Culture

Forget Santa Monica And Beverly Hills, Here’s How You Can Experience LA Like A Latino Local

There are guides to experiencing Beverly Hills and the Santa Monica pier, and then there are guides that actually loops you into the good stuff. Guess which category this one falls into? Instead of spending your vacation time trying to beat the crowds at Runyon Canyon and watching white boys skateboard at Venice Beach, this guide will help direct you to the true culture of Los Angeles: Latino-style.

Try to stay on the East Side if you can.

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While Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica are the hot spots for most tourists, all the culture is on the East Side. Echo Park and Silver Lake have become more and more gentrified, but there are still Mexican-owned restaurants that could use your business. If you stay in the Echo Park / Boyle Heights area, enjoy some of the best tamales from Tamales Alberto.

Ride the swans at Echo Park Lake.

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While most of us locals have always wanted to ride the swans, you’re on vacation so enjoy it! Locals love to gather at Echo Park Lake to meet up for dog walks, picnics and to watch the quinceañera celebrations. You don’t even have to pack any food because the street vendors have all the fruta and esquites you could ask for.

You must go to Olvera Street.

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Olvera Street is the heart of Mexican culture and history in Los Angeles. You can visit the Avila Adobe, L.A.’s oldest, still-standing house, built in 1818 by Francisco José Avila when Los Angeles was still Mexican territory. You truly can’t go wrong with any food on that block, but La Noche Buena Restaurant is the most popular lunch spot.

Salvadoreños have a huge presence in Los Angeles, and you can’t leave until you sit down for a two-hour lunch at a pupusería.

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Expect a lazy lunch because the best pupusas in Los Angeles are hand made from scratch. Expect the same kind of homemade meal from any food truck you order from as well. While you’re here, you haven’t experienced Los Angeles until you’ve eaten from a food truck. For a vegan take on tacos, you can’t go wrong with Cena Vegan or Plant Food for People.

The Grand Central Market has un poquito de todo for whatever you’re craving.

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Located in the heart of downtown, Grand Central Market is the place to go when nobody in your group can decide on what to eat. You can enjoy vegan ramen at Ramenhood, or plátanos and pupusas at Sarita’s Pupusería. Be sure to stop at Chiles Secos to bring back specialty mole for your mama.

Skip Pink’s Hot Dogs and go to the Latino drag club, Plaza, next door.

Credit: Plaza / Yelp

Pink’s Hot Dogs is a cult favorite hot dog stand in Los Angeles, with hour-long lines between you and dinner. If you have the time to go to say you did, go for it, but be sure you don’t miss the real gem down the street. Plaza has been open for over 40 years and remains the spot for Latinx queer folks looking for a great show. The venue is cash only, with drinks as expensive as $8. Show up with cash in hand and lose the disappointment to hear about the cash, and you’ll look like a local.

We’re not going to Runyon Canyon today.

Credit: Danny T / Yelp

Just a thirty-minute drive from the East Side of Los Angeles is Hermit Falls. It’s a relatively easy hike, at 2.5 miles with just 700 feet of elevation gain, but the rewards are endless. In the LA summer, even a mile-long hike will leave you yearning for a cold pool to plunge in, and Hermit Falls offers just that, plus enormous granite rocks to jump off from into the cold water. Hermit Falls isn’t maintained by a forest service, so the graffiti art is there to stay.

If you don’t have a car to get to Hermit Falls, try Griffith Park instead of Runyon. You get all the same views, with far fewer crowds. 

While you’re already out of town, stop at Mitla Café, the restaurant Taco Bell ripped off.

Credit: Netflix

Mitla opened in 1937 when Mexicans were still segregated from the newly settled white population of San Bernadino. The local activists who would gather at Mitla, their solitary safe space, would go on to form the Mexican Chamber of Commerce. Mitla is a keystone of the Mexican community in San Bernadino, and while Glen Bell ripped off the family recipes and turned it into a billion-dollar empire (Taco Bell), the family is still running the same taquería that’s been passed down for generations.

READ: Los Angeles Is Home To Some Of The Greatest Pupusas And Here’s Where You Can Find Them

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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mitúCares: Babes Of Wellness Wins Grant To Help Domestic Violence Survivors Heal Mentally And Physically

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mitúCares: Babes Of Wellness Wins Grant To Help Domestic Violence Survivors Heal Mentally And Physically

As our community works to beat and recover from the Covid pandemic, mitúCares wants to help those helping our community in this time. We asked all of you to nominate people who were making our community better with their work and you delivered. mitú is proud to announce that Babes in Wellness is one of two winners for the mitúCares grant program.

Babes of Wellness is more than a fitness business.

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Founder Kat Novoa started Babes of Wellness with a vision to help people achieve wellness as well as physical fitness. Novoa started Babes of Wellness in South LA as an extension of her work as a domestic violence advocacy.

“I became a domestic violence advocate back in 2016 and in volunteering in these shelters and providing complimentary fitness classes for the survivors of violence that were at these shelters, I realized that fitness wasn’t enough for them. Once I introduced them to mindfulness practices like meditation, journaling, just affirmations, I really noticed a change in them and a shift in their mindset.”

Novoa noticed that the fitness industry was not a place that allowed for the mindful healing that can happen while engaged in physical fitness. The male-dominated industry wasn’t built to help with that kind of work.

“Women have been stigmatized for so long and sexualized because of our bodies,” Novoa says. “There’s not really an emphasis, especially in a male-dominated industry like the fitness industry, to take care of and tend to our emotional needs, our spiritual needs all in one place.”

The fitness professional wanted to make sure she helped the community that made her.

Novoa grew up in South LA and there was nothing the community like Babes of Wellness. She saw this as an opportunity to bring something to her community that will help people heal and grow, especially after 2020.

The pandemic has devastated low-income communities and communities of color. Our community has experienced the disproportionate impact of Covid with mounting deaths and financial losses. Unemployment surged and hospitals filled with our loved ones leaving a lot of damage and trauma from which we still need to collectively heal.

“Me, myself, I recently lost my dad due to Covid and I think that for me now that my business and the mission has really changed in the last few months for me,” Novoa recalls. “Now, more than ever, I feel even more passionate about helping our community and really teaching them these principles where they haven’t been taught. They’ve never had access or resources to someone who looks like them that cares about them and knows their struggles.”

Novoa plans to use the same skills and tools she uses to help survivors of domestic violence to find peace to help others heal. The boutique fitness studio is a place where people can find peace while working up a sweat.

Knowing that her work is helping people is the most important part of her day.

Novoa is moved by every client that tells her how much they get out of the work they do with her. Her plan is to make sure that everyone can get to their goals while enjoying the work.

“There was a girl that followed me on Instagram for a really really long time. Years. Prior to me going into this industry though mutual friends,” Novoa recalls. “She saw my journey and she thought 1) she looks like me 2) she’s female in a male-dominated industry 3) she’s Latina 4) she works with survivors of violence. She was a survivor of violence herself. She was overweight and she was really really insecure and she never thought that in her life she could look and feel and be the way that she is.”

Two years later and Novoa is still working with the client.

Congratulations, Kat!

READ: Domestic Violence Victims Have Been Using Code Words At Pharmacies To Escape Abusers During Lockdowns

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