Vidal Herrera- Greetings from East Los Angeles & “Star Light-Star Bright”

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This artwork was conceived on August 29th, 2010 after I attended the 40th anniversary of the East Los Angeles Moratorium at Ruben F. Salazar Memorial County Park, formally known as Laguna Park.  I wanted to honor the memory of Ruben  F. Salazar,  Sal B. Castro “El Maestro”,  Cesar E. Chavez and Celestino ‘Sal’ Moncayo, mi “carnal” and  what they meant to me , collectively, a definitive and seminal moment.  But more  importantly,  what they meant to all Chicanos and our coming of age.

My intent was to highlight some of the icons we Chicanos hold dear to our hearts.  I wanted to illustrate our “cultura,” or popular culture, the flavor and colorfulness of our everyday life and what makes us distinctly Chicanos.  Set into this panorama are  elements of our daily lives – where we shopped, worked, ate and  where many of us were born.  Also depicted are, the  radio stations we listened to, and the ever-present ‘from above’  our beloved Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.   I included  images of the high schools we went to and the colleges we aspired to attend; I also included figures close to our hearts and  the center of our folklore, such as our Virgin de Guadalupe and her foil, the omnipresent weeping mother, ‘La Llorona.’

Finally, like the blood that runs through a Chicanos veins, nothing is more important than our streets and byways: the Fourth  Street Bridge which traverses the Los Angeles River, (that separated us, and continues to separate us to this day), from the Westside of Los Angeles and our very own style of cars, our “Low Riders,”  which we dreamed of one day driving, and of course, Whittier Boulevard, an important part of our lives, where all Chicanos came together for “Peace & Love”.  “Esos Eran Nuestros Tiempos”, those  were our times.

                                                      “Star Light-Star Bright”

The sheer density and imposing sleek lines are symbolic of strength and the straightforward matter-of-factness, of a proud people.  They represent and commemorate a bond between Chicano-Americans and Jewish-Americans that took place in a “shtetl” of East Los Angeles.  From 1910 to the 50s, Boyle Heights was  known as an enclave of Jewish life.  It was the threshold of many Yiddish speaking newcomers  from Eastern  Europe and Russia.  Countless transplants from  New York, New Jersey and Chicago, including my future mishpocha settled in Boyle Heights, the Ellis Island of the west.  Familiar names of streets, Brooklyn Ave., Indiana St., St. Louis St., and of course Breed St., where they would gather at the  Shul which provided comfort.  A hallmark amongst the various “shmata” shops on Brooklyn Ave.,  the lifeblood of kosher  delis, bagel bakeries and the mom & pop stores  that offered Angelenos a glimpse of Jewish culture.

        As a young “chavalito” boy  living in foster-care,  I fondly remember strolling past the Shul at sunset  captivated by  a  larger than-life incandescent blue stained-glass ” Star of David”, my “Star Light-Star Bright”. It’s flickering glow of candlelight illuminated the shadows of the interior walls where I could hear the faint echoes of prayer.

      Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with many people of Jewish background and faith in a personal and professional capacity. They graciously offered me guidance, mentoring, support, and their endearing  love.  With the blessings of her parents, my  machatunim,  Ezra & Anita Klebanoff, who gave me, a goy, their only daughter Vicki, the mother of my sons, Zacharia and Max.   Mi barrio,  mi shtetl- an enduring template of  simpler times, will not been forgotten.

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Maria Brenes – I am so proud to call the Eastside home

MariaBrenes Headshot

I love the Eastside because it is home.

I have Eastside roots, but was raised as a border Chicana – growing up in Tecate BC and crossing the border into East San Diego County to attend school. My path led me back to the Eastside as a young adult when I joined the ranks of InnerCity Struggle, but throughout my journey leading to this destination I met so many friends and allies with ties to the Eastside. For many years, I’ve known the Eastside to be a place call home. Part of my early childhood was spent in the Eastside because that is where my family lived. In college, close friends were from the Eastside and I joined them for trips back home – bringing up memories of my own hometown – a place where different origin stories intersect and multiple generations come together to form a community. This week, I celebrate 12 years of re-joining the Eastside and I have so much to be grateful for as an Eastside community member. I work alongside amazing and committed individuals whose passion for social justice motivates them each day. I connected with my LOVE in the Eastside and as a result 2 amazing human beings were born – who will shaped by the Eastside experience. I am so proud to call the Eastside HOME.

*Maria Brenes is the Executive Director of InnerCity Struggle*

Jeannette Reynaga- I will always love the Eastside


It was love at first sight … or a lot like it!

