What happened to Broadway?


I am kind of sick of all this gentrification speculation about the Eastside being white-washed. It will take a lot more Clorox and wood-fire baked pizza to change East Los than yuppies have yet to offer in the American Southwest, so I don’t sit at home biting my nails that Nana will be evicted (well actually, she won’t, the house was paid for by Tata’s VA loan for pre-storming Normandy in WWII).  Even so, chuppies (chicano yuppies, a.k.a.  chicanos with degrees) have already gentrified these areas, but they are ingrained in the cultura and still buy elotes, so it isn’t as much a hard fit (in fact, I would say the same about Whites who are genuinely down with these areas).  Not that the genuine concerns of locals doesn’t matter or isn’t valid, but I think we need to focus on the tangible changes gentrification has already brought to the Latinoscapes of Los Angeles, specifically the Eastside’s center of gravity: Downtown.


I am actually ALL for the demographic diversification of Los Angeles; even my beloved Eastlos with all its sheltered ethnic enclave delights.  The truth is the quality of life in East Los has degraded since its multicultural times of yore, and although ignorant pundits of conservative mantras have tried to pin it on Mexicans since the decline coincided with the rise in Latino immigration; it is much more obvious that the downward slide had much more to do with the middle class drain on the community that began with White Flight and continued with the ban on segregated housing covenants in 1955 (thats when my grandparents moved to the newer Maravilla housing tract on the Monterey Park/East Los border, as did many East Los middle class residents).  Along with the decline in more economically stable residents, came the decline and eventual outright withdrawal of Corporate America, and the amenities that come with them, from this area.  This decline in economic revenue as well as citizens with the resources to devote their extra time and energy to improving the community had a devastating toll on the community.


We hear a lot of folks get all riled up about people talking down about the Eastside and rightfully so, there is prevalent history of those from better off places talking about the area in judgmental negative terms or outright exaggeration of the problems of the community for various agendas.  The East Los area has a beautiful history and community that has withstood unsurmountable obstacles while still holding its identity and social fabric intact for the most part, and because it isTHE epitome of Chicano Cultura in the Untied states and has been for the past half century. That is something to truly be proud of; it is for me as a 3rd generation East Los native; through my blood and activities/behaviors is instilled in my children and theirs.  My familia has celebrated gritos at City Hall for 5 generations (which we have all viewed from the same Eastside perspective), has eaten at Manuel’s since it opened, has buried several generations between Calvary, Evergreen and Resurrection, and has had “mi vida loca‘ imprinted on their wrist for 3 generations. I spent time at Eastlake Juvenile Hall and Nelles just like my pops and tíos, who visited Corcoran just like tata and my tíos, who served time just like tata and his dad who was a Yaqui guard at Florence State Penn in Arizona.  That is a true Eastside story and tradition, and eff all the pretentious judgment about that being a bad representation: its Eastsider history that is real.  We also were the campesinos picking in the fields, the pachucos and war vets, the cholos, the chicano pride teens running around the moratorium, the union vet and the pelón causing desmadre.


That last pic was of a viejita looking out for the policía. The next one is of a guy I befriended because he worked next to another vendor I came quite fond of.  She looked just like my little sister, and one time I stood by her old location at 6th and LA street for over an hour until she had no clientele. She was 6 months pregnant and was bursting at the seams, the crazy factor was high that night, so I put extra change in my meter and kept an eye on her till she was picked up.  I was pretty faithful to her corner for a year or so as she’d bring the mocoso around with her, and often talked to her.  The last I saw of her she was ducking la juda for just trying to serve people food at the same corner about a half year ago, dodging the bike cops by running her mobile cart into the shopping maze she stood in front of. I wonder how she’s doing…


Anyways, back to my rant about the tangible effects of gentrification in Downtown. I winced when I couldn’t get pirated CDs on the stroll, but was not too sad when the hooker tract in front of the tower theater or the Cholo Dope Gallery on 5th/6th ended with more diligent policing.  It was nice that those things ending on B’way coincided with my kids being old enough to get scared from illicit street activity, or the hard core illicit activity, But what about the fucken hot dogs? You see all the locals whistle and call when the chota approached, these flics of Broadway were taken a few years back during that transition. When the outright open bazaar atmosphere was being unlocked by the crowbars of gentrification, that tiny window of time between when Latino vendors had to live in fear of the outright control of illicit criminal enterprises and when cops took over the area and began harassing local vendors out of their bread ‘n’ butter.



