Leaving Las Vegas

Life springs eternal on a gaudy neon street.
- Sheryl Crow (breast cancer survivor), Leaving Las Vegas

I’m starting the last day of my conference here in Las Vegas. Tonight, I’ll be flying out to Palm Springs, picked up at the airport and driven to an area outside of the golf course region in the desert. The little town where I’m heading is Indio, but we’ll really be hanging in the desert surrounding.

Some of the nuns where I work have a ministry there and I’ll be taking photos. I visited this place three or four years ago and it was completely fascinating and inspiring. Since then, a documentary of the area was released called Third World California. One of the sisters I’ll be visiting is featured in the film.

Something like 70 percent (maybe more) of our produce comes from this part of California, planted, farmed and harvested by migrant farm families. Without them, we’d go hungry. Yet, these people live in some of the most deplorable conditions on the planet. It is truly third world conditions within the borders of one of the wealthiest countries on Earth. In 2001, the government forced the closure of illegal trailer parks, sending thousands of these people into homelessness. However, we need them. Get that? We need them. They need the work, too. There was nowhere to go. So, they began setting up desert shantytowns, particularly on Indian reservation land (because the reservations are independent nations).

What struck me the most when I was here before was how happy, in general, these lovely people are. This desert region where they live is really a barren wasteland. It’s hot. It’s a former sea, so the ground is covered in salt. It’s dirty and messy. And where people live is scattered, with no sense of community and safety; no resources for miles.

This will be quite the difference from grand Las Vegas, with its sidewalks that force you to walk through shopping malls and casinos, the sparkling lights, the outrageously priced food and the overdressed women.

Author: rosie

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