Calle Soto


When I was growing up in the magical neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Soto street was an end, a line that defined the practical limits of my universe. A block or two more to the West and you’d be crossing the river into El Centro, and unless you were on the bus with a few dollars and a reason, you just didn’t need to head in that direction. Everything you wanted to do was happening East of Soto. But  if you traveled along it, Soto St was also a way to quickly get to another part of the Eastside, namely up to Brooklyn Ave and that mitote of tiendas. Or you could head south to Huntington Park for even better deals on cheap clothes. In either case, Soto connected you to where you wanted to waste your weekend.

Nowadays I’ve mostly strayed away from this defining street but I’m quite sure it still functions as a psychogeographic barrier for those in BH. I still travel its distance quite often, noting the changes, trying to remember spots I should make a point to check out. Sometimes I bring along a camera.

Cross over to see some pics of life on or near Soto!


Opening up a meal of some sort of cereal.


Street corner standers, and a man with a funny hat that pushes a cart. This shot was taken a bit deep into City Terrace, a neighborhood I imagine just off Soto via Marengo. Sense of distance will vary based on familiarity.


The cornucopia at LA Market. Beer and Wine and phone cards a-plenty!


Old sign with bullet holes.


Musicos doing the fist bump. Fucking foreign assimilators.


Grand Opening for a flower shop in Boyle Heights.


Headed towards Vernon, a sign for Barbacoa.


I’ve done both, but this is just weird.


A member of the Raider Nation. Except in his current Lakers garb. With a stylized LA tattoo (think Dodgers) on his neck just peeking out.


Decorating the train underpass.


Pastillas de no-chiquitolina. Entiendes?


Taco vendor by the recycling center.


The pedestrian unfriendly stretch of Soto, by the freeway exchange. Yet another psychogeographic barrier to the landscape, effectively segmenting the BH neighborhood. Something you’ll never see in wealthy neighborhoods.


Vendors outside of a church. Though it was near to my home, I only remember going into this church the one time we said goodbye to the muertito that was my tio Jose. There seems to be lots more eating options now.


Summer Camp Getaway. Under a freeway. Except its in the winter. And the rest of the year as well. Plus there’s no getaway in sight. Life in Los Angeles. Staying alive in Los Angeles.


A few blocks away, a photo shoot for a goofy car accessorized by a naked lady goes on as scheduled.


Barbacoa in an auto glass yard. Of course it makes sense!

Oh Soto St!
Stream of exhaust fumes
Trail for piggies awaiting an end
Plaza de Soledad
Asphalt road of commerce
I use you
But I hate you
O, Calle Soto…

20 thoughts on “Calle Soto

  1. Why “hate”–it’s beautiful. Ok, I see. Well I hate the thought of the 5pm to 7pm crunch on Soto and Cesar Chavez—damn buses letting people on and off (throughout the whole light transition) and someone taking a left—grid lock back the the last light! But there are some dress shops and chucheria shops with newly over stuffed window displays to meditate on, someone setting up the evening taco buffet—oh and loud music du jour from that cd store. Bless those entrepreneurs, they play background to the high school lovers blending into the crowd, hugging and kissing, while they wait for the bus.

  2. Its been over a year since i been by Soto and Cesar Chavez, i grew up knowing it as Brooklyn ave in the 1980’s.

    My very first savings account as a kid was opened for me at the BofA across from Big Buy- where my parents would do their weekly shopping- i still remember how tight the aisles were and how fully stocked the place was- they made good use of every square foot.

    Sometimes if we were good my mom would treat my brother and i to burgers next door to the BofA.
    My dad would be working and my mom would take us on the RTD from City Terrace.
    She would stop at the farmacia Ramirez and get some stuff there too.
    The mens store i forgot the places name but its now closed- we would get fitted for dress pants there and also remember going to the store called Candy Cane.

    I remember watching tv in the early 1990’s and seeing Brooklyn ave on an episode of NBC the Pretender- Jarrod played by Michael Weiss was seen entering a business there.
    And i still remember the Shakey’s down the street and of course El Pollo Loco too.

    I need to stop by one of these days when i take the gold line into downtown los angeles 🙂

  3. Exqueeze me ? Baking Powder ? I’m sorry C but you are way off on this one. I have nothing but AMOR for Soto. All over the world, Soto and Chavez is know as the Mecca for Latino/a immigrants. Except for a few stores, Soto has remained timeless, just like the three murals that make up that corner. No where in L.A. can you find such an intersection as unique Soto and Chavez. Crossroads of the world.

    I pass by everyday on my way to school, on my way home. On my way to the West, further East South and North. Tamales, churros, hot dogs with bacon, elotes and candies galore.
    Bootleg dvd’s and cd’s as well.
    Soto, life line to Boyle Heights.
    Mother Soto.
    Provider of nourishment, transportation and life.

  4. I’m with Random on this one.

    I live two blocks west of Soto but I use it as a compass. Always know where true north is looking up towards the hill before you get to Hazzard Park.

