Coachella’s great acts make it easy to ignore Coachella’s poverty

There have always been two Coachellas, meaning a viral Instagram post from The Farmworker Project drawing attention to “an ongoing and historic marginalization” of the valley’s farmworkers, as the words “continuation” and “historic” suggest, does not share any new information.

The “Valley of Contrasts” was even before the debut of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The “Valley of Contrasts,” as it’s sometimes called, was even before the debut of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 1999. (This year’s two-week festival ends Sunday.) And despite The Farmworker Project’s people asked who see the post on social media to tag their favorite music artists, the difference between opulence and deprivation will not change unless everyone looks past the glitz and glamor on stage and sees the people who help make the festival a reality.

Although the contrasts are old, they seem to grow even greater. In 2019, for example, the Desert Sun described how, after hours of grape picking in the oppressive heat, farm workers collected $11 an hour night shifts as garbage crews at the music festival, which raked in $114 million in profits in 2017 alone.

“Between the two performances,” the paper noted, “they can work up to 48 hours between Friday morning and Monday afternoon.”

In November, Yahoo News described how extreme heat in the Coachella Valley region has created a “climate gap” between “primarily immigrant farm workers and more affluent residents” in a report that noted that “low-income communities are the first and hardest hit by global warming.” .” Exposure to such extreme heat can lead to death.Last summer, in a story about rising temperatures and health risks in the valley, Kaiser Health News reported that 58-year-old farm worker Leoncio Antonio Trejo Galdamez had died in his son’s arms after he died. had been working on an irrigation pipe project during the day.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem for a farming community with deep immigrants and Mexican roots. A 2020 Los Angeles Times story described how the coronavirus had caused major health and economic disruption in an area that is nearly 97 percent Latino and where, based on the latest census data, nearly 19 percent of people live below the poverty line. . When the Coachella City Council passed a “hero wage” ordinance requiring certain businesses to pay their employees an additional $4 per hour for 120 days, producer groups sued the city, claiming that paying more money to farm workers would increase the profits of their businesses. harm.

When the Coachella City Council passed a “hero wage” ordinance requiring certain companies to pay workers an additional $4 an hour, growers’ associations sued the city.

Such examples should raise serious concerns for the well-being of the people who work in Coachella Valley, but every time the Coachella festival rolls around, the spotlight remains mainly on the talented millionaires who take the stage; it rarely swings around on the invisible Coachella. Attention in the entertainment media is serious business, and in the end publishing stories about angry influencers or sticky mango rice will always take precedence.

Again, America’s farm workers – or, more accurately, America’s immigrants and Latino farm workers – are being ignored.

Considering that Coachella Valley is where a 1965 strike by Filipino farm workers started the modern fight for farm labor rights and resulted in the founding of the United Farm Workers, you’d think there would be more high-profile Coachella musicians, celebrities, brands and influencers could be more vocal about the plight of those farm workers. Of course getting ‘Mexican royalty’ Grupo Firme to play at the 2022 festival is a big deal, but mainstream acts raising awareness about the invisible Coachella if they have the platform would be an even bigger deal.

But those big acts that speak out is unlikely. That’s why it’s important to see the work of local voices and artists who want the world to see ‘the other Coachella’ enhanced through a mural collection called the ‘Coachella Walls’. The murals celebrate the city’s past and the roots of the working class, but they also depict topics such as pay equality and the dignified treatment of workers.

Farming communities need to be further uplifted in this country. An invisible population, even after two years of a pandemic, farm workers are literally “The Humans Who Feed Us,” as Mónica Ramírez, founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women, calls her project that focuses on the lives of farm workers. doing should be enough for Americans to be thankful, but in a society that favors spectacle and mass music festivals, farm workers still lose.

Latino farm workers are more likely to contract Covid-19 than non-Latino farm workers, and there is legislation in Congress to recognize such sacrifices. According to the co-sponsors in the House, the bill would “create a first-of-its-kind merit-based visa program designed specifically for the country’s agricultural sector.” Congress could now pass those or other laws protecting farm workers. However, the outlook looks bleak, given the polarized and partisan Congress.

Congress could now pass bills to protect farmers. However, the outlook looks bleak, given the polarized and partisan Congress.

History helps explain why farm workers are still an invisible group. U.S. policies, such as the Bracero Program, a 1942 agreement that allowed Mexican guest farm workers to fill a World War II-induced labor shortage, tolerated inhumane conditions that persist today. After bringing in guest workers, exploiting undocumented workers and taking advantage of cheap labor, the US government carried out mass deportations of Mexican workers in the 1950s. Such a pattern clearly showed how much Americans thought about low-wage workers: You can choose our food, but you will never earn the right to live a life worthy of such work.

These patterns keep repeating, and that dismissive attitude still resonates in places like the Coachella Valley. If only there was a major high yield music festival featuring some of the world’s biggest stars that could put its focus on mass spectacle aside for a while and use its impact to shine more light on what’s happening right next door. Maybe then things would really change.

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