The rise of NELA

I remember way back when the hoods of Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Happy Valley, Cypress Park, El Sereno, and Glassel Park really didn’t have a moniker to say: this is ____! But in the past year or so I’ve heard many an utterance of the acronym “NELA.” Now, I had in the past said “NorthEast L.A.” or even write it that way. Hell I even thought I made it up, but assuming their is a collective unconsiousness we folks in our part of the Eastside have come up with the same acronym. NOW people say NELA as in Neh-Luh. That my friend is pretty chido in my book.

Before I had to say oh, “I live north of East L.A., across the tracks.”  Now I can assuredly say I live in NELA.

34 thoughts on “The rise of NELA

  1. NELA. I like it. It uses Downtown as the center and refers to itself based on that. Maybe the acronym hasn’t been around much, but NELA is already being appropriated to descbie other neighborhoods! Go here and read the about section.

  2. Yeah that is true I heard a couple people say they lived in NELA when I asked them, they where referring to them living in Montecito Heights, Highland Park area…aside that who uses typewriters anymore! Lol or did they convert it to computers and kept the same sign that’s tight and old school!

  3. I use a typewriter from time to time for print projects and even if I didn’t, there are plenty of people who want to collect or at least maintain the typewriters that were passed down to them from older relatives.

    I haven’t been in the shop since the old guy Jesse stopped doing the day-to-day stuff there. He fixed my typewriter a few years ago and told me that his son was taking over the business, but not before telling me everything I could possibly want to know about my particular brand and model of typewriter. I got the story of how he started in typewriter and office machine repair and the history of building and the entire block, etc. AND he fixed my typewriter for almost nothing.

  4. I think the term NELA came from the NELA email list that started in 2001. Before blogs and all that, it was the one place to go for community news and discussion.
    Or it could have come from a gang that was around a few years ago called NELA. But yeah, it’s a pretty recent term and it’s appropriate to the area AND it was created organically…unlike those other neighborhoods that couldn’t come up with their own moniker! 🙂

  5. Typwriter man’s son came into my bike shop a few weeks ago and said that his dad is crazy busy with work most of the time, since he’s one of the last typewriter guys around.

    I think this is the same for shoe repair dudes in the area as well. A lot of them died or retired, so the ones that remain start to draw in people from a wider area who need their stuff fixed.

    My grandpa was an old-fashioned barber down in San Diego, and people came from far away for the experience right before he died of cancer.

  6. I was using NELA since 2000. There was a guy in my group of friends from El Sereno. Eventually, his nickname became Nela. As for Northeast LA, well I’d heard that before then, but it wasn’t abbreviated.

  7. I don’t know how long the acronym has been around, but the term “Northeast Los Angeles” as a name for the region has probably been around much, much longer than I’ve lived here. There’s a big Vietnam War memorial at York and Figueroa, apparently built at least two decades ago, that’s dedicated specifically to soldiers who died in the war who were from “Northeast Los Angeles”.

  8. i mentioned it elsewhere, but the term has been around as long as i can remember, although the meaning behind it has definitely changed — when i was a kid, it meant “north end of east los angeles;” now it means “we’re not part of east los angeles.” methinks it’s just another realty-related attempt to reimagine the area as a quaint little hamlet with just enough danger inferred in the “northeast” modifier to attract upscale yuppies looking for a little edge to up their hipster cred in much the same way silverlake and echo park did before they turned them into one big, bland outdoor mall.

    since there aren’t frequent enough earthquakes to scare ’em off, one of my more favorite pastimes is to remind any of them pricks fool enough to listen that HLP and eagle rock were once the hillside strangler’s preferred stomping grounds…..

  9. As far as what I’ve heard it seems to have started from the gang using that name, NELA. And I disagree that “NELA” is a way to attract yuppies because when I used 10 years ago it was to differentiate my experience from that of my East LA friends, not to attract yuppies. I do feel there is a difference in feel between NELA and ELA.

    I think it is time to start making “Die Yuppie Scum” shirts.

  10. Pretty much all my friends are retired anarchopeace punks that dress better now. So I guess that means they’re hipsters.

  11. jesse flores is amazing. i was in his shop last year to get my typewriter repaired and was lucky enough to have him let me take some photos. he took his hat off and sat up straight. now that is class. he’s been there since 1963 after moving from chicago and learned to speak spanish after that to work with the customer base in highland park along the way. the typewriter repair shop is one of the last 3 remaining in the city of la or so. they’re super busy and doing well, especially with collectors and movie work. the last time i really remember seeing the newspaper man out there was earlier this year, but i haven’t been looking. some older women also sometimes set up an outdoor clothing store on a line in front of that wall.

  12. My friends and I had an argument……Where does East Los Angeles end and NELA begin? Is El Sereno, NELA? Lincoln Heights? Or does NELA start in Highland Park proper? Please give your input we need outside perpectives.

  13. Cyclist from sereno you’ve got to be schooled. El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, and Highland Park are all NELA. East Los is East Los. From Boyle heights to ELAC. You some hipster or what ese?!

  14. At a conference a few weeks agao I heard Judy Baca talking about some of her public art work and she talked about integrating indigenous perspectives/names/stories of place in one project. She had to remind people involved that “History doesn’t begin when YOU arrive”. A great line and so apropos for many of these discussions.

