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.

Credit: drivethrupupusas / Instagram

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

American Cities And States Announce Mass Closures As They Brace For The Growing COVID-19 Outbreak

Things That Matter

American Cities And States Announce Mass Closures As They Brace For The Growing COVID-19 Outbreak

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Mayor Eric Garcetti / Facebook

A number of states and cities across the U.S. are taking drastic measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Bars, restaurants, movie theaters, concert venues, gyms, and schools are all shutting down to limit the spread of the virus that has infected more than 179,000 people globally. The death toll for COVID-19 in the U.S. continues to climb as more cases are discovered. Major cities are taking the virus seriously and taking extra steps to keep their residents safe and healthy.

COVID-19 has been detected in 49 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

There are currently more than 3,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with more than 70 deaths reported. Most of the deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities in Washington state among elderly people. California, New York, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia have also reported deaths from the novel coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of President Trump’s COVID-19 response task force, doesn’t doubt that we are still waiting for the peak of infections and deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19.

“Well, it’s certainly going to get worse before it gets better and the kinds of mitigation strategies, containment, and mitigations that you’re talking about, is to do that kind of physical separation of people, which is one of the very effective ways you really mitigate the spread of the virus,” Dr. Fauci, an official with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said on ABC. ” If you look at the pattern of viruses, particularly these kinds of viruses, and even look at what’s gone on in China and in Italy and in South Korea, you go along like this the way we were then you have this big spike that goes way up. Then after a while, after much disease and suffering and death, it comes back down again.”

Dr. Fauci added: “The purpose of the mitigation is to get that peak and to blunt it so that it’s a bit of a hill as opposed to a mountain. We’re at a critical point now, more in some regions of the country than in others, the kinds of things that are going on will hopefully make that blunting of that peak so that we can save a lot of lives and save a lot of illness.”

Major cities across the U.S. are shutting down businesses and telling residents to self-isolate to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Update on COVID-19 Response from Mayor Eric Garcetti

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, I’m taking executive action to temporarily close bars, nightclubs, restaurants (except takeout/delivery), entertainment venues, and other establishments in the city of Los Angeles. These orders go into effect at midnight tonight and will stay in place until March 31 unless extended. There is no food shortage and grocery stores will remain open. We’re taking these steps to help protect Angelenos, limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and avoid putting a dangerous strain on our health care system. This will be a tough time, but it is not forever. Angelenos have always risen to meet difficult moments, and we will get through this together.———————————————————Para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19, estoy tomando medidas ejecutivas para cerrar temporalmente los bares, discotecas, restaurantes (excepto comida para llevar / a domicilio), lugares de entretenimiento y otros establecimientos en la ciudad de Los Ángeles. Estas órdenes entrarán en vigor a la medianoche de esta noche y permanecerán vigentes hasta el 31 de marzo al menos que se extiendan. No hay escasez de alimentos y los supermercados permanecerán abiertas. Estamos tomando estos pasos para ayudar a proteger a los Angelinos, limitar la propagación del nuevo coronavirus y evitar una tensión peligrosa en nuestro sistema de atención médica.Este será un momento difícil, pero no es para siempre. Los Angelinos siempre se han levantado para enfrentar momentos difíciles, y lo superaremos juntos.

Posted by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday, March 15, 2020

West Virginia, Washington D.C., Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan, Florida, Washington state, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Arizona, North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Diego have all shut down schools.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Sunday night that entertainment venues, gyms, fitness studios, bars, movie theaters, and nightclubs would be closed until March 31. Bars and restaurants can only serve take-out orders in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf expanded measures to the rest of the state to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf called on the state to close all nonessential government offices and putting a stop to all nonessential business. Health experts are calling for Americans to do a better job od self-isolating and hunkering down to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further.

“This isn’t a decision that I take lightly at all,” Gov. Wolf told the press during a briefing. “It’s one that I’m making because medical experts believe it is the only way we can prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients.”

Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York joined together to pass similar lockdown provisions to tackle COVID-19 together.

‘”Our primary goal is to slow the spread of #Coronavirus so that the wave doesn’t crash our healthcare system,” Gov. Cuomo tweeted. “Social distancing is the best way to do that. I have called on the federal gov’t to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence we are taking this on ourselves.”

On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all hospitals to cancel elective surgeries, closed senior city centers, and postponed an election in Queens. Visitors are also no longer to go to Rikers Island.

Health experts are urging all Americans to take the necessary steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.

Social distancing and self-isolation are important tools Americans can utilize to make sure the COVID-19 outbreak is curbed. It is going to be a very tough time for millions of Americans who are hunkering down and waiting not the next few weeks as the global community tries to get this virus under control. Everyone has a part to play. Now’s the time.

READ: Navarro College Cheerleaders Of ‘Cheer’ Face Dayton Competition Cancellation Over Coronavirus

Julissa Calderon And Annie Gonzalez On How ‘Gentefied’ Is Offering Empowerment And Representation In This New TV Era

Entertainment

Julissa Calderon And Annie Gonzalez On How ‘Gentefied’ Is Offering Empowerment And Representation In This New TV Era

gentefied / Instagram

Netflix’s show “Gentefied” is finally out and we all get to see the love story written to the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The show is complete with discussions of the complexities of gentrification, bilingual jokes, and a cast that is the embodiment of #RepresentationMatters. 

The show centers around the Morales family’s taco shop made up of patriarch “Pop” (played by Joaquín Cosío) and his grandchildren Erik (played by JJ Soria), Ana (played by Karrie Martin) and Chris (played by Carlos Santos). It is set in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, an area with a population makeup of 94 percent Latinos, a median age under 25, and where the average income is under $34,000, according to a Los Angeles Times profile.

