ELH Party Scene and Wrap 017East Los High was created by Carlos Portugal and Kathleen Bedoya, but it also took a team of talented writers to bring it to the screen. One of those writers is Evangeline Ordaz—an East LA native who worked closely with teenagers to make sure that the show really reflected their lives. In her own words:

How did you start your career as a writer?

Right after I graduated from law school, I started writing spoken word and performing my work on the poetry jam circuit here in L.A.. After I met my husband, the theater director and actor, Armando Molina, I evolved into play writing. And then I was an ABC/Disney Writing Fellow which really completed my transition from attorney to writer.

What drew you to East Los High?

East Los is where I was born and spent my entire professional career. I love East L.A. and jumped at the chance to show it to the world in a TV show. Also, I loved the fact that the show wanted to send positive messages to Latina and Latino teens. I had devoted my career as an attorney to social justice and community development so being able to devote my writing career to these issues by writing for East Los High was a dream come true.

Why do you think the show is important?

I think East Los High is important because it deals with the issues and problems that real Latina teens in East L.A. are dealing with, like sex, and drugs, and poverty. I volunteer at Legacy L.A. a youth development organization in East L.A., run by my friend Lou Calanche and there’s a group of teen age girls that I am especially close to there. My girls at Legacy have all had to make important decisions about when to have sex, using birth control, and taking care of their bodies. I think East Los High shows my girls and others like them that they are not alone in facing these decisions and there are resouces out there to help them to do what is right for them.

You are from East LA, can you tell us about your experience being from East LA?

Although East L.A. rocks some kick-ass Mexican culture, food, and family life, living in East L.A. you live with a higher level of stress than in other parts of Los Angeles. I went to the same middle school as Luis Rodriguez the author of the seminal memoir about gang life, “Always Running”, and I do remember running home after school to avoid kids who might wanna cause trouble. Sure the majority of kids were like me, just regular good kids trying to do good in school and not get in trouble, but there were just enough of the gang kids to make you nervous. Hell, even I got into a fist fight with a girl across the street. And violence wasn’t just on tv, having had an aunt who was shot and killed, I knew it was something very present. Then of course everyone is always worried about money ’cause there’s never enough of it. Which is why there were gangs in the first place. And being poor causes a lot of insecurity and instability. My family moved once a year every year until I turned 14. But, I have some great memories of the ‘hood, too – bolillos from El Gallo bakery, buying piñatas from BJ Brothers Party Supply, riding my bike to the library to check out Nancy Drew books, watching my older cousins put on their party faces before going out, smelling the marijuana on my tios’ clothes, cruising down Whittier Blvd waving the Mexican flag after Mexico beat some other team in a world cup qualifying match, watching my dad coach my brothers’ soccer teams, watching my dad play on his own soccer team, walking to the corner liquor for paletas, Las Posadas at christmas time (where instead of singing “peregrinos!”, my cousins would sing “pinche gringos!”), singing along with mariachis at parties, dancing ballet folklorico, and of course telenovelas.

How did you draw on this experience to write for the show?

My history in East L.A. both as a kid and as an adult really came in handy when writing for East Los High. Sitting at the computer writing or re-writing the scripts I would literally pretend I was any number of people from the ‘hood – the señora with the shady son, the 2nd generation who made all the mistakes so she could teach her kids how not to, the project kids who were “brains”, and the ones who knew how to shoplift, the princessas who got quinceñeras, and goody-goody’s who went to catholic school. Then I would use the words I heard growing up and others I still hear everyday in East L.A. and Boyle Heights, and write them exactly how people say them. Here are some examples: We say “for reals?” instead of “seriously?” We say “foo” instead of “fool”, and skonka instead of skank. We don’t say “went to her house”, we say “went down her house”, and we say “wena” instead of “went to” as in “I wena see her down her house”. When we’re sharing information we often preface it, not just with ‘like’, but with ‘basically, like’ as in, “Basically like, guys wont hang out with you if you’re a skonka.” And to give a description hyperbole, we say ‘all’, as in “He was ALL nasty!” Also, we end every sentence as if it were a question. And people who aren’t from East L.A. even other Latinos, often accuse us East L.A. girls of whining. But, we don’t whiiiiine, it’s just our East L.A. acce-e-e-ent, a’right? ; )

You also did a lot to involve the community of East Los in the production from casting local background, to employing teen and young adult writers to help with transmedia? Tell us a little bit about this. How you did it? What you think it gave to the show and what the experience was like for those involved. Why was this so important?

Throughout the writing process I was talking to my girls at Legacy and my homeboy Xavi Moreno to find out what was up with kids today in East L.A.. I also organized a focus group with Population Media Center so real teens from East L.A. could tell us what they thought about some of the scripts. They asked me to recruit about 40 kids and with the help of Xavi, local high school teacher Martha Guerrero, and Legacy L.A. we got about 80 kids there. And they told us what was real. We learned so much, we did a re-write on the script based on their notes.

