You’re from where? South what?

Hi everyone! Before getting to the actual entry, I feel I should introduce/explain myself a bit. I’m Diego and I blog over at Soledad en masa. I was born and raised in South Gate, technically west of the L.A. River, but part of the Eastside. I now live far, far east of the River, east of the Colorado, Mississippi, and Hudson, and north of the Charles, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I attend Harvard University as a freshman. I’m almost done with this first year and if I am in L.A. for the summer, I’ll post here more regularly. For now, while I am in the East Coast, I’ll be a contributor and post every so often.

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Welcome to South Gate

When I first arrived at Harvard in September, as I introduced myself to roommates and other people I met, I was always asked where I was from in California. Since my Dodgers cap was not enough to give them an idea where I was from, I always said “Los Angeles” because that’s what they recognized, not South Gate. I don’t have much of a problem saying “L.A.” when I typically mean the county, not the city proper. I’m the only freshmen from the Eastside at Harvard.

It’s a different story, however, when I run into people from the Southland (Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties). I always ask them what specific cities they are from, and sometimes I’ll be asked where I am from, to which I proudly respond “South Gate.” Often, I look at blank faces to which South Gate doesn’t register. My response is almost always followed by “Where is that?” By this point, I’m annoyed, so to shut them up, I say “East of South Central/Watts” and they stop talking to me, most likely thinking, “How did he get in?” Within a few days, South Gate has been reduced to “South what?”

When I meet people from Los Angeles County and they don’t know where South Gate is, I’m amazed. I’ve been asked by people where it is and I put it in the context of freeways, but often, the 710 is that one freeway that they don’t seem to know. The very few who I have met from Los Angeles County who know about South Gate are from Long Beach or the Norwalk area. I’ve met someone from Downey who doesn’t know where South Gate is. How the fuck do you not know one of your bordering cities?

Plain, good ol’ ignorance and lack of knowledge on their part. All my life in L.A. I hear about Santa Monica, Burbank, Venice and other “nice” parts of the county, but I never hear much of South Gate or any other city in the Eastside in the news, in the media PERIOD. Nothing. Como si no existimos.

When I run into someone who does know where South Gate is and, even better, has been there or is familiar with it, they immediately become my friend, but that’s for another post. Until then, I hope more people pick up Thomas Guides and start learning the layout of the county’s neighborhoods and cities.

31 thoughts on “You’re from where? South what?

  1. South Where? No te creas, apesar de que tengo un par de años por aca en Downey yo si se donde es South Gate, somos vecinos de Ciudad!

  2. South Bay?

    You should actually sing the “Pete Ellis Dodge” commercial jingle to the less-aware SoCal folks you run into out there. That’ll get them

    j/k. Don’t ever stop representin’. And best of luck out there in Harvard to ya. One day, you’ll be the one to put South Gate on the proverbial map.

  3. Dude, I don’t expect every person to know every city in LA county. I went to UCLA for college and before I moved over to Westwood, I had no clue Venice, Palms, Mar Vista existed.

    Though the Downey guy is like dumb. At the least he should know the bordering city.

  4. I know where South Gate is because when I first moved to LA, I got a job at a record company and I got to cover all the latin music because… no one else would go to the shows, neighborhoods or even cared about the music. We always had CRAZY instores in South Gate. I found great discount stores and crazy chain restaurants from other countries that I’d never heard of there. Oh… South Gate also seems like a great place for car shopping if you only have $1500 or so and need a reliable bucket that runs and doesn’t break down.

  5. Dude. Diego is to young to remember the Pete Ellis Dodge song. Casa De Gonzalez doesn’t use the same spots.

    The lyrics go a little like this Diegito. “Pete Ellis Dodge, Long Beach Freeway, Firestone exit, South Gate”.

    Personally I like the Worthington Ford spots. “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!” If none of this makes any sense to you it’s because you are’nt So-Cal.

    P.S. Try telling people you grew up in Cudahy.

  6. Look at Santa Monica and its attractions/museums/ocean/tourist places/weather/ yupppie promenade/ etc. and then look at South Gate/Cudahy and its what? Dare to compare the two. There are reasons why so many people know about one and not hte other. It has to do with stuff to do and things to buy and history that was made there with people who had money. That is what this country is based on, unfortunately, consumerism. So if you dont have a lot of money, well, peeople aren’t going to go. I’m originally from Iowa. Do you know where that is? Do you know people always confuse it with Idaho? Its a freakin’ state and people dont know! Anyway, I look forward to hearing more about east LA becuase I like to learn, but dont complain about how people dont know know it well as Venice. I drive all over LA and love to see and find new places and learn about new cultures. I’ve been hear 8 years and know more about LA than many people who grew up here. Look foward to hearing more about East La…

  7. You might be happy to know there’s a book about Southgate’s history from 1920-1965. It’s “My Blue Heaven,” by Becky Nicolaides.

  8. I’ve got to echo Belle. It’s got nothing to do with economics or demographics, and everything to do with quantity. There are more than 100 separate municipalities within the greater Los Angeles area, and 80-plus just within LA county. I doubt most people have heard of half of them, let alone are able to tell you where they are. If you can’t place Palms on a map, does that make you an elitist Eastsider?

  9. I just met someone from South Gate who liked to brag about how tough and street it was, maybe because it’s close to south central? In any event, I’d love to visit some of the other Gates, maybe North or East Gate some time.

