Saturday, April 13, 2013

The two Coachellas: $368 concert tickets & homelessness

This weekend, tens of thousands of music fans converge in Indio, in southern California for the annual Coachella Music Festival, where the average ticket costs $368. The festival highlights the growing divide between rich & poor in the US.

Western Coachella Valley in southern California has been a resort haven for millionaire movie stars & retired US presidents since the 1920s. It has become a winter haven for retired northern workers with pensions. Eastern Coachella Valley, only 25 miles away, is an agricultural area of resident farmworkers & 15,000 migrant farmworkers during the growing season.

Because no housing is provided migrant workers, most are forced to live out of cars, on the streets, or in makeshift housing. Hundreds of illegal trailer parks built on the cheap on county lands provide squalid housing for permanent residents. The trailer parks lack sewage systems, clean water, trash pickup, & power. As a result, residents are plagued by arsenic-contaminated water & raw sewage backing up in the shower, overflowing in the streets, sitting in stagnant pools in their yards. Children play in this raw sewage with rat, mosquito, & cockroach infestations. Residents attempt to treat these problems by many means, including pouring bleach into sewage pools & digging private sewage pits. They suffer many health problems (gastrointestinal & respiratory illnesses, skin infections) in an area not provided public health facilities.

This neglect by the state means produce sold around the country are grown in surrounding fields fertilized by untreated sewage. One of the worst environmental outrages in the area is what residents call “Mt. San Diego”, a 50-foot high mound of human poop dumped by San Diego on nearby Indian tribal lands from 1989 until 1994 (when a federal court ordered an end to the racist practice). Particulates from the feces mound are dispersed by desert winds to the dozens of communities just a few miles away, emit a noxious stench impossible to shut out, cause health problems, & contaminate produce.

Although the labor of migrant workers generates the enormous agricultural wealth of California, their conditions of life have been in this squalid state for generations, existing right next door to lavish wealth. In Coachella Valley, one has to drive past upscale golf courses where celebrity tournaments are played to get to these impoverished hell holes where mostly Latino Californians & migrant workers live. If the stench was near enough to affect the well-heeled golfers, that pile of manure would be removed pronto by the state.

(Photo of small boy playing in raw sewage flowing from the trailer park where he lives to the adjoining agricultural fields by Max Whittaker/Prime)

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