My earliest memory of the Eastside is grounded on frequent visits to a famous hub in the Eastside for all things delicious and culturally vibrant: “El Mercadito!” I remember as a kid taking trips from Southeast LA, where I grew up, to what I thought was a far away world to enjoy mouth-watering food and live music from the mariachi or banda of the night.

Of course, I didn’t grow up learning that Eastside students walked out in the 60’s demanding a better quality education or that Cesar Chavez Avenue was formerly Brooklyn Avenue. But, as an adult, it didn’t take me very long to hold a permanent special place in my heart for the Eastside.

What I love most about the Eastside is that it is a living and thriving example of RESILIENCE and COURAGE.

On the outside, the societal challenges that Eastsiders face are very obvious. But, on the inside, there exists a beautiful community comprised of the strongest, most-hardworking, FIGHTERS I’ve EVER met in my life! You cannot avoid, you cannot ignore, you cannot silence these folks. And, every day, I have the privilege of feeding my soul with this strength and love that drives my own personal passion for social justice.

However far away,
However long I stay,

I will always love you, Eastside!

Brian Anda- East L.A is where I hope to one day raise my children

I have love for the Eastside… I love the environment, the culture, the families like mine that came miles away from different lands to be able to call (East) Los Angeles our Home. I love to see my neighborhood being rebuild with farmers markets and more events for the community and the children. I love the Eastside because its where my Mother and Father helped raise their children. I also hope to one day to raise my children in this great neighborhood. I take pride in my city, and culture in being a resident of East Los Angeles!

*Pictured bellow are before and after pictures of Brian Anda’s home he and his father restored he states ” My father and I are making East L.A a better place with our own hands”

  house Before pictureHouse Picture After

Oscar Cano – As an independent artist my love for the Eastside is in the streets

Oscar Cano

As an independent artist my love for the Eastside is in the streets,the people,culture, foods, and the communities appreciation for art through political murals and sculptures. I enjoy everything around my city whether it’s a local “panaderia”, barber shop, or taco truck around the corner. I enjoy seeing paintings depicting of Aztec monuments, daily hard labor, and past ethnic struggles. Those paintings of which best describe our peoples history are the ones that most motivate me. For me knowing that the individuals who came before my time worked and fought hard to setup standards,laws, and paved the way for upcoming generations such as myself is inspiring. I thank them, and think to myself how fortunate and proud I’am to be a native of this rich, historic, and influential city.

Vomit 2 Marcos Zebra on the Loose

Felix Sanchez-The Eastside is where I learned to fight and overcome obstacles

Felix Sanchez

The East End, that’s what I call the east side of Los Angeles. It is a lovely place where we learn both American and Mexican perspectives. I used to want to leave, move out of the east end, but when there was no jobs around the area and left to Duarte I learned to appreciate the east end a lot. Working with some people that were privileged and them having negative thoughts of Los Angeles I really loved telling them where I was from and how it was. I even brought a coworker to a Halloween party he loved it and said there was no fun like this up in the mountains of Monrovia Azusa, the San Gabriel Valley.

I  was always into the British sub-culture and learned and read about the working class movement in  London’s East End. The East End had similar issues as of Boyle Heights and East LA. I love it more now than ever since it is where I learned to fight and overcome obstacles. Like a well known  lyric of a corrido from Noel Torres says

“Nací haya en un barrio de Los Ángeles
con muchas ganas de salir adelante
en las calles aprendí sobre la vida
aprendí a ganarme el pan de cada día”

This is my home even if I ever move one day. I plan to give back to my community. I want young people in East L.A to have more opportunities than I had. I want to give them the knowledge that they can go anywhere, and that other cultures are alike. We have to have a open mind, to move forward, and dream away. My years at Roosevelt before transferring the last year I was just heading out exploring Los Angeles and seeing the wonders and learning from what I saw and heard around me.

Mayra Rangel- It’s Never Far From Over (short story)

Every time Magdalena went out to play in the big hills of City Terrace behind her house, her mother would tell her about the different trails she could take in order to reach the top of the hill. It was a whole new different world for Magdalena, every time she walked through the hills of City Terrace. The grass reaching Magdalena’s waist mimics the waves of the ocean moving side-to-side following the rhythm of the wind. It was a world where ladybugs were not different from one another and caterpillars turn into butterflies. The tall threes surrounding her reminded her of the open field and dirty roads of Fresnillo Zacatecas. In that moment 12-year-old Magdalena felt strong, fearless, and free. Her heart was full of joy and happiness. Magdalena was able to feel everything that surrounded her in the most spiritual way. The beauty of nature surrounding her made her feel immortal.

