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Readers React: The lives of Coachella concertgoers are nothing like the lives of Coachella Valley residents

A farmworker climbs a date tree in the Coachella Valley town of Thermal to tie bags around the fruit.
A farmworker climbs a date tree in the Coachella Valley town of Thermal to tie bags around the fruit.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Reading Gustavo Arellano’s column, “Coachella makes millions, but the festival’s impoverished Mexican neighbors see very little of it,” I was brought back to the early 1990s, years before the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was conceived.

I had a student from the Coachella Valley in one of my advanced Spanish classes at UCLA. He was a freshman who had been raised in a family of farmworkers, of which he was the first member to attend college and likely the first in generations to have completed high school. He was a good student who seemed not fully integrated into his new college life. When he was asked what he did on weekends, he would say that he went home and slept a lot.

When the news of his suicide reached the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper, I was perplexed. What can drive a kid to jump from a building?

The school community collected some funds to help with funeral expenses, which I personally delivered to his humble home in the Coachella Valley. I had trouble reconciling the image of my student with that of his parents who worked long hours in the date fields.

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Years later, with the festival having made Coachella a top destination for music fans, I still can’t connect the reality of those farm laborers with that of the audience at this annual event.

Berta Graciano-Buchman, Beverly Hills

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To the editor: I’m involved with an organization, Academy of Musical Performance in the Coachella Valley, that would not be in existence if it weren’t for the support of Goldenvoice, which puts on the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.

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We are a music education program whose goal is to enrich the lives of young musicians living in the Coachella Valley. We encourage productivity and social responsibility by fostering creativity, communication and collaboration in the development and enhancement of musical performance and concert production skills through participation in a “rock band”-style educational setting.

In a time of great concern for the mental health of our young people, this program is making a difference here, and it has been fully funded by Goldenvoice. This is one of many such programs that columnist Gustavo Arellano failed to acknowledge.

Kate Spates, Indian Wells, Calif.

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To the editor: Arellano went to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 15 years ago and chooses this anniversary to write about the exploited Mexicans who live nearby. They live in poverty, “work under a brutal sun; they’re terrified of the Trump administration but they trudge on with life.” They don’t realize any profits or benefits from the “bounty” of the festival.

So what?

These people have access to fine emergency medical care, a functioning, non-corrupt government, including excellent police and fire departments, and a constitutionally protected free press. If they’re terrified of Trump, it’s because they’re here unlawfully and fear he might live up to all his bluster about kicking people out of the country who cheated to get here.

Compared to the relentlessly corrupt government of Mexico with murderous drug cartels running towns and states and slaughtering innocents, places like the Coachella Valley are paradise. As far as I’m concerned, these people are not being exploited; rather, they’re receiving the bounty of the United States.

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Steve Switzer, San Pedro

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