As the population increases, however, there’s one statistic where Latinos are unfortunately also being represented in greater numbers. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2016, Los Angeles’ homeless Latino population increased from 27 percent (around 12,500 people) to an even more alarming 35 percent (around 20,200). According to U.S. News & World Report, Los Angeles’ current total homeless population is nearly 58,000 people. Los Angeles consistently has one of the highest homeless populations in the U.S.
In Los Angeles, the city’s population is nearly 48 percent Latino.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis described the explosion of Latino homeless in Los Angeles as a “new phenomenon” even though the reasons for the spike are not entirely new. An estimated 20 percent of L.A. County’s Latinos live below the poverty level, making below $47,000 annually. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Latino homelessness is influenced by factors such as increases in rent (a result of gentrification), low paying jobs and a lack of public housing for those who need it.
Undocumented Latinos are especially at risk, the article states, as many have to work several jobs to break even and they are often afraid to reach out to public assistance programs. As Rose Rios of Cover the Homeless Ministry told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s like they live with one foot on a banana peel and the other one step from homelessness.” If conditions do not change, the surge in Los Angeles’ Latino homeless population can be expected to increase.
For many in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Labor Day was to supposed to be a relaxing stress-free day. However, on Monday afternoon, local residents living next to Hollenback Park were dealing with Blank Slate Pictures, a film production company, that was towing their vehicles. The messy ordeal was something that Boyle Heights resident and artist Nico Aviña had previously seen before but never on a national holiday like Labor Day when many in the working-class community have the day off.
The predominately Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights has become a popular area for filming movies and television shows. Yet quite often, the production crews that come into the area haven’t had good communication with local residents when it comes to things like moving their vehicles.
According to L.A. Taco, Aviña saw the situation unfold right before his eyes as he was doing yard work in front of his home. He noticed that neighbors across the street from the park began alerting each other about their vehicles being towed. Upon checking out the scene, Aviña saw a tow truck begin taking cars away and a parking enforcement officer placing tickets on cars windshields.
That’s when Aviña took things into his own hands and began to ask members of the production crew why they were doing all of this.
In a series of four Instagram videos, Aviña shared his confrontation with members of the production crew asking them what business they had coming into the neighborhood and towing away residents vehicles. Since this wasn’t the first time he’s seen this happen, Aviña began questioning the motive behind crew members calling city parking and promptly towing away cars.
Aviña made sure that David Mandell heard his frustration about outsiders disregarding community members in Boyle Heights.
“So this is what happens when people from outside of the community come into our community. They use the city against the community, towing cars,” Aviña says as Mandell, a co-founder of Blank Slate Production, argues back.
In the series of videos, you can hear Aviña begin to get frustrated with crew members as they dodged questions about why they were towing cars and why they didn’t give notice to residents about parking restriction before the weekend. Speaking to L.A. Taco, he said that many of the families in the neighborhood were out town due to the holiday weekend and might have not seen a notice about the production crew and possible parking restrictions.
“In the video, you hear one claim the signs went up Friday. Kids didn’t go to school on Friday. So if people took a four-day trip how were they going to see the signs?” Aviña told L.A. Taco.
Aviña took exception with the production crew as he asked them why there was no alternative to calling a tow truck on residents cars.
“This is a working-class community. On Labor Day, you’re towing cars. Are you for reals? Did you guys think about that? Did you guys think about this is a working-class community and you guys are towing cars on our day off and we have nowhere to park? Aviña says in the video. “Where’s the alternative parking that you guys offer?”
Aviña and Peter Vogel, co-founder of Blank Slate Production, discussed the parking situation at hand. “You may park in that parking lot over there,” Vogel told Aviña. “It’s open.”
“No. You just said that right now, but you know it’s closed. I just told you it was closed,” Aviña responded.
“No, you didn’t,” Vogel said.
“You’re going to act like that? Are you going to act like that?” Aviña replied.
Ironically, the film that the production company was filming is about a woman who is “forced to raise her son in her car” as they “attempt to find a way out of homelessness.”
Blank Slate Pictures was in Hollenbeck Park to film the upcoming movie “Like Turtles,” which according to IMDB is based on a mother who “is forced to raise her son in her car and attempt to find a way out of homelessness all while never letting her son realize the severity of their circumstances.” Some on social media found irony in the situation that a film crew doing a movie about a person living out of their car while at the same time towing away residents cars.
Parking tickets have become a notorious problem in the neighborhood as there are limited spaces for residents to park their vehicles. With the addition of weekly street cleaning, many residents are forced to move their cars and shuffle spaces to avoid getting a ticket. Those tickets come at a steep price, according to the LA Times, retrieving a towed car can cost close to $290, this includes a $133 charge for the tow, an additional $115 to release the car and $46.56 for each following day the car is in city storage.
For Aviña, this issue goes beyond just towing cars but is a perfect example of when outside forces come into the neighborhood and don’t bother to reach out to the community.
Aviña brings up the issue of privilege and gentrification that has affected the working-class neighborhood for the last decade. He points to the production crew as an example of this and them not reaching out to the local community. Boyle Heights has been ground zero in LA when it comes to gentrification as many longtime residents have lost their homes and businesses due to rising rents and development.
“You see what I’m talking about, the privilege? You could’ve easily knocked on doors, man. You could’ve easily warned the community. Instead, a working-class neighborhood that is barely affording the effects of gentrification that pays the rent. […] A working-class community that can’t afford the rent because of the exploitation, because of what’s going on with gentrification. And instead of knocking on their doors, what do you do? You get their cars towed away,” Aviña says in the final video to the production crew. “So now they got another fine. Now they got a parking ticket, plus get their cars out. You know I’m making sense. You know it’s the truth. It’s our reality. We live this shit every day. You’re not the only ones that come and film here. We gotta deal with this daily.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.