A look at how some Weed residents responded to the way their town was portrayed in a Los Angeles Times article.
Inside De Colores, store owner Isabel Quiroz displays a Los Angeles Times article featuring a photo of her taken in front of her Latino market in downtown Weed. The headline reads, “Town Rooted in Goodwill. For residents of Weed, a sleepy area where Donald Trump won, a sense of civility prevails over politics.”
Quiroz, who is Latino, said LA Times reporter Cindy Carcamo wanted to know how Latinos in the community were doing with the Trump election. She told Carcamo that the community gets along well regardless of whether someone is Republican or Democrat.
“We welcome diversity, inclusiveness,” Quiroz said. “We respect each other and support each other.”
Quiroz said she has lived in Weed for about eight years. She opened De Colores, last fall and organized the town’s first El Dia De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebration.
Cecilia Rodriguez was also interviewed by Carcamo and was visiting Quiroz at her store. She said if you bring up Trump, there’s always going to be different points of view.
“You learn how to interact and let the politics go out the window,” she said. Both women agreed that if people don’t get along it’s more about a difference in personalities and not cultures.
A majority of voters in Weed’s three precincts actually favored Clinton over Trump in the November election, although Siskiyou County as a whole favored Trump by a large margin.
Clinton got 48 percent of the votes in Weed (596), while Trump got 42 percent (520).
Overall in Siskiyou County, Trump got 55.3 percent of the vote and Clinton got 35.3 percent.
Weed High School teacher Dan DeRoss, who was raised in Weed, read the LA Times article to his senior English 4 class, which led to a discussion about the racial diversity in the school.
“We’ve got all kinds of people in the school,” Richard Rivera said. “From the time we’re really little we’re exposed to diversity.”
Many of the students have known each other since elementary school.
“I don’t think we see that he’s black or Mexican,” said Genna Fisher. “He’s just a friend.”
Levi Stampfli said they don’t have time for racism; they see each other so often.
Shawn Baham said he’s been to 16 different schools and feels the most comfortable in Weed because of how diverse it is.
Rivera said, “If you’re hating someone else, it’s not because of race; it’s the way they are acting."
Compared to the rest of Siskiyou County, Weed is very diverse, said Taran Miller, who buys Takis and candy from Quiroz’s De Colores store. Another student said De Colores carries a lot of spices for Mexican food and likes the sweet bread Quiroz sells.
Some students however, had never been in her store and didn’t agree with Carcamo’s statement in the LA Times that De Colores has “arguably become the center of Latino life in Weed.” A few of those students though decided they should check out the store someday.
Longtime Weed residents remember years ago when Italians, African Americans and whites lived in separate neighborhoods and worked at the lumber mill which Carcamo included in her article after interviewing Harold Orcutt from the Weed Museum. DeRoss said, basically, they settled with people who shared the same dialect and culture.
The LA Times article also mentioned Mexicans and Laotians who migrated to Weed in the 1980s.
Cecilia Rodriguez, who is Hispanic, moved to Weed 30 years ago, and Carcamo quoted her saying, “It was all white.”
Many residents in Weed didn’t agree with the article’s portrayal of Weed being all white, including Rodriguez and Weed City Council member Stacey Green.
Green, 53, said that was one thing he disagreed with in the article. He said his dad and mom moved to Weed in 1946. He lived in Weed from age three and grew up in Weed’s schools. He left at 19 for college and returned 29 years later. He said Hispanics, African Americans, and Italians were here when he was young. Green, who is African American, said he never felt Weed was all white.
Rodriguez explained that she meant the county in general was “all white.” She moved to Weed from San Jose, like the article says, but lived there only briefly before her husband’s job changed and they moved to Gazelle. Her three boys attended grade school in Gazelle and high school at Yreka High School. She’s quoted in the article saying, “I never had the feeling of being an outcast,” which she said is true of her years in Gazelle. They lived in Gazelle until two years ago when their house flooded.
Rodriguez said her husband’s extended family lived in Weed, which is why they moved to town. Her boys had many cousins, so despite attending school in Gazelle and Yreka, they knew all the kids in Weed.
Green said “people weren’t vocal about the election,” so he didn’t feel a lot of political tension.
Despite feeling a racial awareness he called a “cautionary racial atmosphere,” he said whatever your color, getting along is more about your personality and how you are to other people. “It’s about personality,” he said. “I think that’s true about small towns.”
Weed High School student Dhruva Jr. was in The Weed Store where Green works and said he’s never met anyone at school who has had radical opinions about other races or cultures.
People treat each other by how they’re treated, said Patc Dawson, owner of Dawson’s Wreath Barn, Florist and Gift Shop, located next door to The Weed Store. Before opening the gift shop, Dawson worked as a teacher’s aide at Weed Elementary for 23 years. “It’s never been about race,” she said. “Kids like each other because of who they are. It’s not the color of their skin.”
Her husband’s Italian family established in Weed in 1922. Dawson said her grandchildren are the fifth generation of original Weed Italians.
In her 50s, Dawson, who is Native American, said she didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton and doesn’t feel political tension in Weed.
Her friend, Krystal Belcastro, 30, who stopped in to visit with Dawson, said the opposite. She voted for Trump and said she definitely feels a political and racial tension in Weed.
“Depends on the generation,” she said.
Belcastro, who is French Canadian and Japanese, said she wasn’t discriminated against because of her ethnicity growing up, but was teased because she is small.
She moved to Weed from Gazelle eight years ago and manages both locations of the Weed Shack. She is also a full time student at College of the Siskiyous studying Human Services.
She said she feels the tension at work and at the college from locals as well as tourists, but at Weed Elementary, where her kids attend school, she doesn't see any racism.
“Still, at a time when the country seems split along racial, political and social lines, Weed is one place where people say they generally get along despite – and sometimes because of – their differences,” Carcamo wrote in the LA Times.
“Live and let live,” said Quiroz. “I feel very fortunate to be living in this very diverse community.”
“We truly have unity in our community,” said Dawson. “It doesn't matter what your name is, where you work, what your ethnicity is. You will be able to go anywhere and work with anybody. You see them as the person they are and not the color of their skin.”
Carcamo’s article about Weed was published in the LA Times on January 8, 2017.