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El Centro gangs, Holtville High football, 115 in the afternoon at Calipatria prison

How Imperial Valley agriculture works, Reader writer harvests asparagus, a Brawley girl's touching story

"El Centro’s not so bad, just be watching yourself on Friday night pay day. That’s when the cowboys will be going wild." - Image by Rachel Bridges
"El Centro’s not so bad, just be watching yourself on Friday night pay day. That’s when the cowboys will be going wild."

Out Here in the Middle of Nowhere

“Before, gangs were racially segregated, so you had the Mexicans, the blacks, the Aryan Brotherhood, and so on. Now, the Bloods and all are recruiting across the racial board, and that makes them that much more dangerous. And then you add the breakdown of the family and all that...you’ve heard that stuff. People don’t realize that gangs are all over the place now. Even in small towns. Maybe even especially small towns.”

By Lawrence Osborne, Oct. 21, 1993 | Read full article

Gordon Birger, trainer bows his head: “Our gracious heavenly Father, We pray that we’ll play this game aggressively, but within the rules."

Fight on, Vikings, Fight on!

Wood: “According to Sean they have two players that are really good. The halfback and the tight end. The tight end, I guess, is about 6'3", over 200 pounds, runs a 4.6,4.7, which is about as fast as Javier.” Wood: “I really think we got to take a look at this game’s film and grade it, ’cause we’ve either got to scrimmage more, more live stuff. We’re still making too many mistakes.

By Patrick Daugherty, Dec. 16, 1993 | Read full article

Nowhere is segregation as pronounced as on the prison yard. Every player on the basketball court is black. The soccer field seems as if it’s designated “Hispanic only.”

3900 Ways to Make Crime Pay

Another big difference between Folsom and Calipatria is the weather. The housing blocks are kept at 78 degrees during the brutal summer months, but there’s nothing the prison authorities can do to lower the 115-degree daytime highs that are routine throughout July and August in the Imperial Valley. There’s nothing a prisoner appreciates more than yard time, unless that time is under the midday sun in one of the hottest spots on earth.

By Gary Rivlin, March 17, 1994 | Read full article

Don Sones: “What changed this whole area was the absentee landowner.”

The Imperial Valley Paradox

Cesar Enriquez is the director of Casa de Amistad, a community center in Brawley that works with farm workers. “I really was a believer in what our hero, Emiliano Zapata, said: ‘The people who work the land should own the land.’ But now, what for? A guy can’t make it on a hundred and sixty acres anymore. The big growers control the markets. It’s hopeless for the small farmer.”

By Steve Sorensen, Nov. 3, 1988 | Read full article

Who gave you permission to work here? I hired 20 guys for this block. I see 21. Nobody hired you.” “No, I just wanted to see what the work is like. I’m writing a story.”

A Spear in the Dirt

At the first mound of harvested plants, he bends and shows me how to grab them. “Make sure they are all facing the same way.” He scoops up the pile with both hands and taps the bottoms lightly against the side of the wooden crates, making them more uniform in length. “Lay them in the box in the same direction. If any of them are too big, too long, to fit in the box, cut the ends like this.”

By John Brizzolara, March 8, 1990 | Read full article

Grace Stevenson: "For years I kept saying, ‘He killed my mom, he killed my mom, but he didn’t mean to do that.'"

In the Heat of Passion

Grace gazes at her hands. “When you’re a fruit tramp, you build a reputation. My mom was a fast packer, and she was a clean packer. You got boxes, one layer or three layers. Everybody can pack the top layer so it’s pretty, but the bottom layer, if it’s dirty, people will complain when you deliver it. My mom was fast, and she was good. She packed cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus.

By Patrick Daugherty, July 30, 1992 | Read full article

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Bob McPhail wrote about illnesses, finally dies of them

With Reader from 1987 to 2018
"El Centro’s not so bad, just be watching yourself on Friday night pay day. That’s when the cowboys will be going wild." - Image by Rachel Bridges
"El Centro’s not so bad, just be watching yourself on Friday night pay day. That’s when the cowboys will be going wild."

Out Here in the Middle of Nowhere

“Before, gangs were racially segregated, so you had the Mexicans, the blacks, the Aryan Brotherhood, and so on. Now, the Bloods and all are recruiting across the racial board, and that makes them that much more dangerous. And then you add the breakdown of the family and all that...you’ve heard that stuff. People don’t realize that gangs are all over the place now. Even in small towns. Maybe even especially small towns.”

By Lawrence Osborne, Oct. 21, 1993 | Read full article

Gordon Birger, trainer bows his head: “Our gracious heavenly Father, We pray that we’ll play this game aggressively, but within the rules."

Fight on, Vikings, Fight on!

Wood: “According to Sean they have two players that are really good. The halfback and the tight end. The tight end, I guess, is about 6'3", over 200 pounds, runs a 4.6,4.7, which is about as fast as Javier.” Wood: “I really think we got to take a look at this game’s film and grade it, ’cause we’ve either got to scrimmage more, more live stuff. We’re still making too many mistakes.

By Patrick Daugherty, Dec. 16, 1993 | Read full article

Nowhere is segregation as pronounced as on the prison yard. Every player on the basketball court is black. The soccer field seems as if it’s designated “Hispanic only.”

3900 Ways to Make Crime Pay

Another big difference between Folsom and Calipatria is the weather. The housing blocks are kept at 78 degrees during the brutal summer months, but there’s nothing the prison authorities can do to lower the 115-degree daytime highs that are routine throughout July and August in the Imperial Valley. There’s nothing a prisoner appreciates more than yard time, unless that time is under the midday sun in one of the hottest spots on earth.

By Gary Rivlin, March 17, 1994 | Read full article

Don Sones: “What changed this whole area was the absentee landowner.”

The Imperial Valley Paradox

Cesar Enriquez is the director of Casa de Amistad, a community center in Brawley that works with farm workers. “I really was a believer in what our hero, Emiliano Zapata, said: ‘The people who work the land should own the land.’ But now, what for? A guy can’t make it on a hundred and sixty acres anymore. The big growers control the markets. It’s hopeless for the small farmer.”

By Steve Sorensen, Nov. 3, 1988 | Read full article

Who gave you permission to work here? I hired 20 guys for this block. I see 21. Nobody hired you.” “No, I just wanted to see what the work is like. I’m writing a story.”

A Spear in the Dirt

At the first mound of harvested plants, he bends and shows me how to grab them. “Make sure they are all facing the same way.” He scoops up the pile with both hands and taps the bottoms lightly against the side of the wooden crates, making them more uniform in length. “Lay them in the box in the same direction. If any of them are too big, too long, to fit in the box, cut the ends like this.”

By John Brizzolara, March 8, 1990 | Read full article

Grace Stevenson: "For years I kept saying, ‘He killed my mom, he killed my mom, but he didn’t mean to do that.'"

In the Heat of Passion

Grace gazes at her hands. “When you’re a fruit tramp, you build a reputation. My mom was a fast packer, and she was a clean packer. You got boxes, one layer or three layers. Everybody can pack the top layer so it’s pretty, but the bottom layer, if it’s dirty, people will complain when you deliver it. My mom was fast, and she was good. She packed cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus.

By Patrick Daugherty, July 30, 1992 | Read full article

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