That last pic was MY Broadway. The Broahweigh my grandparents bought the same hot dogs from, and their kids, and their kids, and my kids until quite recently. You’d think a hot dog being cooked off a baby stroller or shopping cart with a metal tray and sterno cans would imply “eat at our own risk”, but apparently not to our powers that be or the merchants that complain to them. I miss these guys, and now have to drive to undiscussed locations in outlying barrios to get my fix.


Anyways, I’ll leave the post with a positive image of Broadway used for the empowerment, rather than oppression, of brown folks, taken by me from a pole at La Gran Marcha a few years back.  I was going to Cal Poly back then and gathered a few like minded classmates to ditch for a class or two, it was worth it:


Those open days are gone on MY Broadway, No more hot dog vendors AT ALL. Heck, they even are hiding the illegal pets in the callejones, what world is this? How about fixing the big fucken problems before you go all out on the small ones?  The store fronts of these lofts on Broadway remain the major deadspots on the strip, so how the hell are these people supposed to be wanting vibrancy when the one vibrancy catalyst is aggressively attacked?

21 thoughts on “What happened to Broadway?

  1. Great story and background. While reading your piece three things came to mind.

    1) I remember my father taking me to go see Rambo II at a theater in downtown. I am not sure what theater it was- I was 5 or 4 yrs old. However I do remember all the hustling going on in the sidewalks all over Broadway. Illegal gambling, prostitution, fake IDs and/or green cards. Wow, how things have changed.

    2) You refered to educated Chicanos as chuppies in reference to yuppies. Calling them chuppies conatates a negative impression on all educated Chicanos. Being a yuppie is a culture, a way of life for spoiled rich people from the 80’s. Being educated does not make you a yuppie.

    3)Not all educated chicanos living in the Eastside are gentrifying the neighborhood. I bet the majority of does chicanos are second or third generation who choose to stay in the neighborhood rather than leave. I would call does chicanos purifiers not gentrifiers.

    Thank you Art for a great story.

  2. Great article, Art. And great pictures of a Broadway that’s becoming extinct. One thing about Broadway I’ve always noticed…it’s the only street in LA that looks like NY or Chicago. With the old buildings…and the shadows cast by the buildings. There is no other street in LA that looks like it. And, oven fire pizza…LOL. Yuk.

  3. preguntas and observations:
    why did middle class latinos/mejicanos move out of eastlos to the “other” neighborhoods like monterry park, montebello, etc? is it not because of the raza haciendo su desmadre? Is it a bad thing to want something- dare I say it- “better”!?!?

    Why be critical of the chicano-yuppie, chuppies? are they not the same middle class type folks that left the neighborhood that you attribute to the decline of the community?

    why are improved quality of life issues labeled as gentrification? is there a happy medium? Do we prefer (aka self loathing) seeing our community have hookers and hustlers, or is perhaps your sympathy for them misplaced?

    I guess I still remember when I could walk 2 blocks to the store to by a soda when I was like 8, but can’t imagine allowing my kids to do the same today. Not because my parents were bad or my kids are soft, but because it’s not the same kind of desmadre anymore.

    I suppose I’m not that nostalgic for the same period of time that you are, and would rather see gentrification with all its warts than the desmadre that it had all become…better to see the glass half full and the community on the up swing than half empty and despise the evolution…

    saying “there goes the barrio when “chuppies” move in sounds kinda like when the white people would say “there goes the neighborhood” when a latino family moved in…

    seacrest, out!

  4. Caxcan:
    You are right, the demographic of upwardly mobile educated chicanos I speak of is a totally different demographic than yuppies. As they are a different genre of newcomers than the generally paisano group that had previously been the ones moving into eastlos for the past half century, I stole and fused the term yuppies into chuppies and view them from an eastlos frame of reference rather than white america’s. The chicano version of an upwardly mobile person is usually different, especially those that move into or back to Eastlos. If they were yuppies I’d of called them yuppies, even if they were brown. I dont know, does that make sense? I didnt mean it in a negative way at all, in fact I think it is great to see BH and ELA get some demographic diversity that is not just racial. I also think its great that upwardly mobile (or whatever) whites and asians move into the area as well, the solid chicano culture is great but homogeneity isnt always the best for those living in it. as the first college grad in my family I try my best to expose my younger siblings to both the greatness of our community but also the greatness of the world they have not experienced, the one west of the harbor freeway.

