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.