Boyle Heights Farmers Market

The first of weekly Friday farmers markets at Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza launched last week to the sounds of boleros and sweet scents of fresh produce.  Vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables from Oxnard, roasted peanuts by the Tiny Peanut Factory, homemade soaps and oils, Chicano-themed art, aguas frescas and coffee were accompanied by live mariachi music and a deejay from 92.3 The Beat.  The vendors were small in number but the liveliness of the homegrown crowd were enough to keep the market in residence at the corner of 1st and Bailey.  Market organizer, Juan Romero, who also owns and operates Primera Taza coffeehouse – a pebbles throw from Mariachi Plaza – says number of vendors will grow in the next few weeks.  The market offers a great family atmosphere and an alternative in grocery shopping. Check it out!

Cafecito Organico

Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction may hold world titles in hipster density and most trafficked trendy businesses but who wants to gamble with parking enforcement and wait in twenty-minute lines for a freakin’ cup of coffee just to sport Intelligentsia’s logo?

Gamble not and wait not for Cafecito Organico has arrived next door, literally. Well, at least for those who do live next door and in walking distance from the cafe in the mostly residential area of Silver Lake. Nestled on the corner of Hoover and Bellvue, Cafecito Organico is the newest cafe in the area and only a two-minute drive from the hip Sunset Junction block. Reminiscent of a typical Italian coffee bar, the cafe struts a standing counter inside for those customers in for a quick espresso stop. The backdoor patio lets the loungers sip on lattes and check their email.
A relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, Cafecito offers quite the opposite experience from neighboring often-overcrowded gourmet coffee shops. Customers will usually be greeted by the owners, Mitch Hale and Angel Orozco – both awesome baristas and the nicest, most humble people on the planet – and their friendly staff. Mitch, Angel and their staff can also be found at the Silver Lake and Hollywood Farmers Markets on Saturdays and Sundays, where their business started two years ago and has become so successful that they had to open a shop to supply the demand of their loyal customers.
Cafecito’s menu is traditionally simple with a couple of house originals – the Cafecito (hot drink) and Global Warming (cold drink), both made with Cafecito’s orignial espresso blend, choice of milk and raw sugar cane juice. Their coffee, all hand-roasted by Angel and staff near downtown, is ground and brewed one cup at a time.
Cafecito Organico has raised the bar in quality coffee, excellent service and a most genuine welcoming environment. It is soon to be a stop Angelenos will not be able to live without.
Cafecito Organico
534 N. Hoover Street (corner of Bellevue)
Los Angeles, 90004

Unincorporated East LA marries three

On April 1, 2010, the entire board of supervisors for Los Angeles County witnessed a historical event at the East Los Angeles civil court: the marriage of Juana Juanes-Robinson and her two husbands, Juan Juanes and Bob Robinson. After twelve years of protest and push from community residents and supporters throughout the county, thousands of supporters for PWWMT (People Who Wanna Marry Two) waited outside of the civil courthouse for Juana and her two husbands to tie their knots.

Thirty seven more 2+1 marriage ceremonies are scheduled through the summer of 2010.

Brooklyn Music Center, Boyle Heights

My good friend asked me to share her words about the Brooklyn Music Center, the new music space operated by Ollin’s front man, Scott Rodarte.

Brooklyn Avenue Roots, Alive and Rockin’
By Victoria Kraus

A new community music school will open its doors this January along Cesar Chavez Avenue (formerly Brooklyn Avenue) by East Los rockin’ roller, Scott Rodarte of local Chicano punk-rock band Ollín.

Brooklyn Music Center

The Brooklyn Music Center (BMC) will function primarily as a school offering children and adults alike in the community affordable group and private lessons on a variety of instruments. The space will also be equipped and available to bands for rehearsals and recording.

“Our vision is to help generate art in the neighborhood so folks don’t have to go outside of the community to create or be enriched, musically,” Rodarte says of his music center.

The Brooklyn Music Center was previously the Brooklyn Medical Clinic. The space, still reminiscent of its history with its vintage architecture and glass blocks along the storefront entrance, was a shared medical and optometry clinic owned and operated by Doctors Freidman and Kaplan. Scott and his brother, Randy, also of Ollín, used to work at the clinic while in high school, where they made pairs of glasses among doing other administrative duties.

Rodarte remembers the variety of commerce that used to thrive on Brooklyn Avenue such as the Brooklyn Theatre directly across the street from his music school, Phillips Music a few doors down, and Kens, a sporting goods store. “You know, all the mom and pop stores that were around before the corporate entities like Guitar Center, AMC Theatres and Big 5 took hold of society,” Rodarte reminisces.

BMC might stir some friendly rivalry with Boyle Heights’ acclaimed Neighborhood Music School but friendly would be is as far is gets. Rodarte has more of a rocker’s intention with the music program he plans to build. Rodarte and fellow musicians from his band along with friends will be teaching everything from percussion to electric guitar, maybe even the washboard.

Remodeling of the Brooklyn Music Center is scheduled to complete in early January.

