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Meet a Californian Immigrant Bringing Indigenous Culture From Guatemala

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When Henry Sales first learned that he’d be joining his parents in California and starting a new life, he was excited. In his hometown of San Juan Atitan, Guatemala, he’d been surrounded by poverty and faced discrimination as an indigenous person who speaks Mam, a Mayan language.

Henry Sales when he first arrived in California at age 19.
Henry Sales when he first arrived in California at age 19. (Courtesy of Henry Sales)

Today, with increased numbers of Mam-speaking Guatemalans immigrating to the U.S., he puts his language abilities to work as a court interpreter for immigration courts.

Sales also teaches Mam at Laney College, another reflection of the changing face of immigration in California. He hopes to share his culture more widely.

“For me, for the next five years, hopefully I can fulfill this vision that I have to create a space, more like a culture center, where people will come and learn about my culture, the Mayan culture, and also indigenous culture,” said Sales.

Meet a New California Politician Shaping Local Government

At 22 years old, recent UC Berkeley graduate Rigel Robinson is the youngest person to be elected to the Berkeley City Council. He represents District 7, which includes his alma mater.

Robinson's 2018 campaign was staffed by UC Berkeley students and promoted a platform of affordable housing, decriminalizing homelessness and combating climate change. He hopes to accomplish a lot in his first term, embracing Berkeley’s tradition of bold policymaking.

“Berkeley is looking to be one of the first cities in the country to really reexamine its zoning map and think about how exclusionary zoning has affected what we can and can't build in different places,” Robinson said. “We need to get a little more creative with the space that we have to make sure that everyone that wants to call California home really can.”

Berkeley City Council member Rigel Robinson visits Oxford Elementary School in Berkeley, CA.
Berkeley City Council member Rigel Robinson visits Oxford Elementary School in Berkeley. (Jacqueline Omania)

UC Berkeley student Varsha Sarveshwar served as Robinson’s campaign manager because she’s passionate about civic engagement.

“I think it was a real turning point for our city,” Sarveshwar said, “in terms of legitimizing and recognizing students and young people as a force in politics — not a group of people to be ignored as people who don't vote.”

Meet a New Farmer Pursuing Her Dreams in the Golden State

Tara Coronado didn’t think she’d become a farmer. In fact, her parents, who grow corn on the Sacramento River Delta, discouraged her from following in their footsteps. But after attending college, Coronado found herself being pulled back to the land. She enrolled in the Center for Land-Based Learning’s California Farm Academy, where she came away with a business plan for her own enterprise, Beaver Vineyards. She has just planted her first crop.

Tara Coronado (L) crafted a business plan for Beaver Vineyards while at the California Farm Academy program.
Tara Coronado (L) crafted a business plan for Beaver Vineyards while at the California Farm Academy program. (Courtesy of California Farm Academy)

Coronado, 28, is part of a new generation of farmers — many of whom have little background in farming. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average age of farmers in California is about 59 and only about 37% percent are women.

“I think we are going through a new transition of people being interested,” Coronado said. “How do I grow my own food? Or where does my food come from? So there is this new wave.”

Coronado expects her first harvest in 2020. But until then, she’ll have no income.

“My dream for Beaver Vineyards is to not be in debt, which I think is every farmer's dream,” Coronado said. “I think a lot of farmers take out a loan every single year and they've got to pay that loan off every single year.”

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About 'The New Californians' Series

The California Dream of the '60s was all about beach, carefree living and opportunity — a "golden era" where a house awaited you along with 2.5 kids and a dog. Today, living in California is marked by a statewide housing crisis, deadly wildfires and the rising cost of living. The dream may not be carefree anymore, but it’s being reimagined as the state and its people move toward the future.

In this video series, we profile three young people who are pursuing their version of the California Dream in the current reality.

The California Dream series is a statewide media collaboration of CALmatters, KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the James Irvine Foundation and the College Futures Foundation.

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