What do Bad Bunny, BLACKPINK, Frank Ocean and Rosalìa all have in common? Well apart from being some of the big names in music entertainment right now, they’ll all be headlining and performing at this year’s Coachella Festival.
But there is more that goes on behind the scenes outside of the Instagram posts and flashy outfits.
Despite the hot and long days in the desert, the festival continues to attract the likes of influencers, vendors and artists.
The two-weekend event hasn’t improved the lives of the Latinx community who are the backbone of the region and keep the farm labor work going the other 50 weeks through the year.
Even as the contrasts and the comparisons are something that occur yearly, there are signs that rather than getting better, they are getting darker. Many of the workers who go to the Coachella Valley to work for the summer season picking grapes reside in poverty-stricken living conditions and trailers.
In 2019 farm workers in the area were picking up late shifts cleaning up trash for $11/hr after the festival, even after working in harsh temperatures. Coachella hasn’t posted its revenue since 2017 but in those two weekends, the festival grossed around $114.6 million according to statista.com.
Brianna Finnell grew up in La Quinta and lived there until 2015 and added that the festival would have its benefits like creating revenue for the hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Though she also added it had its drawbacks with the influx of festival goers.
“I do think that not enough money is going back to that community or dispersed other places rather than the tourism spots,” Finnell said. “The further you go east, the worst the neighborhoods get”
For many years, clean water was also a luxury that many farmworkers who live in the Eastern Coachella Valley didn’t have access to.
In March 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency cited that four mobile home park water systems in Thermal, CA presented dangers to residents with high levels of arsenic present in the tap water.
The Coachella festival organizers and attendees can’t be bothered to see beyond the $1,200 ticket, Snapchat filters or likes on their Instagram posts. There is also no obligation for the artists or performers to reshape the inequitable economy in the Coachella Valley as they make millions in ticket sales and merch.
Though looking just beyond the main stage and in the horizon are the exploited farmworkers. A contrast between a surreal fantasy and a dark reality.