    My use of the term gentrification is also not intended in a negative manner (when it is, I note it, like my comment about the empty storefronts of the eastern columbia building), but merely to describe a wave of new (often more economically stable) residents into a community. The neighborhood I live in now was gentrified by asians inthe 1980s and 90s, which is a good thing to me.

    I dont know where to start with your comments, that sure was a lot of assuming and putting words in my mouth. it seems like you chose to ignore half of what I was saying and look for the easy attacking points. Well, here goes:

    It is ignorant to assume the problem is created because it was only raza that generally stayed in eastlos, the problem was that it was generally only poor folks who stayed in the area which turned eastlos into a severe concentration of poverty. As I noted quite clearly, the problems started when the middle class (including raza) fled the area, and the problems of eastlos mirror the problems ANY community of ANY ethnicity faces when they endure a huge drain of wealth and amenities. I have no love for corporations who left the city because they didnt want to cater to brown people, I do understand and do not chastise those who left because the area began deteriorating and you had to drive miles to find decent stores that cater to a large segment of the community. I find fault in the whites who left because the area became “too mexican”, as well as the self hating latinos who did the same thing; I find no fault in those who moved to a better area to live in a community with better quality of life. As i said and you seem to have missed, my family did so, and I now live in alhambra for those every issues you bring up. I think it would take a longer explanation that could become a thesis paper for me to further explain.

    I never said anything negative about chuppies, you assumed that. I myself have a degree and would fall into the chuppie category under certain eyes. My apologies, but I meant that term in a nonjudgemental manner, I forget how derogatory that term is seen as. Chuppies are totally different than yuppies, maybe another topic will be made on it.:) Good point and I agree.

    To me gentrification can be a stable term to mena an infusion of a new demographic of people who are at the same financial level or more wealthy than those currently living there. McArthur Park was gentrified by central americans in the 1980s, displacing its former ethnic white elderly population. I only speak of gentrification negatively when I point out the negatives of it. East LA has been gentrified a bit by chuppies, I think this is a great thing and fully support it. I will never lose my love for street vendors but I also think eastlos residents deserve more commercial diversity and the same amenities other communities have. so we actually agree on this my firend.

    And again, dont put words in my mouth, especially when I explicitly noted how happy I was to see them gone (hookers and dealers). You dont know how many family fun trips to Broadway were ruined by these folks, that bad tradition was also generations deep in my familia.

    On the desmadre I agree, that why i live in alhambra unfortunately (as well as the diversity,my sons school is 50/40 asian latino and mixed income, religion and country of origin). I have been shot stabbed and beaten near death despite never gangbanging, in Eastlos, and dont want my kids to endure that BS. funny thing is my neighborhood now I wouldnt let my kids walk to the store because of the car traffic issues.

    You again assume alot about what I said, despite much of my commentary directly contradicting your assumptions. Take the huelga somewhere else hombre, we actually agree on a lot of what’s been discussed. but you have to present it intelligently, because rationally the whole “raza caused this mess” BS is just as ignorant as “whitey caused this mess” black or white silliness.

    I said I miss buying hot dogs and elotes from street vendors, that has nothing to do with advocating hookers or any other of the bad that goes down in our urban areas. Nostalgia is usually reserved for the good things.

  5. i got to agree with you ungalan, we should want chicanos to have a education and better themselves and have better jobs and more involvement with goverment, this mentality of breeding ingnorance has to end, do we want are children to be in gangs and act like idiots, is that what you consider being east side.

  6. “…Heck, they even are hiding the illegal pets in the callejones, what world is this?”

    Thankfully, an evolving world, with basic protection for animals.

  7. Pablo, I don’t recall Art saying that he doesn’t want Chicanos to have an education, better themselves, have better jobs, and be more involved with the government. I also don’t recall Art saying that being in gangs is being “eastside”. Where did you read this?

  8. Good post Art, and from the heart which is also a good thing, it’s too bad that some troll would use your wise consejo and observations to extol some twisted thinking.
    As far as Chicanos (or anyone) moving back to the Eastside after being educated and evolving, that’s also a good thing as long as there is respect and tolerance for the long time residents and their way of life.
    I am seeing this occur in many areas in the southwest.
    In Trinidad Colorado where many in my family are from, and left many years ago,(working in a coal mine doesn’t have much future), there is now a curious thing happening, retiree’s who moved to Califas many years are moving back in droves. It seems these retired jente and their Chuppie offspring are buying up all kinds of property’s and building large beautiful homes.
    They are referred to by the locals as “The Boomerang People”
    Lots of Boomerang people moving to the Eastside too.