As Magdalena reflects back to her memories when she was younger, when everything seemed so perfect, Magdalena struggled to understand the differences between then and now and why her happiness seems to have watered down throughout the years. Every step Magdalena made through the streets of Boyle Heights created confusion and frustration for not understanding the world she lived in. As Magdalena walked through the streets of Cesar Chavez, First Street, and fourth Street she would see the multiracial diversity in her community. In that moment she smiled, the different colored patterns reminded her when she was 12 years old, walking through the different trails where the flowers would blossom without asking for permission. The life she knew once before, she struggled to understand the life she was living in the present moment. She would constantly ask herself, “Why is there such a need to have it all?” Why do we need to wear what is in fashion in order to be noticed or accepted?” The idea society has created in order to be subjected to happiness has been misguided. The idea of beauty has been imbedded in women’s minds, the need to wear make-up in order to fulfill the standard of beauty. The need to assimilate to the media’s standards of beauty without acknowledging one’s own, in the end, contradicts having the freedom of choice. As she continues to walk down the streets of Boyle Heights she begins to realize the disconnection people have amongst themselves and others. As she reflects into the past when she was 12 years old, Magdalena remembered the beauty and happiness she experienced when she was surrounded by nature’s beauty. How the indication of beauty for Magdalena was like a flower, simple and natural, without assimilating itself to anything. The open landscapes of City Terrace’s full of green grass decorated with different colors fulfilled her standard of beauty. In that moment Magdalena understood her own interpretation of beauty, which helped her understand who she was. As we get older we seem to get lost in translation of what we believe in and what others believe, depriving society from their own free will to make their own decision.

Throughout City Terrace, Magdalena continued hiking, trying to reach the top of the hill. As she continued to walk across the long stream of grass up into the hill, Magdalena started to notice the dandelions tying to reach out into the sun to absorb as much light as possible. Every time Magdalena would try to reach out to grab a dandelion the pedals would escape from her hand. The freedom that dandelions had to move freely without any limitations and embrace the beauty of nature was priceless for Magdalena. At a very young age, Magdalena started to understand the true meaning of life. As we get older things start to change and we start to lose track of what is real and what is not and we are unable to see things clearly in our lives.

Magdalena continued to walk down the street of Boyle Heights looking at the history that remained inside every single sign, mural, and building. Everything that surrounded her made her feel like she was at home. In that moment Magdalena decided to walk towards Mariachi Plaza where there was live music, food, and games. The ground felt unstable when Magdalena all of a sudden saw a police car across the street from Mariachi Plaza. The thoughts of ICE started to wonder in her head, unable to clear her mind of the possibilities of being caught. The idea of being undocumented made her feel scared, ashamed, and unaccepted. She never told anyone about her “illegal” status and her mother always told her to keep herself in the shadows where nobody could find her. The memories started flashing to her head of that one time when she was 12 years old playing in the beautiful hills of City Terrace were the city of East LA seem so perfect.  In that moment, Magdalena wished she were a dandelion in order to fly away up into the sky. Magdalena wished she had the power to go back in time, to that one place where Magdalena could feel free and fearless. The tension increased as she got closer and closer to Mariachi Plaza, her hands were getting sweaty and she could feel her feet getting heavier by the minute.

“How long will it take me to get to the top,” Magdalena would ask herself as she continued to hike up the hill. The trail to get to the top of the hill was very bumpy and unstable; it was difficult for Magdalena to keep her balance. Every time she kept moving forward she was farther away from the green grass, flowers, and the trees that gave meaning to her life. The only thing she could see in front of her were big bolded rocks. Rocks that seemed impossible to move or crossover made it difficult for Magdalena to continue her hike. In that moment Magdalena got scared of what would happen if she continued on her hike; would she be able to make it to the top of the hill?

Every single step she made was a step closer towards the Mariachi Plaza. Magdalena was able to hear the music, smell the buñuelos and taste the champurado in her mouth. As Magdalena continued to walk towards the dance floor she felt a warm sensation in the left side of her chest. The dance floor turned into the happiest place on earth as Magdalena closed her eyes and danced in circles trying to absorb everything around her. The fear she felt deep inside vanished, she felt the same, as the ladybugs did, equal among each other. Everyone around her moved the same way as she did, felt the same joy and happiness she felt. She felt like a caterpillar escaping from its cocoon, spreading its wings, and liberating itself and tuning into a beautiful beautify. Her spirit liberated itself from its hidden shadow that did not allow her to express and be herself.  In that moment flashbacks and memories stared appearing in her head. At the age of 5, Magdalena had the opportunity to visit Fresnillo Zacatecas Mexico, her hometown, the place she always felt strongly connected to, the place she always dreamed of, the world she missed being part of; she finally found it. The trail that Magdalena was on was the trail that led her to the top of the hill.