Then once we started filming, we created opportunities for students from Legacy to volunteer on the set and learn about film-making by watching the crew at work. Also, we employed local teens as background actors on the set. We recruited so many people to help out that we hired a local college student, Sabrina Guerrero, to help us coordinate everyone. She had her own connections to people in the neighborhood and so she brought even more people out to work as background actors. Over time we developed a list of almost 200 community members who worked on the set.

I also recruited some of the girls from Legacy L.A. to write social media posts and articles for the East Los Siren, East Los High’s school newspaper. I got the questions for Ask Paulie from real East L.A. kids. One Legacy girl, Karla Hernandez wrote Ceci’s pregnancy vlogs with me. These kids all generously shared their experiences as teen mothers, college students, and high school students.

I was talking to one of the youth organizers at Legacy the other day and she was telling me how much of an impact working on the show had on the kids. It isn’t often that someone comes to these kids and says “I want to know your story. I want to make sure the world sees you. You are the expert, school me.” The fact that we validated the kids in this way gave them a sense of pride in who they are and where they come from. This kind of validation gives them confidence to go out and claim their own space in the world.
ELH Newspaper Staff 142

East Los High was filmed almost entirely on location in East Los Angeles. This section features photos, videos and articles inspired by the culture of this amazing city.

She sits just two seats in front of me, simple, no make-up and a smile from cheek to cheek. She gives me the chills. I can’t take it sometimes. Can’t even make out words when I’m asked a question. My mind is locked on her and not on history. I’m not like everyone else chasing her. I just watch, hoping for an opportunity. One chat, one giggle. Maybe one smile directed towards me. I’ve seen her at dances before, always dances in a circle with all her dance team friends. With every song a rejection towards a guy trying to get close. I just kick-back, hold the wall, take a sip of the punch and observe her beauty from afar and wait, wait for the next dance.

Waiting was a risk, a risk of losing her but I risked it. Winter Ball was just around the corner and I had it all set, the words to say, they way, the location, even what to wear. I was ready. Waking up that day was like waking up for a trip to Disneyland – I woke up two hours early! Got out of bed, showered, shaved whatever hairs I had on my face, dressed and left to school looking fresh. I had a smile like no other. I glowed and everyone noticed me differently. No one knew my mission, I kept it all inside. It’s 8:15, the bell has rung and into class we go, into my seat just behind her, waiting for her arrival, waiting and waiting—but she never made it to first period, nor second. My glow had vanished, my smile had flipped.

A cloud of embarrassment followed me on my way to Nutrition when all of a sudden I heard my name being shout by the most angelic of voices. I slowly turned and it was her, Yolanda, walking towards me. I froze back to my usual self. With words, sight, movement locked. She asks “did I miss anything important in class,” I reply with nothing. I couldn’t talk.  “Hey, you alright” she says, and a smile grows on my face from cheek to cheek and I say “Yeah, Yes, everything is just right.” She smiles and says “Good.” I get my glow back, my words, my movement and go in. “No, nothing really important. Same ol’ thing you know but I was wondering if you would like to go to Winter Ball with me?” She replies “Really? I’d love to.”

Boom! Question asked, answer delivered, Mission Accomplished. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t that hard either. The night of Winter Ball I didn’t hold up no wall, I raised the roof! Left to right, right to left, a slide, turn and repeat. We glowed, we danced, we smiled and yes we kissed.

Our first date recommendations:

  • Hollenbeck Park – Make it a picnic, maybe with some churros or fruit. Walk around, feed the ducks or push one another on the swing. 
  • Mariachi Plaza – Walk around, buy a raspado, sit in the plaza and take in the music, maybe sing a tune accompanied by a Mariachi. 
  • Ride the Goldline: Hop on the train and get lost in the city….
  • End it with some Tacos: Look for our “Best East L.A Tacos” pick-one, have a bite and end the night right…oh yeah maybe some gum before the kissing begins.
22-tamalesIt’s a culinary explosion on the eastside: tacos, burgers, candy, bread, tamales, you-name-it-we-make-it. We can’t help it: the cooks from all those restaurants on the westside live on the eastside! We have food everywhere at home, on the corner ready for a bite or at a little restaurant serving the finest foods in L.A.

Right now I’m on a Tamale binge. Tamales, tamales and tamales! There are so many kinds that if I give you a rundown I’ll sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump when he talks about shrimp. It doesn’t have to be the holidays for us to be wrapping and unwrapping these delicious treats. We do it for all occasions, just like mariachi music. Sisters, mothers, daughters, even fathers and sons are always rolling up the masa, filling it with meats, cheese, beans or vegetables. Tamale making is where the good gossip is shared, along with great tales of the old country. It’s a learning experience: you learn about life, love, health, food, and who is dating who in the barrio. Tamales originated in Mesoamerica between 5000 and 8000 BC, and nowadays they’re eaten all over the world, sold as a street snack for any meal of the day. There are hundreds of regional variations (including sweet dessert tamales) and they’re starting to spread worldwide.