  9. Art, thanx for the Broadway snapshot. el centro has been changing a lot these past couple years. getting off the bus on broadway and getting a $1 tray of fruta is getting harder to come by. i hope the “revitalization” efforts don’t forget all the people who have kept broadway vibrant throughout the years.

    i don’t think anybody here is actually advocating for crime-ridden streets or discouraging people from getting their education on. i’m sure we’re all for improving the neighborhood. but what’s considered “improvement” or “revitalization” or even “gentrification” is up for discussion. who’s ideas are being pushed in city/county redevelopment plans? are long-time residents’ ideas being taken into consideration? who benefits? who loses out?

    “gentrification” often has negative connotations to it… probably because of the way we’ve actually seen it play out. any change that happens in the neighborhood should be made with the interest of the current residents in mind and with their full participation/consent. sadly this is often not the case.

  10. Nicely nuanced post (kind of refreshing, thanks!)

    Gentrification, racial diversity (and the lack of it), education, income and ‘chuppies’ are all complex, nuanced topics and it’s nice to complex look at them.

    People on both sides of the issues tend to miss that kind of thinking – i.e. some people can explain why it’s ‘bad’ that brentwood is not diverse but fail to see the even ‘worse’ lack of diversity in East Los.

    And as for ELA vs. Alhambra, we could really use you back here on the other side of the 60!

    We need more people with vision and intelligence, of every race, for all the reasons you so eloquently laid out. If you are that concerned, come back and live here!

  11. JustB, I never left eastlos. i run an organization called East LA community arts and mural program that works with gangs and beautifies blighted areas with murals (www.elacamp.org). I live a half mile from el sereno, have parents and grandparents and numerous family that live in eastlos that I visit almost daily. eastlos is part of my life and family and who I am.

    This is not the 1950s, suburban poverty has destroyed the notion that living a mile east of the barrio somehow means you are not contributing to it. My alhambra neighborhood is a working class ethnic community as well, and I like living there and feel that my address does not diminish the community work i do in eastlos.

    I have kids, and live in alhambra because of the school district and quality of life, and I am not ashamed of that at all. I grew up in aliso village projects and have contributed more to the barrio than most, and will continue to do so until i am unable to. I like the neighborhood I live in and although i appreciate your sentiment, I think it isnt really an issue that I live a few blocks east of Sereno.

    I work with gangs and spend time in some of the worst locations trying to improve them, and it is nice to come home and enjoy my enighborhood as well.

  12. Art, I think you and I agree more than we disagree, and there were certainly some assumptions on my part about your use of the word gentrification as neutral, but take it easy on the defensiveness and name calling vato. I don’t assume or imply your ignorance, and started my post with “preguntas and observations” because it was a quick note with a little of both. And I think this IS the appropriate forum for my “huelga” since the blog is about the barrio, gentrification, and race.

    My challenge to your nostalgia for the old broadway was more to provoke discussion (which it did) and discuss the perception that gentrification or “whitewashing” has to be a bad thing.

    In rereading your original post, I still feel like you describe gentrification (“whitewashing” implying some strong racial stereotypes…”take a lot more clorox…” not sure how that is read as neutral) and chuppies (“so it isnt as much a hard fit” implying that chuppies don’t fit…) negatively, and I think a lot of other reasonable readers did and would have.

    Overall, I think your use of racially charged terms like “whitewashing” and saying “I find fault in the whites who left because the area became “too mexican”, as well as the SELF HATING LATINOS(emphasis added) who did the same thing; I find no fault in those who moved to a better area to live in a community with better quality of life” show a lot of assumptions on your part about why those with the means left the neighborhood and how they describe or self identify that flight. Did your family move out because the neighborhood was “too Mexican”?

    There’s a lot going on in that last quote brother… is desmadre and poverty and mexicanness the same? Because latinos don’t want desmadre is that the same as “too Mexican”? Even if it is, does that mean they are self hating, or just resentful of the raza that gives the collective Raza a bad name?

