1 in 5 Riverside County residents can't read in English. Here's what the valley is doing to help
Desert Sun: 5.03.2017 by Anna Rumer
Inside Coachella's Cardenas Market, picking up groceries is English-optional.
One hot spring afternoon, as Latin music played through the supermarket speakers, a woman picked up a mango under a sign reading "frutas," bringing it to her nose to search for the scent indicating the fruit is at the perfect ripeness.
Nearby, shoppers were lured to Panadería Cardenas by fresh conchas and other kinds of pan dulce, or sweet breads, showcased in the clear display cases by the entrance.
Those standing in line to order fresh chilaquiles, a fried tortilla-based dish, and tacos de tripitas, or seasoned small intestine, from Cocina Cardenas, can be heard speaking in Spanish to one another, peppering their conversation with perhaps a word or two in English before returning to the language with which they are more comfortable.
In many parts of the majority-Latino east valley, you can easily go without needing to speak or read English. Many don’t. About 90 percent of Coachella residents don’t speak English at home, according to the U.S. Census, and 45 percent don’t speak English at all. About 20 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be going through life not speaking any English, a designation that's fine with some of the people to which it applies, but others find that without a functional knowledge of English they have a hard time finding a well-paying job, navigating governmental bureaucracies and keeping up with the next generation.
As a whole, Riverside County is the 16th least English literate county in California, according to a 2003 estimate done by the National Center for Educational Statistics, with one fifth of its population lacking basic English prose literacy skills.