Personally, I think the whole wrapping and unwrapping technique is cool. It’s different, it’s an experience on it’s own: opening up the corn leaves and having the steam flow into your nostrils, filling up your body, getting you ready for the bite. My favorite are Queso con Rajas. Jalapeño Rajas with some green salsa on the side. Maybe a Champurado or a nice Mexican Coke on the side and I’m set to go.

Great Spots on the Eastside for Tamales:

  • La India Tamales – 1142 S. Indiana Ave
  • La Mascota Bakery – 2715 Whittier Blvd
  • Tamales Lilianas’ – 3448 E. 1st Street
  • Guisados – 2100 Cesar Chavez Ave
  • Los Cinco Puntos – 3300 Cesar Chavez Ave 
21-Skateboard2I was born just 2 months after my dad lost his younger brother in a motorcycle accident. My whole life all I kept hearing was “No one in this family will own or ride a motorcycle y punto!” So I switched it up and went another route: something cheap, accessible and with four wheels. In my mom’s and family’s eyes, it was the devil’s creation. I earned some money, saved it and bought me a skateboard!

It went with me everywhere, from school to school, to baseball practice, friends’ houses and more. Skateboarding blew up all over the neighborhood and country. I remember skating in a park and a girl told some of the skaters if they jumped ten stair-steps she would kiss them. I was in, all the way. “I’ll do it!”

I was sure that Hollenbeck Park, where my parents met, first kissed and took their wedding pictures, would be where I‘d kiss too. My hands were sweaty, my legs shaking but a kiss awaited me down the steps. I tested it out several times and then took the plunge. Wheels rolling, back flip, up in the air, loss of control, falling to the ground and a long slide scraping my whole body all the way. My kiss was to the concrete. “I said if you made it, not if you fell!” Not only was I denied, I broke my hand and had scrapes all over.

But I didn’t stop. Month after month it was the same story, another broken hand, a twisted ankle. It was visits to the hospital and sobador marathons. The devil’s creation of a sport is bigger than ever now, with cities creating Safe Skate Spots for us to skate. East Los has some of the best spots. Go check them out and do it for the love of the game—not a kiss!

  • Hollenbeck Park Skate Park, 415 S St Louis Street
  • Belvedere Park Skate Park, 4914 E Cesar Chavez Avenue
20-EastLAClassicTo some “The Classic” is just the homecoming football game for Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools, but to others It’s more than just two schools, two neighborhoods, two very close neighborhoods. It’s two families, it’s a mix-up of everything, and in my house, it’s a civil war come homecoming week. Growing up I knew what side I represented, or at least I thought so. That’s because my pops was a Roosevelt Rough Rider and represented his alma mater to the fullest. My mother on the other hand kept quiet… but as I found out when I got older, she was a Garfield Bulldog!

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Now this could be a no no in the neighborhood, but we are not alone. Seems like a lot of Rough Riders go after Bulldogs or vice-versa. I’m not sure when how people are able get with members of the rival school, because whoever wins this annual game gets bragging rights for the year, and that’s serious business. The bragging goes all the way back to kids in elementary, middle school celebrating their future school. During homecoming weekend both schools set up security posts at schools guarding their beloved murals, statues and mascot logos for fear of being vandalized by the rival team.

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The Classic is one of the most highly acclaimed and attended high-school football games west of the Mississippi. It’s taken place since 1925, the year of Garfield’s establishment, with the exception of a span from 1939 to 1948 due to the Great Depression and World War II. It brings out alumni from all parts of the world, dividing up couples, brothers, sisters, neighbors—you have to pledge allegiance to one side or the other! It usually attracts crowds in excess of 25,000 people, and it’s been held at on the campus of East L.A College for much of its existence. The event was held at the L.A Coliseum for a few years before returning to its original location at Weingart Stadium.

Now our neighborhood has added two or three much needed high schools, so the pride and rivalry has toned down—but it’s in the blood and it will live forever. It’s an Eastside thing and we love it.

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When I want a burger, I go classic with a Tom’s Special. In L.A we have a lot imitations, even some that call themselves the “Original,” but none are more original than Tom’s on 1st Street in East Los.

