Blue state, red valley: In this part of California, a new generation is more woke than ever

Updated 3:03 PM ET, Wed May 8, 2019

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Calwa, California (CNN)Sandra Celedon's hometown barely resembles the California we know. There are no Golden Gates or Hollywood walks. No sweeping Malibu vistas. No Pacific fog creeping over a city by the bay. Here, labor leader Dolores Huerta has more star power than Angelina Jolie.

This Fresno County town is in the "other California," and though it is situated smack in the middle of the state, equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, there is nothing else that's "middle" about it. It's not middle class. Nor middle of the road.
It grew up around a large brick winery owned by the California Wine Association, from which it gets its name: Calwa. It's a good guess, though, that few here can afford vintage libations, red or white.
Of the nearly 1,400 people who call this place home, 1,221 are Latinos like Celedon. Mexicans, really, according to the latest census. Lately, Punjabi families have started to move in. You can see them along with Hmong in Calwa Park, the rare place that makes news in a good way. A quarter-mile graffiti wall is celebrated as the largest legal one in Northern California.
Of the 1,400 people, more than a third are officially classified as poor. Unofficially, many more are struggling.
Sandra Celedon grew up with the sting of anti-immigrant sentiment in the "other California." Now she and an army of young activists are fired up to bring change.
Once a shipping yard for the Santa Fe Railroad, Calwa is now consumed by heavy industrial companies like Allied Electric and Gray Lift. Trains and trucks blow through here so fast and so often that people automatically raise their voices and think nothing of it. When Celedon was a little girl, she thought the thunderous noise was a sign that Jesus was coming.
    Calwa, a suburb of Fresno just 4 miles southeast of downtown, lies in the heart of California's Central Valley. Forgotten to the rest of California. Forgotten to America. Just forgotten.
    That's what Celedon tells me on a glorious spring afternoon. The rain, so unrelenting that it damaged tender tomato plants and flooded almond orchards, has finally stopped and given way to a sky as blue as it gets around here. The air, too frequently, is a toxic mix of dust, exhaust, crop pesticides, tainted water and poverty; Central Valley counties routinely get failing grades for pollution.
    The air, too frequently, does not carry change. But now with Donald Trump in the White House and California's midterm primaries set for June 5, Celedon is convinced change may finally come -- to her beloved hometown and to the Central Valley, one of the few remaining bastions of conservativism in America's bluest state.

    California’s Central Valley


    4.1 million



    Fresno, Kern, Kings,

    Madera, Merced,

    San Joaquin, Stanislaus,


    Racial makeup (estimates):