Coachella, we have Mecca, we're the most needed right now,” Herrera said. “If you walk or drive in those areas, you go to Mecca, you'll see people sleeping there, parked in their cars, you see their kids next to the car sitting there.”

The festival, which is in its second weekend, earned a record $114 million in 2017. However, the median income for Mecca is $25,179; nearly 29% of its residents live in poverty.

“And maybe part of that money can be invested here to better ourselves, have a better place to live, or even the water or better streets for our kids to walk to schools,” Herrera said.”You go to a lot of these places where they live on — they don't even have a tree, they don't have a shade where their kids could play. They don't even have a park for these kids to go play.”

She urges Coachella Fest goers to experience the Coachella Valley outside of the music festival to see how residents are truly living.

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“They need to come and drive, and we're more than happy to have conversations with them and you know, drive them down to our cities where the need is," Herrera said. "Not just focus on where they're gonna go and listen to the music [and] have a good time."

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