After school during my elementary days I would stop everyday for some ice, just to chew on, and on some occasions they’d hook me up with some good old fashioned French fries. I still roll by to get me a Tom’s Hamburger Special, but it’s no longer on a bike, skateboard or foot. I go in and park. It feels good. These dudes cooking it up saw me grow. I’m always hanging out, cause the guys who work there are more than just the cooks and they’re serving more than just a burger. It’s politics, it’s the neighborhood gossip, who killed who, who’s dating who, who you voting for and what the hell was wrong with that referee in yesterdays game?! I call them paisanos because they’re from the same town in Mexico that my grandpa’s from. Old men, retired from work, hang around, sipping their coffee or whatever they got inside the white styrofoam cup. They’ve seen it all, from close encounters with people crossing the street to drive-bys, love connections to Sheriffs who have to drop and leave their specials as soon as they receive a call.

You can go across the country and you will find the same type of men hanging around a local shop like this. They give you advice, they pull your leg, they remind you to play the lotto and they ask you to pitch in for some coffee. They know who you are, where you live and who your parents are. They know what you’re ordering and how many times you’ve stopped by this month. They call the Mexican ladies around the way “chismosas” but they’re the real culprits, talking and talking, instigating and passing on the word. It’s good, it’s bad, it’s fun. They crack me up! Gotta order a burger with a side of chisme.

18-LindaVista3Linda Vista Community Hospital, originally called the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital and Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital, is a former hospital across from Hollenbeck Park and just six houses away from my home. It was the site of my dad’s first job, but it’s changed so much since it closed in 1991!

The hospital was blamed for an increase in facility death rates—too many people were dying there. During that time, the hospital was regularly treating a fair number of gunshot wounds and stabbings from around the block, which affected its mortality statistics. After its, closing the site became a Hollywood Movie studio for productions such as E.R., Pearl Harbor, and End of Days, plus many, many paranormal stories, films, projects and tours.

That’s right—paranormal. It’s an old hospital built in 1904 with lot’s of deaths and lots of stories. I remember one story very clearly. My cousin Danny told me that his friends from high school dared him and several other guys to run inside the halls from one side to the other, so they did. They went in through a broken window, ran around awhile, but then this lady screamed at them: “Hey! You kids can’t be in here!” Naturally, they freaked out and beat it. As they ran through the halls searching for a way out, they saw a photo on the wall that said “In Memory of Nurse Cindy.” The lady on the picture was the same lady that just screamed at them. A ghost…?!

I’ve heard production crews get some weird sounds, lights and things moving on set. A while back someone tried to convert the old hospital into lofts. The plan failed, but it got pretty far: he had an open house and everything. Just out of curiosity, I stopped in to check it out. The place was creepy—and still full of old files! Tons of old medical records were just thrown everywhere.

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Today plans are underway to turn the old Linda Vista Community Hospital into a multi-million dollar old folks’ home. Creepier and creepier… sounds to me like a way for the hospital to become even more haunted!

17-MariachiPlazaBoyle Avenue in Boyle Heights is not just a street named after Boyle Heights founder Andrew Boyle. It’s a street filled with historic homes and apartment buildings. It’s a street filled with migrant troubadours, dressed in full gear, ready for the next gig, the next “chamba.” Walk down 1st & Boyle and find yourself surrounded by mariachis of all ages, single and married men alike coming, going or waiting for work. They do it all, weddings, baptisms, Bar Mitzvahs, divorces, quinceañeras, graduations, funerals, even the occasional spot on some music video or T.V. show.

Back in the 90’s you could find from 30 or 50 of them standing around, catching up, tuning up the guitar or passing around the good neighborhood gossip. As the Mexican community in the Eastside grew, so did the plaza. The state of Jalisco, Mexico, birthplace of mariachi music, donated a large kiosk like those found in the center of Mexican towns. At the top of the kiosk is a small statue of Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. Every year, mariachis and musicians from across the city gather at midnight to serenade the saint: every hour a new group, all the way through the night to the next day.

In 1990, mariachis and local businesses gathered to create the Mariachi Festival. But times have changed, the economy is crazy, and the Metro has built a new Metro Subway stop in the old plaza, naming it Mariachi Metro Goldline Stop. Today you’ll find only about 10 or 12 mariachis walking around and a large kiosk. It’s a beautiful plaza, full of colors, full of old fashioned streetlights and sometimes full of birds. It’s a bittersweet feeling to go there: I feel it’s lost its magic, but it’s a wave that comes and goes. Life is still beating in the plaza, music can still be heard, mariachis can still be seen and the culture is still around because it’s in our hearts, in our roots. Que vivan los Mariachis de la Boyle!

The story of “Cebolla”: some call it an East L.A legend, but it’s one of those that keeps on going and changing as it passes from one person to another, from one generation to the next.

The story goes like this: A long time ago in East Los lived this woman in this huge Victorian home, windows covered with newspapers and fence covered in oil—that’s right, car oil. She didn’t get out much. Sometimes she would go outside, sit on her patch of grass by the side walk and cut the grass with scissors. The only other time she was ever seen was when neighborhood kids (me included) would go to her house and play Ding Dong Ditch.

