'It was beautiful for the white people:' 1960s still cast a shadow of distrust over Palm Springs
The most valuable square of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ checkerboard-shaped reservation is Section 14, a one-mile stretch of desert just east of downtown Palm Springs. It’s home to the tribe’s namesake hot spring, which is central to the tribe's traditional life and attracted the desert’s first wellness resorts in the 1880s. Today, the land holds a sprawling casino, hotels, condos and the Palm Springs Convention Center.
But for two decades in the middle of the 20th century, Section 14 is where Palm Springs’ simmering racial tensions boiled over. Archaic land leasing laws kept the Agua Caliente from developing their land until the late 1950s. Discriminatory housing practices kept African-American and Latino families from living in better-developed parts of the city. So the tribe’s landowners rented Section 14 land to families of color, generating some revenue and giving the city’s blue-collar workforce a place to live.