    I see the taggin, hustling, and bangin as conditions of poverty across race. And as you mention, this happened and happens anywhere poverty rears its ugly head despite race, but why when the community becomes repopulated with self-respecting people who want to improve the quality of life issues around them does it mean it’s being “whitewashed.”?

    Do only white people want clean, safe, streets, good schools etc.?

    I sort of self identify with another made up term- I like to call it a Bill Cosby democrat. You see, I get the conditions of poverty deal, but won’t give a pass to the raza that doesn’t want to make the neighborhood better, regardless of what race lays claim to those social indicators that make up a “good quality of life.”

    How many times have you heard “pinche raza no se aguanta!” To not place the blame on raza that causes desmadre is to give a free pass to those that make the collective Raza look bad brother. We can’t let other people call out our communities and defend it blindly when we are often our own worst enemies…like Obama said “brother’s should pull up their pants”*

    In my eyes, I refuse to give “whiteness’ claim to good neighborhoods, and am willing to speak honestly about raza that exacerbate problematic conditions of poverty despite being given the opportunity to overcome the obstacles placed before them.

    I know a lot of chuppies who are coming home- to make their community better- rather than the “up and outs” who fled to other communities and I have a ton of respect for them. They’re willing to do what you and I won’t, since we both live in those lets say “transitional” neighborhoods.

    It’s nothing personal brother, and this kind of discussion and debate fosters better ideas and solutions. Much respect to you FOR working with the raza that’s bangin, but don’t give them a free pass either. Call them out, help instill self respect, and teach them to be responsible for themselves and their community, sometimes we all need to be checked and they can make choices too…

    All in all, I think I do present it intelligently, and hope that it provokes thought of the readers and discussion in this forum…

    “Here is my attitude: I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, health care, dealing with the war in Iraq, and anybody, any public official, that is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What’s wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face, that you don’t have to pass a law, but that doesn’t mean folks can’t have some sense and some respect for other people and, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I’m one of them.”

    my securuty word was
    jajajaja that’s funny!

  13. Art – Thanks for the response regardless.

    UnGalan is right on with the ‘no free passes’ stuff.

    And I totally understand the reasons someone might want to leave EastLos. We don’t have kids so for us it’s not pressing but in seven years or so when the ones we will have are ready to go to school I don’t know WTF we’ll do. Probably join you over there; unfortunately the LAUSD has decided to fail those of us not rich enough to live on the westside or west valley.

  14. Very good points Ungalan and just8,
    I too agree about the no free pases, mentality when working with kids and adults, its usually the best way to deal with people as well as prep them to engage in the real world.

    I have 3 boys and was raised by a WW2 grandfather, si definitely go for that kind of discipline.

  15. great piece.
    I think everyone regardless of race wants to better themselves and have it be better for their own children.

    I grew up in City Terrace and before I was born my parents lived near Soto St and Brooklyn (now Cesar Chavez).

    Now most of my family lives in Montebello,Whittier and Alhambra.
    The top reason we left City Terrace was the violence and crime.
    I wrote a post about a website that gives you real time stats about crime in your neighborhood check it out: http://loveandhatela.blogspot.com/2009/06/check-out-your-neighborhood.html

  16. This is a great thread.

    I want to defend chuppies for a moment here. There’s a huge jobs problem on the eastside and even in the eastern suburbs.

    If you work hard and get into UC or Stanford or whatever, or even Cal State LA in some majors, it’s hard to find some kinds of work in the area.

    There aren’t many “tech” jobs. There aren’t many media jobs. Publishing isn’t there. Finance. Architecture. Art. Law.

    These jobs are on the westside, the SFV, and Long Beach. Early on, the chuppies have to move to the work, or endure a long commute.

    Eventually, they’ll get established, and can then choose from jobs. Until then, I don’t think they have a lot of choices, if they intend to have a career.

  17. That’s why I drive from atlantic & third to El Segundo every fucking morning. I live where I feel comfortable and work where the jobs in my industry are.

  18. woohoo! the marcha was awesome
    And they should leave the vendors alone.. if people want to risk getting sick then let them.. lol

    HA talk about commute.. we are about to move to San Fernando and I work in Santa Monica and hubby by LAX. I would never live in Santa Monica or “WEST LA” .. ew

  19. HA talk about commute we are about to move to San Fernando and I work in Santa Monica and hubby by El Segundo.. I would NEVER live in Santa Monica or “WEST LA” ew..

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