It all started with us just hanging around doing what boys do, talking about girls, sports and games. In the middle of one of these conversations one of us would come up with some story like “did you guys hear that a kid selling chocolates went to Cebolla’s house and never made it back home…?” yeah, that got us all freaked out, pumped up, scared but with a huge jolt energy to go to knock on her door, then run. We would all challenge one another: “You’re not down!” But down we were. We prepped, tied our shoes, cleaned the sweat from our hands, jumped over her oiled fence, ran up her steps and knocked.

Now you might ask yourself “Why the name Cebolla?” Well, let me get to that part! As we knocked and knocked the domino effect went like this. We knocked, a light came on, we heard a loud “who’s there,” we giggled (our hearts beating), there was the door screeching open and RUUUUUN! “Get out of my house you damn kids!” she’d yell, and bam, bam, bam, cebollas would be pelting us. Onions! Onions and onions thrown at us. I don’t know where the onions came from but as the story goes, every time someone knocked on her door, onions were thrown.

Some called her a witch, others said she was an LAUSD teacher, we just called her Cebolla. She’s no longer with us—well, actually we don’t know what happened to her. We just know the story must go on….

15-Sears1Sears, yeah, we have our own here in East LA. It’s not just any Sears, though: it’s a historic Sears, sitting at the edge of the Eastside where it connects to Downtown Los Angeles. It’s our only sky-scrapper and before it became known as a retail store it was called the Sears Roebuck Mail Order Building.

From 1927 to 1991, the building was operated both as a mail order distribution center serving the Western United States and as a retail store operating on the ground floor. The sprawling mail order distribution center was a marvel of modern technology when it opened, with employees filling orders by roller skating around the enormous facility, picking up items and dropping them onto corkscrew slides for distribution by truck or rail. The building was one of the largest in Los Angeles, and it attracted more than 100,000 visitors in its first month of operation, not including shoppers at the ground floor retail store.

Sears is where we got our best Sunday suits and dresses, our T.V’s, Nintendos, and—oh yeah’those great family photos my mom still likes show off. You know, the ones with your unruly hair, your turtle neck or v-neck sweater, some cheesy background. The Sears is where sometimes I said “I’ll stay in the car, Mom” Some of us didn’t want to be seen at Sears, even though for some reason I remember being there every weekend.

Outside of Sears was this little cool snack shop: you could get nachos, hot dogs, all sorts of other junk food, soda. Even if you didn’t go in there was a place to hang out.

Today, though Sears continues to operate a retail store on the building’s ground floor, the remainder of the large complex has remained vacant since 1992. In 2008 Oscar de la Hoya, a famous boxer who used to shop as a child at the Boyle Heights Sears store with his mother, stepped in to try to revive the building—but nothing has happened since. The Art Deco building is a landmark, and even if you never visit, you’ve gotta love seeing its neon sign shine, bright as a light-house. Let’s hope it gets new tenants and becomes a place to go once more!

13-ElPino2El Pino, the East Los world renowned pine tree, stands overlooking the Eastside at the top of the County and City Line. It’s just up the hill from Cinco Puntos, the Mexican-American Veterans’ Memorial. You can spot it from nearly every corner, whether you’re on the freeway that surrounds our barrio or in one of downtown’s skyscrapers. To some it’s just a tree but to others it’s a sign of pride, a sign of home, East Los.

El Pino got its fame from the Hollywood movie Blood in Blood Out, also known as Bound by Honor. In the movie, El Pino plays a landmark for the local gang’s territory. They claim it, they own it, and they represent it. In the years since then, El Pino has become a sort of East Los tourist destination. It’s just a block away from El Mercadito, Cinco Puntos, Evergreen Cemetery and many other notable locations. Morrissey, the East L.A beloved Englishman, was once spotted visiting the tree. While my friend was on tour in Iraq, he worked side by side with some Australian soldiers. In one of their talks they shared their memories of home, and right when they heard “I’m from East Los” they said “Do you know El Pino?” My friend’s response? “I wake up looking at it every day.”

For me, El Pino stirs nostalgic feelings. That tree has seen so much, experienced so much. It has history, it knows our history, it knows us and we know it. East Los has its reputation and its stereotypes, but together we stand tall like El Pino. We go with the wind, shine with the sun and grow with the years.

El Pino is located on Folsom St by Indiana Ave and Floral Drive.

12-DiaDeLosMuertosAltarYou might think East Los has a thing with the dead. Our cemeteries (and oh yeah, maybe our homicide rate) but it’s another connection. It’s an ancient celebration of living and dead.

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, a tradition originating in central Mexico on Nov. 2nd, has grown and grown and become a huge tradition on the east side of Los Angeles. Sugar skulls, tamales, candles, pictures, trinkets, revosos, skull painted faces, dancing, spoken word, art, marigolds — these are things you might find on homemade altars to entice those who’ve passed to the other side back for a visit.