In “Gentefied,” the Morales family is trying to save their weathering taco shop Mama Fina’s Tacos from being eaten up by the interests of corporate real estate developers and Westside yuppies. In order to keep Pop from closing the doors, Erik, Ana, and Chris try their hand at making fusion tacos or encouraging the children of patrons to read more books in exchange for free tacos. 

Ana’s strong activist girlfriend Yessika (played by Julissa Calderon), and Erik’s baby mama and first love professor and podcast host Lidia (played by Annie Gonzalez) make up the rest of the circle.

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

The type of support Lidia gives to Erik is a kind of #BrownLove we are all here for. We are also excited to see queer Afro-Latinas represented in a show about the importance of embracing everyone’s Latinidad.

Calderon and Gonzalez are just as impassioned off-screen as their characters are on-screen when it comes to issues affecting Latinos.

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

“Gentefied” encourages its viewers to love who you want, no matter what las chismosas de la vecindad say.

Mitú recently chatted with Calderon and Gonzalez at the Netflix Los Angeles office to talk more about how gentrification has affected them personally and what messages do they want to extend to audiences members as characters Yessika and Lidia. 

“I think that’s what this show is doing, it’s just creating space for a group of people who never felt seen or heard, and we are so honored and humbled to be part of a project like this,” Gonzalez said about what Gentefied means to her.  

The show’s characters portray the push and pull that gentrification can cause.

Oftentimes it is at the expense of minorities who are already struggling to pay rental prices. We have seen this happen in communities across the nation with Boyle Heights currently in that fight.

“Gentrification, it affects the minorities. Even though you look at statistics, and we are the majority as far as population is concerned (we make up a large population), we’re still the minority when it comes to politics, and anybody else that has the say on how things are ran. 

I’m born and raised in East LA, so I’ve seen first hand how gentrification has affected the people in my community, my family members,” Gonzalez said.

The writers of “Gentefied” are able to have such a high level of authenticity because its cast and crew have lived these changes themselves.  

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Just a lil primo love. ????

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Gonzalez said her own grandmother had to move east to Ontario, Calif., to find affordable housing. Calderon said the Carol City area of greater Miami she knew growing up has completely transformed with different developments, pushing out flea market shop owners and going as far as to re-brand itself as Miami Gardens (now home to the Hard Rock Stadium.) 

“And yes, this story is in East LA, but this is resonating with so many different neighborhoods all around the country,” Calderon added. 

Calderon then shared a story of her grandmother’s Washington Heights neighborhood in New York which is now crawling with hipsters, a change she was taken a bit aback by.

“Before, no one would even walk in those neighborhoods, so it’s definitely interesting to see the turn of events, and unfortunately it’s affecting people of color—always,” Calderon stated. 

Although these gentrification changes are affecting people of color disproportionately, the show portrays a sense of hope and proactiveness by its characters to not only save the cultural roots of their neighborhood but to also help open the minds of the older generation who are grappling with their sense of a changing world. 

Calderon’s Yessika character proudly displays her Afro-Latinidad and lesbian love affair to the world while fighting back.

Yessika shows #BlackGirlMagic is sparkling in the streets of Boyle Heights. 

“I think my character has two messages—one is that she is a Black girl who speaks Spanish and she is proud of it. She owns the skin she’s in. She owns this curly ‘fro that she has. She knows where she comes from,” Calderon exclaimed. She continued, “my character is just not a sell-out. She stands for what she believes in and she doesn’t care if she’s going against everyone else. She’s aware of what’s at stake and she’s aware of what’s important, and she’s for the people.”

Calderon has embraced her full Afro-Latindad through Yessika and is ready to see the impact that representation will have for the next generation. 

“I just want these little girls in these neighborhoods to be like, ‘OMG! That’s me!’ I can see that, because I don’t recall seeing that as a child on TV. The novelas we used to see, everybody was very white-washed, blue eyes, blonde hair—that was the go-to market. We’re changing that sh*t.”

Gonzalez wants her character to convey a clear message of empowerment while attaining your wildest dreams. 

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Spread the chisme…we’re coming.

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Lidia proves you can do it all (and do it in your style of hoop earrings and turban headband!) 

“Lidia, she’s strong, confident, educated, born and raised in the ‘hood, [who] doesn’t need to code-switch to convey her intelligence. She’s empowering the Latinidad to get an education, but not to abandon their roots, thinking that her community is worth pouring into,” Gonzalez had to say about her character.  

Gonzalez added the show’s characters can resonate with audiences because each person knows someone like these characters. She said the example of the love story between Erik and Lidia, in which they each allowed each other to be equally sensitive and powerful, allowed her to find healing within herself.

“I found so much healing through Erik and Lidia’s story via my parent’s severed relationship. I felt I was able to make the ending they weren’t able to have,” Gonzalez shared in the interview. 

The show’s creators, Linda Yvette Chavez and Marvin Lemus knew that these types of stories would resonate because it’s their stories.

It’s a side of America that is finally being shown but was always there. 

The cast and storylines of “Gentefied” prove that the Greater Los Angeles area (and all neighborhoods in general) need to learn that pockets of working-class neighborhoods ARE worth pouring into and exploring—because the small businesses, the parks, the art, the people—they all have value. Having a supermercado instead of a Whole Foods grocery store does not make the history or culture of a city any less important.

READ: Netflix Finally Released The ‘Gentefied’ Trailer And The Show Looks Like An Instant Hit