Culture

What It’s Like Being Cuban In Los Angeles

Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse city — Chinese immigrants, Armenians, Persians, Koreans, Thai folks, Filipinos, Salvadorans, Indians, Ethiopians, black Americans and many other groups have left indelible imprints on the city, its neighborhoods, art, food and culture. But it’s no exaggeration to say that the heart and soul of Los Angeles? Is Mexican. Mexican culture and identity forms the core of this city, so while there are countless places to get the best tacos, tortas and pan dulce you’ve ever tasted, it’s slightly more difficult to find, say, a good croqueta or tin of guayaba. It can lead to some interesting situations for Cubans living in and moving to this city!

Let’s take a closer look at what it’s like to be a Cuban who moves to Los Angeles:

1. It can get a little lonely.

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2. You feel a surge of pride whenever you see the José Martí sculpture in Echo Park.

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Credit: Flickr / CC / hullam

En junio como en enero.

3. …And very disappointed to learn about the community’s issues with it.

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Credit: USA Network

Well, excuse you.

4. You’ll enjoy many arguments over the authenticity of Porto’s Bakery.

Work hard, eat harder. ?? I ❤️ Portos! ??? #portos #burbank #whitechocolatemocha #fruittart #food #lunch

A photo posted by nashlyne ramos (@nxshlyne) on

Credit: Instagram / nxshlyne

Their croquetas are unfuckwittable, but how you gonna call pastelitos “strudels”? Come on.

5. And, in fact, arguing over the few good Cuban restaurants within Los Angeles becomes a regular pastime.

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Credit: NBC

Look, I’m just saying, if I have to go to Downey to find black beans hecho como en casa, I will die, no lie.

6. You have to take care not to offend everyone around you.

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Because Mexican culture forms such a large part of L.A., you’ve got to be careful when using words like “fajar” and “cojer,” unless you want to get lots of horrified looks and nervous giggles.

7. You have tried and failed to find a specific ingredient you thought would be available in a Latino market.

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Credit: CBS Films

OK, so Vallarta doesn’t carry membrillo or guayaba paste. Lesson learned 17 hours after running all around this ginormous freaking city, I GUESS.

8. And yet you keep hearing about these mysterious, roving band of suburban Cubans in places like Downey and Burbank.

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Credit: Giphy / Reddit

OK, but where? And why don’t they have a ventanita on every corner, if that’s the case?

9. You will go through frita withdrawal.

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Credit: Google

Why. Can’t. I find them. In. This. CITY.

10. When you find a fellow Cuban, you suddenly become 99.7% more Cubanaz@.

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The voice gets louder, the hands move around more, and your tendency to exaggerate goes up like literally a million percent.

11. You get to celebrate holidays a little differently.

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Credit: 20th Century Fox

Lechón y congri can’t be beat, but Mexican-style tamales are DELICIOUS around the holidays. And while Cubans don’t typically go all out on Día de los Muertos, Los Angeles’ celebrations are truly beautiful and inspiring.

12. No one knows wtf you mean by “pastel.”

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Credit: Giphy / Reddit 

Nooooo, when I said “pastelito de carne,” I didn’t mean meat cake!

13. You realize no one except Cubans understand the Cuban accent.

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Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

“Why are you yelling incoherently?” I’M WHISPERING, MENG.

14. …And that we’re far more malhablada than most of our Latino cousins.

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Others: “Ow! Tripped on this pinche sidewalk.”

Us: “¡¡¡Coño!!! ¿Pero que clase de mierda es este sidewalk de carajo? Me cago en su madre.”

15. And you get lots of people trying (and failing) to guess where, exactly, you’re from.

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Credit: Paramount Pictures

“So you’re… Iranian, right? Armenian? Irish? Jamaican-Polish-Korean?” Sure. We’ll go with that.

But you know what’s awesome about being a Cuban here?

16. You get to learn about LOTS of cultures other than your own.

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Credit: RalphGM & RandyFX, via Gizmodo

And that is pretty damn great.


READ: Thanks to Mexicans, Los Angeles has the Sunset Strip

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

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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