A Response Regarding the Eastside “debate”

I told Chuy90023 that his comment on Daniel Hernandez’s post regarding his flip-flop on the Eastside definition was worthy of it’s own post, and being the typical humble Eastsider, he put his response in the comment of a previous post. Vato, you need to learn from these paid journalists; the only thing that makes their words more meaningful is that they act like their words have more meaning. And since I know Chuy’s words really do mean more than those of guys that get paid to write, I’m reposting his comment here as its own post, on a website that doesn’t rely on web traffic as a source of revenue.

I posted the comment below on Daniel Hernandez’s Intersections yesterday but el Chavo and I thought I’d repost it here since probably not a lot of LAEastside.com readers visit the other site:

I think I know the origins of at least part of the resentment that many of us have over the emergence of some new “Eastside” somewhere else. I think it has something to do with ethnic/class differences and our historical experience east of the river in the margins of Los Angeles society.

As teenagers some friends and I thought Silverlake and Echo Park were what everyone referred to as the Westside, just because our families, like many others in Boyle Heights and East LA, had little or no contact with the western parts of the city (and everything beyond Normandie seemed spookily mysterious to us: the Far West, I called it). We were, and to some extent still are, I think, rather insulated, cut off culturally, socially, economically, politically. This might be one reason EastLos has such a strong neighborhood identity. We’re just now slowly emerging from this isolation—and it feels weird and scary, I tell you—with the recent introduction of rail and other public investment, private speculation, and such civic events as the marathon (I still can’t get over this: the LA marathon now goes through Boyle Heights!!!).

But I’d say another reason for this strong identity is our collective sense of grievance. EastLos, like much of the Eastside, has been largely and criminally neglected by the powers that be. It’s like no people lived here. This was just area where immigrant Mexicans and their gang-banging kids lived: a perfect place for freeways, incinerators, and prisons.

This is my impression of how the new “Eastside” appeared on the map: Suddenly, some years ago, as Silverlake began to gentrify, white hipster newcomers, mostly of non-Angeleno origin, realized they were living East from where their friends lived (i.e. the Westside). They also realized that the neighborhoods they were gentrifying–or “improving”–were, in fact, Latino and working class. Thus, they figured, they were on the Eastside–even though they were miles West of downtown–and they proudly announced this to their friends, who would surely admire them for being so daring and adventurous in choosing to live in the unsterile inner-city precincts.

Later, this redefinition of these sections of the city caught on: As Silverlake and Echo Park continued gentrifying, other young urban professionals of various ethnicities and walks of life, but mostly of non-Angeleno origin, have joined in the new, local subculture there that calls the area the Eastside, making us feel once again ignored, scorned, like we don’t exist. No arguments about its historical inaccuracy will make a difference.

Who are we to protest? Who listens to us? Nobody has in the past. We don’t have money. We don’t have fancy jobs and influence. They can take everything from us–as we’ve seen time and time again. Even our name. And soon, as public investment and private speculation do their thing, they’ll “improve” our barrios as well and then take them, pushing us out into the desert.

12 thoughts on “A Response Regarding the Eastside “debate”

  1. In regards to the Eastside question.

    I think we have to be respectful of people. I think the fight for the Eastside is not just about location. Its about LA acknowledging their racism.

    Eastside is fluid because non ethnic people want to use the term, that’s the problem. If being fluid and open applied to the views of ethnic people there would be no problem.

    Lets use Compton Ave as an example, remember how it changed to Marine Ave in the less ethnic side of town? The non ethnic minority people were able to say THIS IS NOT COMPTON, THIS IS NOT SOUTH CENTRAL and not only where they allowed that. They were also allowed to get an official change and everyone was fine with that. No one called them over sensitive or anal, everyone had respect, even though it was based on nothing more than nasty played out racism.

    To change the definition of the Eastside is to change history. It says racism didn’t exist. It says people of color in LA where always able to live where ever they wanted and that is a lie and when you change the definition on ONLY one side, because of only the view of the people with money, the people who want to market gritty and edgy you disregard and disrespect not just the many Latinos of the Eastside, but the Japanese-Americans who were interned, the African-Americans who were not allowed to buy homes in the vast majority of they city, the second wave of Chinese-Americans who were only able to move to his country after the Civil Rights movement. You disrespect the history of all people of color by playing the name change designated only by one side.

