AMBER AMAYA/ Coachella Uninc.
THERMAL—Residents from Thermal, Mecca, Coachella and Oasis gathered Friday night at the San Jose Community Center in Thermal, Calif. for the Virgen de Guadalupe processional to bring awareness to environmental injustices in the eastern Coachella Valley.
A crowd of about 60 residents marched from the community center, through the Vargas Mobile Home Park and then circled back to the community center parking lot.
High School students from Desert Mirage High School in Thermal, Calif. carried signs reading, “Save the Salton Sea,” “We Need More Parks,” and “We Need Clean Water,” noting just a few of the environmental issues that plague the east valley.
Sister Gabi Williams, who has worked in the east valley for 12 years, said the processional focuses on environmental injustices because those issues are most important to families in rural areas of the valley.
“We are supposed to be ‘criadores de creacion,’ (people who care for creation) and so creation is a very important aspect of our lives. We need to care for one another, and we need to care for the environment,” Williams said. “I pray that people step up everywhere so they can make a difference for their neighbors, family and friends. We all are doing a little bit, but it will have a domino effect.”
Coachella Unincorporated spoke to a few of the residents Friday night to ask why they chose to participate in the processional.
Maria Mendez, 16, Thermal
I’m here, personally, because I want to make a change in my community. Right now, I’m young, and I’m starting out. I’m helping Pueblo Unido, and right now I’m worried about the Lawson toxic dumpsite.
Wendy Valdez, 24, Oasis
I heard about this processional through Rodolfo, from Pueblo Unido. I live in Oasis, and I’ve been wanting to get involved. I heard about the event, and I brought some of the students I work with because I work for FIELD, a program that offers ESL classes. I think all the issues are interconnected; for us to want clean water, we also need to demand clean air and parks, even schools.
Mikey Bautista, 16, Thermal
I’m here for the community, and because I believe in God. I care about parks because we need more space because everything is crowded here with all the cars; we also need more parking spots.
Martha Rodriguez, 14, Thermal
I’m marching today because I’m here to serve the community. I want to help save the Salton Sea because it’s so messy and ugly.