12-DiaDeLosMuertos1A visit back to East Los.  Self Help Graphics & Art, the first in the country to create a free public celebration of Day of the Dead, has welcomed the community every year to its Día de los Muertos Celebration since 1973. Through the leadership and initiation of local artists, Self Help Graphics celebrates this holiday in its own unique way, from music, theater, art, to altars celebrating those who have passed on and who we invite to join us for maybe one more dance a drink or a cruise on the boulevard. As the Halloween decorations start dying, ours start living in celebration. Seas of marigolds sold on street corners like roses on Valentine’s Day, women and men, children and the local politicians painted in half-skull paint. Street corner to backyard fandangos singing, dancing and laying down the poetic words for a lost one. The dead celebrated. It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful tradition one that we must continue to carry in our veins, throughout our neighborhoods, until we pass and join the celebration…

“Ni de aqui, ni de aya” – Not from here, not from there.

I used to think only Immigration would ask us “where you from” but in my neighborhood it became a daily activity. Through every block, on our way to school, from and at school. To some of us it was nothing, we didn’t have nothing to worry about because we didn’t belong from anywhere. We where from our mothers not from no gang or barrio. But they didn’t care because we was from that side of the neighborhood. We lived in the wrong territory, the wrong street. That was all to get those  3 words. We rolled with it, lived with it, struggled with it.

As we grew older some friends grew tired of being asked and fell into the trap and started claiming it then asking the question again. It was repetition like the retaliation we are used on these streets. A cycle going round and round passed generations to generations. But me I stayed neutral and rolled with the punches. By 18, many of my friends where addicted to the lifestyle of being in a gang. The so called money, the power and the status it gave them in the neighborhood. Some friends had been shot at more times than they’ve had birthday parties. I’m not perfect. Hung with another crew, we didn’t have a name but we all did come from the same street. It started fairly innocently, throwing eggs at windows, the MTA, playing knock, knock, ditch, then progressed to bibi gun shootings, a trying of a a puff, a sip. We never claimed anything other than our name.

In East L.A Not everyone is from a gang. Not everyone drives a lowrider, not everyone drops out or gets pregnant in high school. We just live surrounded by them. We are skaters, punks, dancers, cooks, mothers, fathers, lovers, friends, homies, teachers, students, athletes. We claim the Eastside, the land East of the River, the land our parents and ancestors came from and too because there were not allowed to live anywhere else. Our pride is not for a street but for our streets, our tag is our murals that tell our history. From being multi-cultural to multi-lingual. We are more than what the media portrays us to be. Not from here, not from there. We’re from Everywhere!

10-MontebelloBusOn a daily or when we’re really lazy we take public transportation. From MTA to the Montebello Bus we go round and round. From one spot to the other. Sitting on germ filled seats, covered in used gum with no flavor and a decor of scribed hit-ups from “Shorty loves Little Ass” to an abbreviated gang name. We can sit anywhere we want but we always choose all the way to the back.

Not sure when the change came from the back of the bus being the worst to now being the coolest but that’s where all my friends go. Maybe it’s to be as far from the driver as much as possible so we can fool around in peace, scream at other cars, and flirt with the girls without no one telling us to stop. That’s how we get around, on the bus. If it’s not on our fixies or like my mom’s says “a pata” on your feet we go public transportation.

Me and my homies go everywhere from East Los to the Montebello Mall and even all the way to Venice Beach. We love getting lost by transferring from bus to bus, getting a view of the our big city first hand, meeting different people, getting thrown out of buses, meeting girls from other neighborhoods to even getting hit-up by dudes in the wrong areas. I like riding on the bus. We get to see all kinds of people, discover all kinds of new things and places. It’s a whole exciting experience. From waiting for the bus, waiting some more and more to missing the bus, passing our stop, getting off and being in the wrong location to not having the right change.

Stepping away from our car and into public transportation can be a hassle but such a discovery. I strongly suggest taking an adventure once a month. Take in your city, take in your neighborhood, it’s people, it’s shops and view the city in a different perspective. Get lost in it, get away for just one day or more.

 

9-SkateboardingBHEveryone knows how important shoes are for their style. They express your personality. You gotta have good shoes when you want to create an entrance and a unique impression. Walking out from your home and into the Eastside world you must be rocking the “the right kicks,” maybe ones ready for a run, a chase, a fight, a dance, whatever. You have to be both fashionable and prepared for battle. It’s always about Name Brand and not just because that’s the way I roll but the way everyone expects you to roll. Damn, it’s hard. I’m over here worrying about not getting caught on a drive-by at the same time I’m trying to look fresh with my kicks. To some, they must be known, seen on a commercial or something. Have an athletes’ name attached to it and everything.

