By Alejandra Alarcon,
Mecca, Calif. – Like many college students, Enrique Lazcano is dedicating his summer to saving money for his return to school this fall.
But for the San Diego State University sophomore, this means picking grapes under the hot desert sun.
“I’m trying to make extra cash for college and also help my parents pay finances,” said Lazcano, 19, who applied without luck for several local summer jobs.
His last resort was a job in the grape fields of this rural Eastern Coachella Valley community, which he accepted wholeheartedly.
“I was very excited to start working because I knew I was going to make money,” said Lazcano.
Lazcano was happy to have found a job, but he did not know how difficult it would be. He now has to wake up at four in the morning to begin his hard day of work.
“The hardest thing about working is being bent over and standing up for nine hours in the heat,” said Lazcano. “One humid day, I was ready to give up and go home because I still had five hours left for that day. I looked at an older worker and saw how hard he was working, then I realized that I needed to push through it.”
Lazcano is only going to work for seasonal harvest. Like many people, he will have to look for a different job once the grape season is over. Others will migrate all over California in search of steady work in the fields.
“I see these hardworking people that have been doing this for their whole lives and it makes me appreciate all the opportunities I have,” said Lazcano.
Lazcano has set ambitious goals for his future. He is planning to major in criminal justice and minor in business management. He aspires to become a detective and run a profitable business.
Lazcano lives in nearby Coachella with his parents, both laborers, and his 17-year-old brother. His father is a landscaper who works in the fields during the summer harvests. His mother works as an upholsterer.
“If working myself to death will help me go to college, then that’s what I have to do. I’m working so I can get myself out of that life style (that) I don’t want to live for the rest of my life,” Lazcano said.
Coachella Unincorporated is a Youth Media Startup in the East Coachella Valley, funded by the Building Healthy Communities Initiative of The California Endowment and operated by New America Media in San Francisco. The purpose of the project is to report on issues in the community that can bring about change. Coachella Unincorporated refers to the region youth journalists cover but also to the unincorporated communities of the Eastern Valley with the idea to “incorporate” the East Valley into the mainstream Coachella Valley mindset.