Botanitas: May 17, 2008

Botanitas will be an ongoing feature bringing you stories and news from various sources, upcoming events and other bits of ephemera that might be of interest to LA Eastside readers. Suggestions welcome!

Click ahead for more:

Dora the Explorer

Dora is like crack for kids. She and her little monkey friend seem to have captivated the minds of children everywhere. Good thing then that this unfortunate character was scrapped during early development of the show:

Schoolteachers, sociologists, historians and cultural and language experts were all brought in to help. Mistakes were still made, however — like when Gifford & Co. came up with the character Tico, one of Dora’s friends.

“Tico was always sleepy,” says Johnson. “Asleep under a tree. Our cultural consultant said, ‘Not such a good idea.’ A Latino character, who only speaks Spanish, the littlest character, always asleep. Just not a good idea.”

Excerpt from NPR’s story, Me Llamo Dora: An Explorer in Modern America

Ersi Arvizu

In case you missed it, LA Times published an article on the former El Chicano vocalist, Ersi Arvizu. Apparently, her vocal talents have not been forgotten.

On being courted by Ry Cooder to record a new album:

Where else, she asks, will you find a woman who grew up in East L.A., had a Top 10 hit in her teens, trained boxers with her father, went undefeated in four fights of her own, drove a truck for FedEx to make ends meet and attended college to become a “woman cop.” Yes, and who still sings with tenderness and perfect pitch after all these years.

El Chicano Ersi Arvizu finds her voice again.

Whittier Blvd.

Looks like some folks want to spruce up Whittier Blvd. Sure, why not? But I think they should bring back cruising while they’re at it:

Every weekend, cruisers would gather — many of them at a staging area around Calvary Cemetery in East L.A. — and then “take a trip down Whittier Boulevard.”

Similar cultures existed elsewhere, of course. Here, though, cruising meant far more than a mere distraction. Firme noted that when he was young, his father — a butcher — could not secure financing to buy a new car because of his ethnicity. So fixing up older cars became an exercise in pride. A nice car represented freedom, and promise.

East L.A. getting a long-overdue face-lift.

Eastside Luv

This just in, LA Times shows some Eastside Luv. A new-ish wine bar for Eastside locals by Eastside locals, complete with go-go dancers. With the Gold Line coming in, speculation on the future of 1st street is buzzing:

That’s a total of $4 billion in current and projected plans, says Evangeline Ordaz, vice president of the East LA Community Corporation, a nonprofit serving low-income residents. The concern, of course, is that outside interests will squeeze out existing businesses, raise rents and forever change the neighborhood’s deeply rooted character.

“That’s one of the things we would like to preserve,” says Ordaz, who’s also a playwright. “In the face of all this big development, our fear is that this sort of small business would get pushed out.”

To Uribe, that raises the specter of the dreaded 14-letter word – gentrification. “I don’t want to be put under that umbrella, like some Hollywood guy coming in here with no idea about the culture or community,” says Uribe, who owns the bar with his wife of 15 years, Arlene, also born and raised in Boyle Heights. “Maybe gentrification is going to take place. Who knows? But if it does, I think it’s going to be by the children of Boyle Heights, people who are just proud to be back in the neighborhood.”

Is it really gentrification? Time to break out the dictionary, folks. Gentrification does not mean improvement of a neighborhood, it means displacement of low income residents. You can live in an active, “nice” neighborhood without it being gentrified.

Now, if only someone would open a bar where I can read a book and drink a good beer!

Boyle Heights goes upscale

Things to do this weekend

As mentioned here previously, opening reception for Vexing: Female Voices from East LA Punk at The Claremont Museum of Art, Saturday, May 17.

Sunday, May 18 is MOTA Day, no it’s not what you’re thinking, it’s Museum of the Arroyo Day!

Celebrating a diverse mix of art, architecture and history of the Arroyo Seco area, MOTA Day features six unique history-based museums that preserve and perpetuate early Los Angeles life. The public can visit one or all of the museums during the day at no charge, with free and continuous shuttle service running between museums.

For more information on the nineteenth annual MOTA Day, please call the MOTA hotline number at (213) 740-TOUR (8687).

And on a personal note, Happy Birthday to my great aunt Anita (pic above, circa 1943). Cheers to many more years! We’ll be celebrating this Sunday in Montebello ’cause we’re classy like that!

7 thoughts on “Botanitas: May 17, 2008

  1. That Dora/Tito thing totally reminds me of something that finally sunk in on my last trip out to Missouri. Past a certain point east of California and north of Texas, damn near every Mexican restaurant (and that descriptor doesn’t indicate that they serve Mexican food by any means) has a logo or signage involving some poor fellow, often donkey adjacent, taking a siesta.

  2. As a lazy mexican I identified with tico. Remember slowpoke rodriguez on the old speedy gonzalez cartoons? My son has a warner brothers compilation tape for kids (its a bunch of different cartoons spliced together under some genie in a bottle story) where slowpoke comes out and signs la cucuracha including “marijuana que fumar”,and is all red eyed slow and hungry. Quality stereotyping right there.

  3. I stopped in front of the old Bun Boy on San Gabriel, south of the 10 freeway. There was a sign up with the sleepy Mexican.

  4. That’s interesting that Slowpoke made the compilation. A few years ago I did an intensive search for Speedy Gonzalez’ cartoons for a Christmas gift and learned from a friend at Warner Bros. that they were no longer available due to not being politically correct. (I managed to find an old VHS on eBay, though.) I grew up with Speedy (and Slowpoke) and loved him. He was all we had!

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