2515 E. Cesar Chavez Ave.  (at Fickett) 90033

ICE team takes a Starbucks break

A couple of friends and I were at the Little Tokyo Starbucks in early December when we heard a loud engine rumbling. We turn around and it was none other than the ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) team parking their gigantic greyhound bus in the red zone for a coffee stop. We couldn’t see through the windows if there were any “illegals” inside. This was just days after the big ICE sweep of 280 illegal immigrants (some with criminal records!) on December 11.

Does my tax money really go to this kind of bullshit?

big ICE bus

big ICE bus

the smaller, faster van, just in case

the smaller, faster van, just in case

The Dentrimental Downer of the Digital Camera

On my way home up an undisclosed street in Boyle Heights at 11pm on a Monday night, I saw a news van parked in front of a food stand.*  The food stand were run by a familiar Breed Street family.  Since I had my digital point-and-shoot handy, I stopped and took a few photos (without the flash).  I was immediately approached by one of the individuals with the food team and her male sidekick.  They asked me in Spanish what I was taking the photos for.  I responded in my poor Spanish that the photos were just for me, that I lived in the neighborhood and that I was also a regular customer.  They proceeded to explain that they’ve been getting harassed by the cops and that all the Breed Street vendors were kicked out because of all the media hype.  Then the news reporter for the [undisclosed] news station approached me and explained that they were there doing the story to publicize the negative repercussions the Councilman’s office has had on the livelihoods of the Breed Street family businesses.

For a moment, I felt like a criminal for carrying a handheld camera.  Granted, from where I was standing and my lack of professionalism not having approached anyone for their consent, I did look like a suspicious onlooker with a possible ulterior motive.  But I’m just an ordinary girl living in an ordinary world with an affordable digital camera made for the consumer.  Why was I looked at as a threat?

Everyone has a camera these days, whether it’s a feature on their phone, a point-and-shoot within arm’s reach of their breast pocket, or an SLR slung around their shoulder.  In a time where communication is excitingly instant via the phone and internet, however, it is easy to overlook the flipside of all the hype.  People communicating and sharing information with each other on their own volition has become nearly detrimental to the livelihoods of the people we talk about on blogs like this.  We’ve become LA Times’ enablers.  We’ve even become, I dare say, enablers of gentrification.  It’s become quite apparent that anything “underground” is considered “cool” and “hip.”  Once it spreads word-of-mouth, we’ll see the information and all its details on a blog somewhere.  Then it becomes officially popular and the official news media go after their hot story secretly using the local blogs as their direct source of information.  Then it becomes a matter of control.  City councilmen suddenly become the faces of everything that’s been going on in their very own community that they didn’t know about before the LA Times article appeared.

Lesson learned: use caution when taking photos.

Solution: Should I just take pictures of landscape and candids at family barbeques to avoid any possible controversy?

*names will not be named

Dia de los Muertos hosted by Self Help Graphics at the East LA Civic Center

The 36th annual Dia de los Muertos event was held at the East LA Civic Center on Monday, November 2. An incredible gathering of a few thousand, the use of green space around the lake and the lake’s floating stage gave East LA a taste of Woodstock – in my humble opinion – without the sex, drugs and Santana. Locals of all ages, families, friends, couples young and old, enjoyed the non-ticketed event’s music and various art activities and vendors. Beloved local bands Ollín, La Santa Cecilia and Killsonic performed favorites. Texas trio, Girl in a Coma closed the event.

American Social Problems

I attended an intro to sociology course called “American Social Problems” during the second week of school at ELAC and left questioning my academic, sociocultural, and career intentions with a shed of liberal light from an episode of Michael Moore’s “Awful Truth.” Why do I really want to go to school? Am I making a bad investment with hopes of an unreasonably better return that I probably don’t deserve? If I succumb to the system, will I turn into a capitalist-driven bloodsucker whose bottom line is money?

I think America is inflicted with an at-large social cancer that is slowly (or quickly, depending on how one interprets time and space) detiriorating the human spirit and his/her pursuit of true happiness. This cancer is so detectable, it’s undetectable. I cringe when I see my neighbor’s toddler children eating corporate-made candies with their silver capped teeth. My heart aches when I see jobless, injured, disabled people loitering around Downtown LA, in front of LA County Hospital, at Hollebeck Park.

Will I change in a semester? Where is the hope in a deteriorating society?

More American social problems:
– Prescription drug addiction
– Overprescribing people
– Overdiagnosing people
– Inhumane conditions in American city/county jails and state prisons
– Close-minded Americanism
– American greed
– American obesity
– Corporate takeover on food
– Lazy, apathetic government employees
– American apathy
– Under-representation of day laborers who live month-to-month
– Corporate education


Piolin gives gas

Piolin, the excitedly animated morning radio host, loved by many and hated by just as many, picked up the tab at the pump on Monday at Pronto Gas station in Boyle Heights.

The line of cars waiting for their free prize was like the line of people waiting to get their free $1 dollar bill from that priest in Downtown on Christmas – endless and not worth the wait, but entertaining to deliberate what people would do for free things and why.

Pronto Gas Station - Soto y Wabash

Pronto Gas Station - Soto y Wabash