By Santos Reyes
They create art, but with a cultural flare. Paper mache masks for “Día de los Muertos” are a few examples of some of the art created by the youth of RAICES—a Coachella Valley nonprofit organization that was developed in 2004.
“We have a mission from different perspectives and that is creating a space for artistic and cultural expression,” said Carlos Gonzalez, Vice Chairmen of RAICES. Being that the East Valley tended to be portrayed negatively in the newspapers and the media, the groups’ goal was a project to ensure the health of the community in the Coachella Valley. Gonzalez and his colleagues wanted to create something the valley did not have before. The influence came when Gonzalez and his colleagues were college students and experienced different cities and noticed the East Valley needed more awareness of its art and history. RAICES’ goals were to open a space for cultural and artistic expression where students can be themselves and ultimately, to restore the voice in the Eastern Coachella Valley.
RAICES consists of 17 youth and additional adult RAICES members. The group gathered applications and found students that were well-rounded and involved in the community. Students were recruited from Coachella, Mecca, North shore and Thermal to ensure the whole base of BHC (Building Healthy Communities) was represented. RAICES is funded by the California Endowment and RAICES board members.
“No one gave me the chance to explore an education,” Gonzales said. “I had nothing and I got an education. When I was in college my father passed away and he wanted me to make something of myself. I believe we got to push. I feel we all can make it. Anyone can do it. It’s an honor to my father. My passion is change.”
Gonzalez hopes the members will educate themselves and take the reigns and inspire change just as they are today.
“This inspired me to make a difference and hope to inspire people to make a difference,” said Alejandro Perez, a freshman at Coachella Valley High School and a youth member with RAICES.
The group is now working with younger students from 6th to 8th grades on a different capacity for students to have faith that there is a community center open for them to express their artistic abilities.
“The people who I met are inspiring,” said Maribel Ramirez, a senior at Coachella Valley High School and also a youth member of RAICES. Ramirez explained the different trips the group has taken to different cities to show teens other environments. The group is discussing the possibility of a teen center in the east Coachella Valley to motivate the youth to join and make a difference.
RAICES has been part of many events, such as working with Coachella Fest and recently posted murals around the Coachella Valley to showcase their work for “Día De Los Muertos,” a day to celebrate the memory of a loved one who passed away. The group also appeared at the launch of the Farmers Market to spread awareness about the group. The group celebrated the grand opening of their new space December 8 and appeared at the Coachella Christmas Parade on December 9. Their theme was “In the Eyes of a Child.” RAICES will also be appearing in the second annual “Hue Fest” in the spring, a music and arts festival that was launched last year. The group’s goal is to ensure musical talent locally and also have a few surprises rolled up their sleeves.