    Hey if people were willing to listen to all sides, I’d totally be down and open to change the borders of all kinds of things. I would love that. I would love for everyone and everything to be open. I would love if Obama was recognized by his entire ethnicity as a biracial person, I would love for North America to have open borders,I would love for transgendered people to be free to just be who they are, I would love for the LAPD to not profile people owing to their ethnicity, but is LA willing to fight for only those things?

    I don’t think so.

    We’re a city that is still debating if we should refer to human being as illegal. We are a city that tries to take away people rights because they are undocumented. We are a city that profiles people for not being white. We are a city that’s division between the very well off and the poor is getting farther and farther everyday.

    I think this Eastside business is about marketing and disrespect and covering up the tracks of the nasty business of the LA version of segregation that has been going on since this city was founded.

  2. And on a different subject. I always look back in history and the excuse many people use for their fucked up actions is: I didn’t know or that’s what everyone did back then.

    Ok, well now you all know. I didn’t know either. I was born in Canada. I did used to call Silver Lake the Eastside when everyone else started doing it, but when someone told me what was up I stopped. And I told everyone else that I knew to stop and why they should stop. Is it that much trouble to curb your language or is this one of those things where you want to know why you can say the N-word?

    I mean really anyone who is from a community that has been marginalized by the mainstream at some point whether you be Irish-American, African-American, Asian-American, Jewish-American….etc…should be able to understand this. This is not about just Latinos, this is not about just the Eastside this is a larger issue of disrespect by those with power against those who don’t have power and it is largely symbolic, but symbols are important.

    Burning a cross on someone’s front lawn is a symbol, graffiti is a symbol, the American Flag is a symbol, engagement rings are symbols, so lets not try to act as if symbols don’t mean anything they mean alot.

    Let’s change the way we do things here. We don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over again.


  3. Eastside is fluid because non ethnic people want to use the term, that’s the problem. If being fluid and open applied to the views of ethnic people there would be no problem.

    What does “non-ethnic people” mean? What is a non-ethnic person?

    I remain rigid in my definition that “Eastside” refers to East of the river.

  4. Non-ethnic means white, it means people don’t look at you and ask you what you are in a way to take power from you.

    Ethnic means people of color, meaning when people ask you what you are or where you are from they are not asking it as a conversation starter, but to see how “American” you are.

    I am aware that white people can be ethnic, but I’m talking in a non-academic way as a quick lazy way to comment. Lazy how America is with the term American. If I were writing a post I would not use that term, if I was writing a paper I would not use that term.

    And I’m simply using ethnic the way it is used to describe me (or against me) or people who look like me, like when people call your name ethnic or say that’s ethnic music or that’s ethnic food, in major papers that’s is how we are described.

    It is pretty stupid isn’t it? Because we are all ethnic, but only people who are not white get to be decorated with that label after two or three generations of being in the US or Great Britain or Canada. I don’t know why bookstores put books by third generations African-American and Mexican-Americans in the ethnic book section, we should ask them? I don’t know why if you have a Scottish last name, they don’t tell people to go to the ethnic section to find your work.

    I don’t know why authors of Irish descent from the UK that write about the Irish experiences are allowed to be in the mainstream section of American bookstores while Sandra Cisneros and Alice Walker are stuck in the corner in the back of the store in the ethnic section.

    I don’t know why films by African-Americans about the African-American experience by Tyler Perry are called ethnic films and films by Martin Scorcese about Italian-Americans with Italian in the script with an Italian-American focused plot are called a mainstream or an American movie.

    So ethnic in regards to not like white people or “regular” Americans who after two generations can just choose to not be ethnic anymore.

    Yes it’s totally stupid. I don’t know why the people who founded this country view Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans as being different and ethnic. I may make a campaign to talk to the book store owners and ask them why are we (POC) are more ethnic than ethnic white people.