Me I like to rock Vans, simply classic, in different colors, but always and I mean always with a clean, white outersole–until one pendejo comes steps on them and messes everything up. I remember the struggle of getting my parents to buy me some $250 Jordans. Little did I realize then that they had to struggle for that money. Work multiple hours, overtime and all just for some shoes. But once I had them on it was a whole other story. I was turning heads, it was all eyes on me. Shit, I see dudes camp out for days just for a pair on a limited run. Yep, Shoes are just shoes, but the right ones are hard to find, hard to rock, hard to get. I appreciate every pair because I know there are those that don’t even have one pair. Now I always give my old, good condition pairs away to charity. The right kicks are kicks for everyone.

Spots for Kicks in East Los: WareHouse Shoe Sale on 4th Street for sure, Shoe Land in Commerce, cross the bridge into Lil Tokyo for RiffL.A or Shiekh and Shoe Palace at The Shops of Montebello.

11-Mercadito3You can take a drive down to East Los into El Mercadito and come out looking like you spent a good weekend in Mexico. I’m talking the whole gear. El Mercadito has it all and at one time, I mean ALLLLLL!. El Mercadito is a blend of all Mexico from its wonderful candies (chille, tamarindo, cajeta, Duvalin’s, saladitos) to the whole gear, boots, huaraches, pants, shirt, belt, hat. You name it, El Mercadito has it. It’s our shopping mall that takes us back to the old pueblo. On weekends you can find the tourists lining up like they’ve crossed the border and into another country, taking pictures of murals, food, candy, clothes, even people!

11-Mercadito1 Hey, we play the part. We have hustle. We make it up as we go. Become tour guides, parking attendants…everything. In the back parking lot there’s a huge shrine to the Virgin Mary and on her day thousands gather in the early morning to serenade her with every kind of music there is, from banda to mariachi, tamborazo to cumbia, a trio to some indigenous drumming. El Mercadito also serves you some of great Mexican cuisine with live mariachi. 2 restaurants take up the 3rd floor with 4 stages. I tend to hit-up El Mercadito for fruit cocktail or some agua fresca. Funny enough in my last 3 Voting polling location has been El Mercadito. It’s an Election Day served with chips & salsa, some mariachi and freedom!

11-Mercadito4Next time you’re in East Los, head over to El Mercadito and transport yourself into Mexico. For me, I grew up just a block away. I enjoy watching the crowds coming in and seeing their faces as they leave, it’s like they’ve really gone somewhere else and that’s what they are going to tell their friends. Only in East L.A.!

i want to go back,
and “call it a comeback”
back to no invitation
a bike ride
skateboard hop, flip, drop
and stop in-front of your home
shout your name, a whistle, clack
a statement “no puede salir a jugar”
and bring it back, back, let’s take it
back….
i want to go back,
and “call it a comeback”
back to no invitation
a bike ride
skateboard hop, flip, drop
and stop in-front of your home
shout your name, a whistle, clack
and the sound of no worry, homie in a hurry
just pop outside your window, storm in your
house……cause ain’t no invitation needed
just got to come in “yo homie my presence is needed”

me: yo, yo, yo….
you: damn, don’t you know how to knock
me: nope.
you: cool, so what’s up?
me: chillin, wanna go for a ride”
you: let’s do this…..

and we out…………………let’s take it back.

5-JessesBarbershopIt’s time to cut the fro and in East Los a fro is just 2 to 3 inches. Nasty! Hehe. A fresh-fade is mos-def needed and quickly, from a taper to a low-fade or just a simple clean-up. If you’re smart you roll up early to Barber Shop with fools already in line waiting for that buzz cut. Even on a school day morning. Shit, we rather be with a fresh-fade than a good grade! Right?!

We all got our spots and our own barbers. For this shit we definitely got commitment, unless the homie does a little trasquilado then it’s “on to the next one.” On weekends I’ve waited 2-3 hours. Lines outside the doors, Barbers hooking up homies before regulars or someone was on the “invisible appointment list”. We got Old School Veterano Barbers that take 2-3 hours for one dude and it’s not just because they take long cutting hair but because they love to talk. Bunch of Comadres. talking about “back in my day, widi widi…” Shit man, I just want a fade y ya. Then we got young barbers checking out every girl that passes by so we all pause for a min turn our heads towards her direction and then back on it. It’s a routine. Wait, Bullshit, Bullshit, Fade with bullshit, girl walks by, pause, turn, then in unison “daaaaaaamn did you see that?” then some more BS. All the wait for a fresh new fade.