    As a kid, my father would bring me to a little shoe store on the corner where I live now. Its a nail shop today. They had the cheapest Nike Cortez there. Then we would get an horchata at the restaurant across the street with the Virgen mural and back to Big Buy. After that a hot a dog at George’s next to BofA. I remember they steamed their buns there and when I was a kid they were thee best hot dogs for me.

    I lived for a while on Soto across from KFC. It is city living like in any major city. Noises of life all the time. We like to think we can have the ‘american’ suburban life and with our big ass LA backyards and such, and we fool ourselves thinking we aren’t in a major cosmopolitan city. More specifically we are in the Mexican dominated Eastside.

    My girfriend was raised in the Valley and when I brought her for the first time to Soto and Chavez she said she never felt more in Mexico. I take that as a compliment.

  5. growing up in the area, i always thought the river or even Boyle was more of a dividing line. If Boyle Heights was Disneyland, Soto was like Main st. Boyle or the bridges were like Frontierland.

    “The pedestrian unfriendly stretch of Soto, by the freeway exchange. Yet another psychogeographic barrier to the landscape, effectively segmenting the BH neighborhood. Something you’ll never see in wealthy neighborhoods.”

    I recommend you read an article in Southern California Quarterly by Gilbert Estrada,( Estrada, Gilbert. “If you Build it, They Will Move: The Los ANgeles Freeway system and the Displacement of Mexican East Los Angeles 1944-1972.” Southern California Quarterly, 2005: 289-315.)

    The article discussed the creation freeway system and disparity in it construction in the Eastside versus other areas. I wrote an essay on the issue my senior year at Cal Poly. I’ll refrain from quoting it and spare you guys my self aggrandizement. But i will share this little nugget of information from Gilbert Estrada, “only 61 percent of the freeways in the 1958 Master Plan were ever built, but 100 percent of the freeways in East Los Angeles from the Master Plan were built. In addition, the freeway construction in the region exceeded what had originally planned. “

  6. btw, anyone notice the walk tour walking around today, sunday Feb 21. I think its funny how some tour groups stick out like sore thumbs

  7. Yes, Off the Street, it was weird to see a HUGE herd of tourist today. I saw them on 1st street & St Louis. Vyal One and his aerosol class were bombing the walls of Casa 0101 Annex for the upcoming Juarez Exhibit—AND the tour entered! They said they are an urban planning class cruising on the goldline today. We invited them to our opening!

    Chavo, my spam word was ‘niamo’–que es eso??

  8. anti spam word: nomaster. you guys need to learn to use the space bar

    oddly enough i was driving by exactly when they were crossing the street and stopped there.

  9. Chavo, I’m surprised I’m not in any of the pictures! I decided I needed to go on a long walk yesterday morning and walked up Soto from 8th St before turning East on Chavez—and I think I recognize a couple of characters in the photos, including the scene at Sta Isabel.

    Yeah, I think Soto is an interesting street. And some things about it bug me, like the scary stretch under the freeway overpasses, the trailers with live pigs that leave the stench of manure everywhere on the way to Farmer John’s in Vernon, and the lack of bus/bike lanes on such a busy and crucial street. (Bus Riders Union was pushing for a much-needed bus-only lane on Soto but it’ll probably never happen.)

    I live about 100 feet east of Soto so I’ve been feeling extra passionate about it lately in good ways and bad.

  10. Yes, Soto St was always in my mind, clearly, when we went to the old Sears Building in the 60’s and 70’s, the street is just as much a landmark as the Sears building itself in my opinion.

  11. RTD bus number 50 would be my connection to Soto Street from Lincoln Heights in the 70’s and early 80’s. My primary destination would be Sears and the now defunct Crawford’s Corner. I recall going to Sears to buy back to school clothes with my moms and I’d always manage to get myself PEANUTS(Charlie Brown,Snoopy,etc.) and Dennis the Menace paperbacks. I remember passing by Orozco Tacos, the murals on Chavez and Soto but not much else. I remember visitng my abuela in her final days at the hospital on 4th. I also recall walking all the way from the Heights to Soto with my friends on a great comic book hunt and being disappointed the liquor store on 1st was closed(it was a Sunday) and looking in through the window and seeing all the colorful comics on the the metal turnstile-like racks.

  12. Chamuco d Boyle Heights is changing his name to the more gentler and kinder “Tico Tico”, after the the restaurant of the same name that once stood at the northeast corner of Brooklyn and Soto in the “Sixties”.
    Does anyone out there in cyberlandia remember Brooklyn Ave. of the “Sixties”? Like the little Thrifty’s across the the street from the “Safe Wave”. Canter’s Deli, Bee’s DiscountStore, The Cheese Cake Bakery nextdoor to the old Thrifty’s, Johnsons Market and the Weinermobile?
    How about the Brooklyn Theater where at Christmas time the theater
    played cartoons for the kids an
    Variety Boys (& Girls) Club and gave gifts too?
    Tico Tico

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *