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By Wilfredo Aguirre

On December 2, the Diocese of San Bernardino commenced its Advent season by bringing together priest, religious, lay organizations and various non-profits to serve our brothers and sister in the farmlands of Mecca. In the spirit of Advent, we sought to bring hope to the community of Mecca through acts of charity. Along the way we encountered the beautiful people of this community, listened to their personal struggles and experiences.

The city of Mecca is known by many as the date capital of the world. In fact, the dates grown in this area account for 95% of the dates grown in the United States.[1] Therefore, when the area was hit this year by Tropical Storm Hilary, followed by a monsoon, the community was considerably impacted. The Bautista Family, multi-generational date farmers, shared that 40% of their date crops were lost due to the heavy rains. Others, like Sol and her husband who sharecrop with a local date farm. Sharecropping is a deal in which a large farm puts up the money, land, seeds, or equipment. The farmer mostly provides labor, and profits are shared at harvest. Sol stated that they lost 50% of their crops from this year’s harvest due to the rains. She also noted that their loss was “not just financial, they also lost all the time and effort they spent cultivating, preparing, and caring for the dates.” She also shared that although the harvest was no longer viable, they still had to take the time to cut it down and prepare the trees for the next harvest.  Sol shared, “she had to find work elsewhere to help supplement the financial loss suffered from the loss in crops. A reality many other farmworkers shared. She went on to say that “the services that were provided to the community in Mecca on December 2 are much needed. A sentiment that was apparent the day of the event.

Although the event did not officially start until 9:00 a.m., many began to gather at 7:00 a.m. under a canopy, huddled in chairs on a chilly Saturday morning. They inquired about the services that were going to be offered, mentally organizing which services they would seek first. One individual, who was concerned about the optical services that were going to be provided, shared that he had 3 children, each of them needing prescription glasses, and the cost of getting each of them a pair of glasses is insurmountable. A grim reality for many people from this area. A quarter of Mecca’s economy is comprised of farming, and the median income, for both men and woman, is roughly $20,000/yr.[2] Therefore, a family of five would find it very difficult to cover a $600 expense in prescription glasses, since averages cost of prescription glasses is around $200.[3] For some, this is a staggering amount of money considering that an expense this large can amount to nearly half their rent.[4] The services rendered that day not only helped fulfill a health need, but was a financial savings for many.

The Diocese of San Bernardino would like to give a special thanks to Fr. Rocendo, the Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Sanctuary, for opening the doors of the parish and to all the parish staff that help bring this event to fruition. We would also like to thank all the organizations who offered their equipment and services on December 2. Your commitment to service and charity had a direct impact in helping a community in need. Please see the list below of organizations that participated in this event and the services they rendered.

[1] Words by Mona de Crinis, D. magazine. (2017, January 9). Tradition of date growing flourishes in California desert. The Desert Sun. https://www.desertsun.com/story/desert-magazine/2017/01/09/tradition-date-growing-flourishes-california-desert/96357172/

[1] Mecca, CA. Data USA. (n.d.). https://datausa.io/profile/geo/mecca-ca

[1] How much do glasses cost. How much do glasses cost? the average spent | Glasses.com®. (n.d.-a). https://www.glasses.com/gl-us/blog/how-much-do-glasses-cost#:~:text=Because%20of%20this%2C%20glasses%20prices,treatments)%20carries%20its%20separate%20cost.

[1] Mecca, California Rental Market Trends. Point2. (n.d.). https://www.point2homes.com/US/Average-Rent/CA/Mecca.html


Wilfredo Aguirre is the Director of Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants in the Department of Life, Dignity & Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino.