Stories For Eastern Coachella Valley

palmero 21

It’s said that date palm trees want their feet in water, and their heads in fire. It makes sense, then that more than 90% of the dates harvested in the U.S. grow in California’s Eastern Coachella Valley. Irrigation water’s pumped here from the Colorado River, and summer temperatures can top 120 degrees. Reporter Lisa Morehouse spent some time in the Eastern Coachella Valley this spring, and got curious about the history of dates here, and about the palmeros, palm workers, who tend them.

coachellayouth1

It’s just 40 miles from Palm Springs, but the Eastern Coachella Valley is home to a host of environmental concerns, ranging from arsenic in the well water to toxic dump sites. The people who live there are predominantly poor, Latino and farmworkers. Increasingly, however, young people are joining the ranks of community activists working toward environmental justice, and they’re doing it through crowdsourcing and other technology.

ECV mobile home parks

Southern California’s Coachella Valley is a study in contrasts. To the West lie Palm Springs and other desert resort towns. But it’s farms, not golf courses, that dominate the Eastern Coachella Valley. Here, the land is rich, but most of the people are not. It’s home to an estimated 15,000 farmworkers, for whom housing has always been a problem. Though the county and housing non-profits built thousands of permanent homes, thousands more families are still on waiting lists. Mobile home parks have become the defacto solution.

ed

The unincorporated community of Mecca in Riverside County’s Eastern Coachella Valley has a host of environmental concerns, from well water with naturally-occurring arsenic to toxic dump sites. Talk about environmental justice here, and people always mention Eduardo Guevara as a leader in the community. Guevara says, however, five years ago, after moving here from Mexicali, Mexico, he wasn’t involved in any kind of activism. After his wife was hospitalized twice for asthma, Guevara learned that their environment might be contributing to her health problems. Guevara, his wife and his now 12-year-old son Eduardo Guevara Jr. started attending community meetings to get some answers.