I’m probably one of the most prideful Eastsiders that you’ll ever meet (see: the nostalgic joy and mix of emotions that overcome me every single damn time I drive/ride/walk down Whittier Boulevard, Lorena, Soto, Cesar Chavez, Atlantic and almost every single cross street crossing these historic streets). So much so, that I have dedicated my entire career as a professional writer to covering the Eastside, everything from defending it against outsiders labeling it a food desert on a national level to writing about the best taquero in the hood and my favorite topic, the 30+ year-old underground backyard raw punk rock scene that could have only happened in East Los Angeles.
And yet when asked this seemingly simple question, it stopped me right in my tracks. What do I love about the Eastside? Is it the sense of community? The fact that every other homie and stranger young and old that I see in the street will most likely have a similar story to mine and know all about “the struggle”? The fact that traffic isn’t nearly as bad as the Westside? Hell, all of the bomb mom-and-pop tortilleria shops where I can go and pick up a blob of the very same staple food that my ancestors ate 500 years ago (probably just as good too)? The fact that this community allowed my entrepreneurial father to build a successful business, which hence, gave me a shirt to wear over my back? The truth is, that I just love the Eastside for way too many reasons to list here. But what I do know is that all these reasons accumulate to me as an individual. The Eastside made me and secured my sense of identity. The Eastside allowed me to publish my first story for the LA Times on Boyle Heights nine years later. I’m not even going to get into the international stuff that I’m doing with the East LA backyard punk rock scene right now. Hint: the whole world from South Korea to Germany knows of our backyard awesomeness now.
Now if you excuse me, I have to go defend anonymous people posting comments taking shit about Al & Bea’s since –according to a national poll–is the best burrito in LA (soon to be recognized by all of U.S., watch by the way).
I’m originally from Long Beach. I’ve been working in the Eastside over a year now as a parent organizer with InnerCity Struggle. I met some parent leaders during my interview and since that day I continue to be impressed and impacted by the commitment and sacrifice of so many parents from the Eastside to create a better education and better opportunities for their own kids and all youth in their community. My experience has been that parents and adults in the Eastside care about their youth and take on the responsibility to ensure public institutions and our elected officials care too and do something about it. These are everyday folks fighting for justice and equity and creating historic changes in LAUSD and in their community that have positive impact city, county, and state-wide. I’m grateful for the Eastside for making our world a better place.
I love the Eastside because it cultivated an appreciation for the art that adorns our walls. Growing up around murals of all kinds, I never had any real context as to who painted them, why, and what they meant. It was only in my formative years and through organizations like Self Help Graphics that I was able to appreciate our cities murals with a new found understanding.
There are severely limited resources in the Eastside when it comes to the arts. Growing up, murals like “El Corrido de Boyle Heights” by the Streetscapers and “The Advancements of Man” by Willie Herron III fascinated in what they depicted and the life they brought to those walls.
Depending what street you walk down, it can feel like waking through a living and breathing art gallery that is constantly changing. Whether murals are painted by establish artist or a new generation of artist that use aerosol paint, if the words and imagery uplift our communities and bring life to a wall that other wise would have been blank, why not have them there? To have our streets filled with beautiful art that mirrors our everyday lives.
I had always been proud and always the first to say i was born and raised in East LA. But it took me leaving East LA for the east coast to really understand and love my community for what it was. The Eastside is no doubt a vital part of our great city of the angles, that adds culture, and a sense of character that imbues me an identity that I hold so high and proud when I travel. The people, the food, the smells and the sounds of the Eastside with its rich history of rebellion, protest, chican@ rights and our passion for who and what we are! these are the things that not only made me love my community but made me love myself more then ever! What else can one ask besides living in LA but to live in the Eastside!
I have lived in El Sereno since I was a little girl. I attended Sierra Vista Elementary, El Sereno Elementary, El Sereno Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School. All I knew was El Sereno.I love the food and the people. When my mom would take me and my friends to school, we would stop at El Aguila Bakery for champurrado and conchas. I remember the canela smell and its’ warmth during the cold mornings before class. The concha de vanila has been my favorite since then because it was always soft and ready to eat. I felt connected with my community because I was supporting a local business that has been opened for a long time.
I joined the Eastside Cafe when I was a senior. I was recruited by Hector Flores to join the Son Jarocho workshops for beginners. My first workshop was facilitated by Mapache Ruiz. He showed us the jarana, 8-string guitar, and begun to play. Once I heard the sound this instrument produced, I fell in love. I became dedicated to learning and determined to continue learning beyond the Eastside Cafe as well. I met great people from El Sereno and traveled with them to fandangos, gatherings of Son Jarocho musicians.
Once I left for college in San Diego I realized I loved the Eastside. At the university there was no Son Jarocho and a small representation of the Latin@ community. What El Sereno taught me was to remember and be proud of where you come from. I was connected to El Sereno is other ways though. I began to organize Son Jarocho Workshops at the Che Cafe with local San Diego Son Jarocho musicians. And when we traveled to fandangos I would see my friends from the Eastside Cafe. And we would spend hours playing Son Jarocho, platicando y chismeando. Son Jarocho gave me the space to feel connected to El Sereno.
I grew up in Boyle Heights during the 50s and 60s – those days when we spent LOTS of time out on the streets of the neighborhood — playing with tadpoles by the LA River at Hazard Park; playing sports, being part of clubs and just hanging around Wabash Playground; catching a movie at the Brooklyn Theatre whenever we could muster the 25-cent admission; lots of picnics at Hollenbeck Park; peeking through services at the various Jewish synagogues; learning to grow our little plants properly from our Japanese neighbors; listening to ice-cream trucks, Helm’s Bakery van, or trains and boats near the stations. I absolutely LOVE its culture and the people. I had my first rude political awakening at the 1970 Chicano Moratorium at Laguna Park. I attended East LA College before I moved away to attend college in Northern California. Now, I think I love the Eastside more than anything for keeping me grounded, informed, and inspired!
*Margarita Ramirez is a Deputy Director at the Liberty Hill Foundation *
When I was a kid my aunt and cousins and grandparents lived in El Sereno for like 3 years and we made so many treks from South Central to spend time with our family there. So many memories of my family cooking and partying together and of my grandparents and great-grandmother gardening. We had EPIC parties there. NOW I love the Eastside because so many of my fiercest movement friends are from there.What I love most about the Eastside is the people.