    Anyway, here’s my 2 cents…Northeast LA has been used by the city for a long time, as evidenced by the Northeast Community Plan that it puts out every decade (more or less).

    And, if we’re swapping stories to see who is more OG re. NELA…I was using the term in 1994 when I was a student at CSULA and itnerning at City Hall!

  15. I have heard that Northeast Los Angeles, not the abbreviation NELA, refers to the fact that the geographic northeast corner of the orginal pueblo border is located in Debs Park. so it does go back a few years…

  16. okay, if east l.a. is boyle heights to east l.a. proper, and el sereno is northeast l.a., how do city terrace and hazard situate into that? north east l.a.? south northeast l.a.? north south west northeast l.a.?

  17. and in the cast of o.g. cred, i was hearing the term “northeast l.a.” bandied about as far back as 1981, when i was going to the alternative school across from sycamore grove park.

  18. If you look at a Thomas Guide, Map 595 (2001 ed.), you can see the original borders of the pueblo de los angeles. Look to Debs Park. It says “Rancho City Lands of Los Angeles” along with a pink line. This is the “northeast” corner of the pueblo’s border, outside that were large ranchos like San Pascual, Verdugo, Los Feliz.

    There is some sort of marker in the park…I think it is near the sign on the Monterey Rd. entrance…need to check.

  19. Hey I live up north rite now and I rep my Dodger blues and USC over here not to mention my LA tat on my forarm but I seen some one with a N.E.L.A. shirt once!! My question is where can I get one I been to the swap mall y nada swap mall is in Highland Park. But I am proud to be from LA and would like a NELA shirt so if anyone knows please share!
    Thanks in advance M.Rodriguez

  20. I think NELA starts off on ave 45 and figeroa cause you got East La gangs in Lincoln Heights ive heard it refered to as Eastside on movies like american me where they mention broadway which is in licoln heights main st so there’s no question lincoln heights cypress park are area’s of the east la community but yet all what is considered NELA now! has alway’s been considered EAST LA community where gangs in Highland Park use to claim EAST LA till the late 90’s in lincoln heights there’s east la and the eastside brewary so yes my beginning of this paragraph is somthing to be taken in outlook also east la movie documentarys have been filmed in so called NELA like the black tops in lincoln heights came out on the movie blood in blood out or born in EAST LA was filmed in the cypress park highland park area even in el sereno so i guess NELA is just a term for goverment issues since the city of east la has gotten more populated in demographic numbers.

  21. In the late 70’s early 80’s there was a gang called “NéLA”, they were predominantly an Highland Park gang. There was also a gang “HLP”. Correct me if I’m wrong here but I think both gangs were absorbed by the Avenues.

  22. no HLP and N.E.L.A gangs were not consumed by the Avenues gang, both of these gangs are still alive and well, living in the northeast L.A

  23. Considering the economy today, I’ll go with the point of view that all of the old gangs are alive and well. The lack of community resources and jobs have crushed peoples’ goals, ambitions, and dreams, making the network of neighborhood homies stable by comparison. The scarce employment opportunities have also made the drug trade all the more alluring, and the increasing amount of participants, mostly gangs themselves, have knocked the profit margins down to where the fruits of the drug game today is mere grocery money for most. Basically, the drug trade has taken over the blue collar job market. I would never accuse the leaders of this country of using the gang world and its drug trade to keep people occupied and focused on hating each other as opposed to hating and rebelling against said leaders, but if they are, it’s working.

  24. lincoln heights, el sereno, cypress park, happy valley, hazard park, highland park, eagle rock, & glassel park are all considered “North East L.A.”
    it is home to gangs such as

    east side clover (ESC)
    lincoln heights (LxHTS)
    dog town (DxT)
    varrio east lake
    big hazard (BH)
    east side 18ST
    el sereno (ESR)
    happy valley (HPV)
    toonerville (TVR)
    avenues (AVES)
    cypress park (CxP)
    highland park (HLxP)
    surenos (SURx3)
    varrio north east la (NELA)
    glassel park
    drifters (DFS)

  25. NELA has been around since the 80’s because of the gang that took that name. It didnt start to be referenced as an area until the late 90’s. The referencing of the name has alot to do with the police station named after the area (North East). At first, the people to claim NELA were anybody who lived in the area that the North East police dept patrolled. It has expanded and as previous people have stated, it runs from El Sereno to Frogtown, but was originated in hlp. These are just my thoughts and is a summary of the stories I have heard on streets on how NELA came about.
    P.S hlp is still around but the gang nela has been dead for many years, although there are a couple of stragglers who still claim it from time to time.

  26. It’s hard to believe any gang is “dying” right now, considering the economic conditions. If one’s dying, one’s taking its place. That’s for sure. Sometimes I fell like the wealthy and their puppets in government are using the gang and drug dealing lifestyle as the new blue collar work force in low income areas, to keep as many residents as possible too preoccupied with drug dealing and gang beefs to take part in any kind of labor movement or political movement.

  27. NELA hood started in the late 60’s, B4 that NELA was rolling with Aves. NELA dies out than comes back hard like a roller coaster, it goes up than down. Alot of them are busted and some are on the run. Alot of them are doing there family thing. Theres are a lil handfull that still around in NELA hood. So dont think thats its really dead cus its not, its just been quiet in NELA varrio.

  28. yall forgot about frogtown, NELA starts from the river (Frogtown and Lincoln Heights) on the western edge

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