  10. I know you were kidding, but just to be clear, there is no North Gate or East Gate.

    Maybe you could just tell people some of the other nearby cities: Bell, Huntington Park, Downey, Commerce, Cudahy, Vernon. Well, Vernon and Commerce are pushing it.

    Anyway, I am not a native (lived here since 1989) and only know where South Gate is because A) I am a map nerd and read the Thomas Guide just for fun, and b) a very good friend of mine is from South Gate.

  11. I only know of South Gate because I used to live in Vernon, and also because it’s used as a test case for the meltdown of California’s economy when industry left town. I mean, really, why would you think that everybody should be intimately familiar with South Gate? If you don’t live there, there is very little reason to go.

  12. If say for example you are 30 years old and have lived in the city of Los Angeles your entire life and have never heard of South Gate, to me it screams of someone who is anti-social and closed off to the rest of the world. If you watch the news, read newspapers, meet people through school or work, or at a bar, you are bound to hear one of South Gate or one of the other municipalities in LA County. I agree with Diego it is rather annoying when someone from LA County doesn’t know where your neighborhood is…its like hello do you go out at all? Now you can’t blame someone from the east coast not knowing where South Gate, but for sure Los Angelenos should know.

    Good luck out there at Harvard

  13. Like SCo, I knew where South Gate was from an early age due to an unhealthy obsession with the Thomas Guide. But I also remember the old jingle (not exactly the ad linked to by the militant), but something that used the same dancing ball, subtitles, and shrill “Sooouth Gate!”. Still, I’m not surprised other people don’t know where that is. If it weren’t for the Thomas Guide, Google Maps, and Wikipedia, I wouldn’t have known where Cudahy was. And I had to visit the city to figure out how it was pronounced! I have yet to hear that name on the news…

  14. Thanks MA! Yah, I was pretty surprised when I learned that that was the pronunciation. The lady at the gas station I stopped at there told me she’s heard “Cud-a-hey” and “Cood-a-hey” (the second one mostly when speaking Spanish), both of which were way off of what I assumed when I first came across the name: “Cue-day-hee”.

  15. South Gate. Good times, driving out to El Parral back in the early 90s…. all the way from the SFV. used to come up on some deals on vaquero gear over there in the La Pacific, and some South Gate stores. the drive over there began to familiarize me with the LA region’s infrastructure, economy etc etc, hence why I became an urban planner. much respect.

  16. I love South Gate.

    We use to hit the early Latino undergrounds there with DJ Orlando, Lenny V., and Reza. We called it HOUSE Gate, there was so much partying going on.

    After Mexico plays big soccer games the party is always in South Gate.

    It’s a softer East Los, more Mexican immigrant that generations of Chicanos there. IMO. But that is changing too. If Morrissey needed to find his core audience I think he would need to go to South Gate. LOL

  17. “After Mexico plays big soccer games the party is always in South Gate.”

    You’re wrong.

    The Party is always on “La Pacific” in Huntington Park. From Florence to Slauson…

  18. I stand corrected, I was never sober enough to really know where I was for those parties.

    I had uncles who lived in HP and South Gate. Fine line between the two.

    Pacific Blvd. that is one trippy strip. Need to visit again soon.

  19. Usually when I tell people I’m from Inglewood they ask me if people frequently get shot (white people), or say “Inglewood always up no good” or something like that, lol…

  20. So before you went to Hahhvahhd, you could tell me where ojai and filmore was? And loma vista? And before you went to beantown, you knew where dorchester and roxbury was? If you like hip hop, roxbury is a source of hip hop history.

    South Gate looks a lot nicer with all the new schools in the area. I love the chile relleno burrito at los globos. And joy wok is my favorite chinese spot outside of the san gabriel valley.

    You could tell the harvard people that’s where paris hilton did her time. It was at the sheriff’s station just south of the 105. That might help them out…

    Much more importantly, congratulations on getting into harvard, and I’m sure you will make south gate proud.

  21. Paris Hilton did her time in Lynwood not South Gate. Don’t get it twisted.

    That is also irritating. People who claim to know Southeast L.A. and don’t know where one barrio ends and another begins?

  22. I always remember South Gate for being the hometown of the first West Coast Spanglish rappers like Cypress Hill and Mellow Man Ace.
    Are there still a lot of Cubans in the area?
    My mom was a teacher in South Gate for many years and I spent a good many years trying to find all the shortcuts in that area…there are none!

  23. One Shortcut I like in South Gate is Salt Lake all the way to Atlantic when trying to get to the 710… I’m from HP so getting to the 710 on Florence can be a headache… So, Salt Lake all the way to Atlantic just before hitting Firestone and there… I can jump on the 710.

  24. and just as I’m watching the news there’s a high speed chase that started on the 710 and went through Maywood…

  25. I didn’t hear anything about South Gate until my dad started working at Casa de Gonzales.

    5000! is right though, LA County is huge. It’s gonna be tough to know of all the municipalities, unincorporated townships, etc.

  26. Just do what my compadre El Calote used to do, he would pretend not to have ever heard of Venice, Santa Monica, Pasadena, etc. One funny moment was when this arrogant a-hole guy at a party was telling a group of us, “I went to Harvard Law School.” El Calote responded,in his most serious and inquisitive voice “Harvard has a law school??? (pause) I never heard of that.”

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