  5. i was born, raised, and still live in echo park.
    i have seen hipsters change my community,some good changes…and some are just whack. For a while now i’ve been hearing this “debate” about echo park being the east side.
    ECHO PARK is central, it is NOT the east side or the west side. The whole echo park is the east side stems from people who have not lived in echo park more than a few years, if that and do not know anything passed that echo park is hip and new. There are roots in echo park, and a community that still holds tightly to their casas as some newbs try to buy them out.

  6. Bravo to Chuy’s commentary.
    A few points I’d like to to add here.
    -Almost every “White” person I’ve ever spoken to personally about this issue have ALL agreed with me that this “Eastside” renaming thing is stupid and makes no sense to them. They almost all agree that everyyone knows that the Eastside is east of the river, it’s a historical name, etc. I would even dare say that more whites agree with “us” on this issue than don’t. That being said: I believe this is who we are dealing with:
    (1) Persons of a specific (upper) economic class who don’t really give a shit about anything or anyone else except they’re own interests and agendas and they have the money and power to get away with it, or think that they can. Most of these folks don’t even realize we exist outside their sphere, and this whole debate is smaller than a flea on their Labrador’s ass to them.
    (2) Mentally lazy follower types who perpetuate all this with lame excuses like: Well, everyone is calling this the Eastside…” or “it’s fluidity, man.”

    Also, lets point a finger to a little recognized scoundrel and major player in a lot of crap like this that goes on in this city:
    REAL ESTATE AGENTS (don’t get me started, I could devote many pages about this mostly useless parasitic vermin, but not right now) suffice to say that I have first hand knowledge of their constant attempts to redesign and manipulate demographics within entire neighborhoods. Their literature and sales pitches are replete with references to this nouveau “Eastside” directed especially towards new arrivals who have more money and desire to fit “hiply”into these new urban frontiers, than any knowledge or regard for this city’s heritage and cultural worlds outside of their own (except maybe at museums). Drunk with their exploits during the last housing boom and the rampant Gentrifications, As these affluent newbies arrived into the working class hoods, Real Estate agents proceeded to spread mythical descriptions about the local public schools to calm the fears of those newbies who were petrified at the thought of sending their precious larvae into dens of knife-wielding brown kids with assurances that their kids would be able to attend “the good schools”. This precipitated a virtual segregation-like, mini-white flight within certain school districts. “Oh don’t, worry” said one realtor, I’ll tell you how you can get your child out of going to that local school.(but this too, is for a separate post) My point is, let’s identify all the guilty players here, Real Estate agents who re-engineer neighborhoods and laugh all the way to the bank, should be included.
    Here is a link to a response on this whole mess I wrote to a site called Gelatobaby:

  7. Since there are folks who might not click over (I’m not one for clickas myself), this is my response to Daniel Hernandez.

    Daniel Hernandez wrote:
    “Which gets to an uncomfortable point I think we need to consider. This debate is a debate between equal gentrifiers, who one side are brown and Eastside-centric and sympathetic to the removal of immigrants and brown folks but at the same time invariably complicit in that process — you can’t not be — and on the other, the clueless no-nothing new-comers. So I don’t think, for example CHAVO!, that your lack of understanding or knowledge on La Brea is any more relevant or just or pertinent than the new Westsider’s view and lack of knowledge on Soto. You’re both aliens.”

    The thing is, it’s those newbies and not us, who are given the chance to define the city, time and time again. It is definitely not “equal.” If it was, this struggle for keeping our neighborhood name and identity would not exist. Folks who moved to LA would be already familiar with the Eastside. Why would they choose a name for their area that already exists elsewhere?
    I think it’s unfair the way we’re being brushed away like pesky little flies. It’s like the folks on the other side of the river have planted down their flags and cannot admit they made a mistake based on their own ignorance. And rather than listen to what we have to say, they just would rather we go away and stop pestering them with facts. As I’ve written many times before, I have a long family history in this city and I feel it’s my responsibility to inform and educate. If other folks want to plug into bureaucratic, government institutions and fight gentrification that way, good for them. As for myself, I have access to a keyboard and an internet connection and a job that doesn’t rely on my compliance or conciliatory gestures to those with power.
    And you know Daniel, I think it’s insulting that you would label us with the term Eastside-centric, like we are a bunch of EastLos hicks or something. That’s totally unfair. You know from reading our blogs that we come from diverse backgrounds. Also, the barbs like “narrow-minded” and “self important” are ones that have not gone unnoticed. Dude, if I don’t think my voice is important, who will?
    The interesting thing is, if another group did take over the Eastside and then decided to rename it or incorporate it into a larger neighborhood of their culture that would be one thing. But the fact is, there is still a large group of people with geographic ties and identities to the Eastide who are still there and have no idea (because they are not plugged into the various media sources) that a whole another group of people have taken their name. It’s like they don’t exist. Vix’s comments are a good example:
    “Boyle Heights has some great restaurants, but food alone does not define a hood.”
    See what I mean? It’s like “oh there are people there? I only notice the restaurants.”
    And you wonder why we struggle?