It’s worth it. When you’re out, even with a hat on, it’s somehow worth it. It’s the clean feeling. Some sorta weight removed from your head. Barber Shops are now popping out left and right with dudes doing all kinds of different stuff, fohawks, side cuts, long, designs, the line, shaving, you name it. I’ve gone to several classics for sure, in no specific order…

  • Alexʼs Barbershop 3540 First Street (East Los)
  • Tepa Barbershop 3204 East 4th Street (Boyle Heights)
  • Arron Barbershop 3944 Whittier Boulevard (East Los)
  • The Barber House 204 S. Ave 20 (Lincoln Heights)
  • Jessieʼs Barbershop 2626 Cesar E. Chavez (Boyle Heights)
  • El Cuadrilatero Barbershop3617 E. First Street (East Los)
  • J & J Barbershop 2433 E Cesar E Chavez Ave (Boyle Heights)
  • Professional Barbershop 3544 E Cesar E Chavez (Boyle Heights)
  • BB Barbershop 4016 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles (East Los)
  • Rayʼs Barbershop 3052 East 4th Street, Los Angeles (Boyle Heights)

So if you have an east los fro hurry up and clean that baby up!

4-MuralsHistory on walls. The walls surrounding our barrio are not just art, they’re my lost history textbooks. They tell me a story of my past, present, and sometimes future. Colorful timelines of struggle, pain and love, culture and pride. We all see them differently, some positive and others negative. It’s a beautiful blend of storytelling, from the choice of colors, to the mix of history, to even the wall that it was placed in, the neighborhood it’s located in. We grow up along side of them, seeing them fade, tagged on, re-painted, whitewashed and blissfully sometimes back to shine and tell their story. They adorn our exterior walls like family portraits and as we grow older we notice something different, something new, maybe a new meaning, a new story. It’s architectural poetry in strokes of paint. Brush or spray paint poetry. It’s pretty dope to drive around and see all the different murals we have. From the ones on Soto Ave and Chavez St to the Estrada Projects. Some just propaganda for consumption others in protest. Roosevelt High School has one surrounding the whole back of the school in an Aztec timeline from the beginning of the Empire in Mexico, to the bloody conquest to our struggles of 60’s to our struggles of today. These murals to me are a reminder that we’ve come a long way and we are still marching on, adding more murals to walls, creating more history, more stories, more poetry.

3-GuisadosTacos2East Los is definitely a Taco Paradise. On this side of the river, Tacos are a custom, it’s a way of living, especially after a night of non-stop dancing or after beating your rival high school football team. It’s definitely a way of ending the night right. You can smell it coming from a mile away, sneaking into every crevice, into our nostrils, grabbing us and taking our hunger hostage. We follow and something leads the way. They’re on every corner, every block. With each one a new flavor, a different flavor, each one unique in its own way. You could say, a taco is a taco – just the same as that other place, but every spot does have its own special touch. From red or green salsa, maybe some guacamole, limon, onions, cilantro all mixing it up right. I recommend kissing before the first bite. hehe. I have multiple favorites, I’m not into committing to one Taco Shop. I can say I’m in a open relationship. I can’t be honest to one, especially not in East L.A. where there’s so many options that I can just cross the street from one spot to another.

3-GuisadosTacosAt Pecas in Boyle Heights , I love their small tortilla and salsa, one bite and taco is long gone. Koritas on Olympic in East Los has my heart right now..damn they are so good! Nicely grilled asada with a tortilla press clamped next to the grill, the cook forming fresh masa into the press and then tossing the fresh corn tortillas on to the grill. Tubs of salsas and condiments-marinated carrots, jalapenos, a salsa verde, roja and pico de gallo set on the counter attached to the truck. For a drink I always go with a classic Mexican Coke or some Horchata. It’s the perfect mix. So what’s your favorite taco spot?3-TacosPecas
1-ProductsQuickly the night has vanished and it’s a new day, the smell of Suavitel is breezing throughout the whole block along with those old folk ballads on full blast that make some cringe, cry, scream or in my mom’s case clean! Kids are playing, birds are chirping, dogs are barking and all of a sudden the horn of a van follows with a loud scream for: Huevooooos! Huevooos! Eggs! Fresh eggs delivered right to your front door like in the old rancho. To some this might seem like a disturbance but in our neighborhood it’s our wake-up call, our call for a new day, that for me starts for off with some huevos rancheros with a mix of ketchup, Tapatio, maybe some Tabasco or a chile verde on the side. Call it bien ranchero but this is my Eastside treat inside a fresh tortilla made fresh daily just a block away over at Gloria’s Tortillas where when I was 4 I got lost or stuck in a daze staring at the tortilla machine going round and round and never made it home until my mom’s went back and pulled me by my ears all the way home. Damn. Now I just ride my bike round the block, pick-up a pack, ride back, flip the switch and cook. 11 year old style. Dripping, dirtying and lots of burning but always learning.

On the east side we grow up quick, we experience life quick, so we live quick. Products of our environment. Barrio princes who clean, cook, wash, love, hate and are too young to be pulling the trigger. Street warriors who shout their respected corner like a Main Street vendor. Chile for the power, strength, passion, respect or just to hide the little prince our mom’s raised us to be, singing old folk ballads…”ya lo pasado, pasado…..” stays in the past because we live way too fast.