Coachella Unincorporated welcomes and publishes comments from our readers. We recently received the commentary below in response to Rogelio Montano’s article about growing up in poverty, “In Mecca, Dreams of Utopia” (See link below for article). Although now living in Mexico City, Rogelio’s article took the reader back to his childhood in the nearby rural community of Oasis. Like Rogelio, he used to spin a globe and wonder if anything existed beyond the Eastern Coachella Valley.
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Dear Rogelio and Community,
Your article touches on certain issues that I grew up with as a child in Oasis, just a few miles from Mecca. I too grew up into a hard working class family immigrated from Mexico. It was hard at times to not understand certain circumstances such as the financial aspect of life or why my parents did not know English. However, I do cherish the special kind of life that I had away from the hustle and bustle of what we see today in a globalized world…
It was then as a kid when I was able to walk out and play in the dirt, feel it through my toes – make figures out of mud, climb trees, make an army out of sticks and even create fantasies out of an innocent imagination. Going out with friends from the other trailers without a care in the world. Running around playing tag, discovering distance little by little where our only boundaries were limited to where the last trailer was parked.
Life had a routine, went to school, struggled with the English, had an amazing sloppy joe in the school cafeteria and dumped the disgusting celery, but wait, not if there was peanut butter! Then of course, the great bus ride home where only the unimaginable could happen. As I got home, parents were either there… or not. There were times of solitude because they would work until later hours and then came home to sleep on the floor because of back pains, cramps, oh, and start cooking ‘lonche’ for the next day’s meal at work. There was always a way into the trailer though. It could have been easy to drift away from trying to do homework or have a small sense of responsibility without their guidance.
However, all I heard was ‘estudia hijo, no quieres esta vida!’ That stuck with me. I too had a globe and associated Chad in Africa with the Chad that was in my class, or Mexico and what it meant to actually drive further south than my hometown of Irapuato. I too spun that globe and stopped it with my finger; but only to say to myself that none of those places could actually exist.
Today I remember and reminisce just like you do. I am currently living in Mexico City but travel extensively home – to Coachella where my family just managed to buy a house in a community. Yet, it doesn’t feel right. I always go back to Oasis/Thermal where we still have our trailer. I always take my shoes off, walk, look at those mountains that kept innocence near my life. I drive by those iconic palm trees that represent our valley and give me a sense of home. My parents continue to work in the fields; to a certain point it’s a sense of belonging and strangely enough I couldn’t picture them in any other capacity – neither my dad in a tie or my mom in a women’s suit. I embrace my life in that time. I embrace what Oasis School gave me. I cherish my CV high school education. I value the life I had.
We might be evolving as people, succeeding in different capacities, but you and I agree that we would never change what we had then and can only assure that we can help our community by giving them a better future and the options to mature into a successful career yet embrace their roots to strengthen pride, that sense of belonging and appreciation. Struggle never has to be a bad thing, our parents struggled and go figure, the product is you and I, and many other proud immigrants – first, second and now third generation… Some of us went ahead and got an education, were able to visit those countries; the same ones we were placing our fingers on the globe. But, lets face it, we are a particular group of people. It’s always hard, confusing or frustrating not knowing when to call yourself Mexican, American or even Chicano. Hispanic, Latino? Sometimes I just feel like saying that I’m from the Coachella Valley – a special place that back then knew no racial difference (we were too far away from all the affluent communities northwest of the valley). We are a special kind.
Thank you for writing this article, for taking me back in my imagination, thoughts and heart. For a moment, I felt that dirt in between my toes.
Diego Zaragoza Tejas
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