The people who make Palm Springs like no place else
Anyone making the argument that teachers should be paid more needs to look no further than Carmen Vargas. Yes, Vargas is a teacher of AP Spanish and Culture (who, by the way, was named Teacher of the Year during the recently completed Hispanic Heritage Month). But she’s also head coach of the Palm Springs High School varsity softball team, and stepped up to be the advisor of the school’s Ballet Folklorico program at a time when it looked like it might disappear. During a recent performance in downtown Palm Springs, Vargas could be seen in the background herding dancers, tackling audio issues, and greeting parents. The performance went off without a hitch, and Vargas made it appear easy, smiling — always smiling — as the dancers twirled effortlessly in the foreground. Afterward, as the students surrounded her for pictures, their smiles were just as bright, and they nodded in agreement that Vargas is not just a teacher, a coach, or an advisor — she is somebody making a difference who they will likely remember all of their lives. Get to know Carmen below.
OCCUPATION: Spanish Teacher, Ballet Folklorico Advisor, Softball Coach.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Raised in Cathedral City, currently live in Palm Springs.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN THE DESERT? My entire life.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE? It is all I know. It is more meaningful and of great significance to be able to support my own community.
WHAT KEEPS YOU HERE? I love the desert. It is small and it is a place where everyone knows each other. This community is united. The community supports us and we support the community.
DO YOU HAVE FAMILY HERE? Almost my entire family lives in the desert. My family emigrated from Mexico and chose the desert to call home. Growing up we all lived down the street from each other in Cathedral City. I love it because it allows us to be close knit to this day.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR HERE? Christmas time is my favorite time of the year. The reason being, it is a time and opportunity to be able to demonstrate and highlight my culture. I am a person who loves to represent and honor the traditions of my family. My mother instilled in me values and customs. Christmas is a time to remember those and to be proud of them.
HOW DO YOU BEAT THE HEAT? I enjoy the heat. I don’t know any different. I went to college in North Dakota and experienced extremely cold weather and I couldn’t wait to be back. However, I know if it gets too hot, I always have a pool and AC as a backup plan.
DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY BY WHICH YOU LIVE? The Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” It is important to be kind to everyone. Having empathy for people of course makes you feel good as a person, but it is deeper than that. Making sure people feel loved could change someone’s day.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT? Of course my favorite place is my mom’s house, but I love La Villa Bakery. It is one of the traditional places to enjoy authentic Mexican food.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING OUR COMMUNITY? Lack of empathy and understanding. Palm Springs is a diverse community, while also being united. At times people shy away from what is different and completely shut it down. We all have different perspectives, experiences, and opinions, as that is what makes us unique, but it is the community’s job not to judge but to try to understand where a person builds their point of view.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO OR PLACE TO GO IN THE DESERT? I love to get together with friends and enjoy the endeavors of Palm Springs. We are grateful to have Downtown Palm Springs, where there is something to do for everyone.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL PEOPLE ABOUT PALM SPRINGS THAT THEY MIGHT NOT ALREADY KNOW? There is so much to do. There are many people that think otherwise, but you can always find something that you enjoy to do. Also, it is a small area and for the most part it does not take too long to get anywhere here. No traffic is nice as well.
WHAT’S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? Ordering food for delivery. I am not the best cook and I do not enjoy driving; therefore, I am quick to jump on a delivery app for the convenience and comfort.