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The Real Coachella


Every year thousands flock to Indio, California for the one of the most well known music festivals in the world, Coachella. The lineup includes extremely popular singers and bands, drawing affluent people from across the world to the fest. Influential celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Vanessa Hudgens spend copious amounts of money perfecting their look for the fest, gaining praise from the global media and their fans. The Coachella music festival really is the place to be this Spring, that is if you have the money for the tickets which can run an upwards of  a staggering $1,000 for a three day pass on some websites.

While most celebrities and travelers may be able to have a fun-filled time at the festival, the vast majority of the actual residents of the Coachella Valley are priced out of the famous festival. The East Coachella Valley is mainly an agricultural community that farm workers call home. The cost of one Coachella ticket, may cost more than residents make in an entire month. Local artists, Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, recognized this in their piece “Sneaking Into the Show’, which is being featured at this year’s festival. The two thirty-foot tall wood sculptures that honor the region’s farm workers, suggests that the residents who call this region home would never be able to attend the glamorous festival without sneaking in, a dose of reality to the care-free celebrities and upper-class visitors to the festival.

The Coachella experience for visitors to the festival could not be more different than the every-day lives of the residents of the region. The East Coachella Valley is home to more trailer-parks than houses, with many residents reporting unsanitary and unsafe living conditions. Residents of the St. Anthony trailer park have experienced numerous sewage problems and widespread blackouts, which stop air conditioning from working in weather than can top one-hundred degrees. Many people also don’t have access to safe drinking water due to high arsenic levels. This is a stark contrast to the conditions that the residents of the festivals are staying in, who often rent private luxury houses or hotel rooms, which allow them to enjoy the music without worries.

Few residents of Coachella benefit from the festival, as they are left in the shadows while the festival is occurring. Local businesses in the East Coachella Valley rarely receive visits from festival guests because few travel far from the festival grounds. To combat this problem, East Coachella Valley high school students have created The HUE Festival, a Coachella-like festival that features local entertainers and is accessible to the whole community because there is no entrance fee. The event is largely sponsored by businesses in the region to make it community orientated and a showcase of the local culture.

If you are lucky enough to be able to get your hands on coveted Coachella tickets this Spring, keep in mind that the Coachella experience should be about more than the prominent festival. Pay a visit to those living outside of the festival grounds by supporting local businesses, which would help locals to profit off the festival which consumes their region for a month. Add a few more days on to your trip and visit The HUE Festival to support local artists and experience the culture of the region. Venture further into the region and visit the Salton Sea or the Box Canyon to appreciate the immense beauty of the area. Coachella is much more than a playground for celebrities and the affluent in the Springtime, it’s a region full of hardworking people who overcome obstacles in their everyday lives.

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Katie is interested in progressive politics, particularly those relating to feminism and LGBTQ rights. She hopes to attend college for political communication and work within the world of politics.


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