  8. All excellent points Al and yes follow the money. Oppression is based in capitalism and exploitation and this crap is rooted in that. The Real Estate/ Developers should be looked at very closely in this, because in LA that is who did this.

    That is who engineered all of this shit in the first damn place.

    Great way to break it down Al!!!!

  9. Chimalti…wow, so excellent. I hope people who are reading this ARE viewing this in a univeral way. I am not happy with the painting of this blog by certain people as a monolithic and out of touch, totally unfuckingfair especially when we’re not any more that way than anyone else and really we’re less so.

    This is like in college when everyone got on the poc back for all sitting together, well goddamn, y’all are all sitting together.

    Why must WE always get called out in regards to intolerant bullshit. This blog is the most intolerant?!!!

    I call bullshit and I will start calling out blogs who are truly intolerant and see how many paid journalist say anything. I will bet they won’t say a damn thing other than, “Shut up little brown girl.” But they’ll be all nice about, because they are professional.

    A certain LA blog did a whole thing on Illegal is it ok or not, not a damn thing from the professional peanut gallery.

    And that still pisses me off as well as that Watts piece by another blog, but on this issue people feel the need to go, “no, no, no, no, you must behave.”

    You have got be kidding me.

  10. I made the mistake of referring to my ‘hood (NELA) as “East LA” when I first moved to Highland Park.

    It took about 10 seconds for someone walking down the sidewalk to say, “This isn’t East L.A.! It’s NELA!”

    Now that I know more about this side of town than I do any other part of the earth, I wholeheartedly agree with the quoted statement above about what East L.A. represents to other people (more influential and plugged into mainstream white culture):

    “It’s like no people lived here. This was just area where immigrant Mexicans and their gang-banging kids lived: a perfect place for freeways, incinerators, and prisons.”

  11. funny, when i was a kid living in CT but going to school in highland park, it was, indeed “north” east l.a., but that was always translated by those i knew both in and out of that ‘hood as “the northern end of east l.a.” the only ones i knew that didn’t view it that way were the richies that lived in mount washington.

    i reckon the same people perpetrating this whole nouveau eastside-on-the-westside trip are the same ones whining about l.a.’s lack of “culture” and so up to their ears in the pangs of some misguided, chronic inferiority complex they feel the need to reimagine and recontextualize l.a. as new york west.

  12. I am a third generation Angeleno and a life long resident of the “real” eastside, Boyle Heights. I also happen to work in the West Lake/MacArthur Park/Rampart area of Los Angeles. An area I personally see as the “near” westside or West Central L.A.. I make it a point to ask people who come to our business as well as people I meet on the street, as I do not drive and take the bus to and from work, what part of L.A. we are in. By in large most say west, or westside or West Central. Every now and then I have heard people say Downtown L.A., especially as City west creeps ever more west ward. However when I point out to them the orginal name of MacArthur Park, West Lake Park, the names of streets like Western Av., West Blvd and Westmoreland they agree that it is ineed the west side of the City. Every street sign in fact has “west” on it. No “east” whatsoever. So bottom line of what I am trying to say is it may be near Downtown and it may even be the eastern side of the large westside that stretches from Downtown to the ocean, but nevertheless it is the west side of Los Angeles.

    As a passing note I wish to say Thank You to all who have come aboard in debating this issue. I sometimes felt all alone as I argued on blogs about this very topic. Thanks Again!

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