Republic of East LA? Some Suggestions


Unincorporated East Los Angeles is making another attempt at becoming a proper city by launching an economic feasibility study, which basically means they’re going to see if they can afford to move out from under the roof of the County. The drive even has a decent website so you know they’re serious. Whether it’s a smart idea or not will be hashed out in the coming months, assuming it gets beyond the initial stages. I’m not sure what to think yet but the idea of creating more positions of power, which inevitably leads to the abuse of, isn’t very exciting. But there are a few scenarios I can envision which might make it worthwhile. So here go a few suggestions that might convince me to throw in my pledge of support!

1. If they promised to figure out an alternative to the heavy hand of the County Sheriffs, that would be an automatic plus. No, just contracting out to them or the LAPD is not going to cut it, even an East LA Police Dept doesn’t sound like a good idea. There needs to be some visionary thinking that will do away with the generalized harassment of citizens and the youth. It sucks to grow up in a place where you’re constantly fearing both the gangs and the cops. Yeah, I know, not bloody likely. But if you’re gonna start a new city you might as well think big.

2. Respect the ambulantes! No more of these bullshit selectively enforced anti-taco truck bans, or the ridiculous crackdowns on those that supply us our daily fruit and elotes, that type of backward thinking has got to go. There are many ways you can ensure safe handling of food while letting people try to make a living; if the rest of the world can do it, so can we.

3. Ban all Chivas Futbol merchandise. Yeah, that’s a personal request but so what, they suck. Go Atlas!

4. And finally, the main condition, the one that got me thinking about this: make Spanish one of the official languages. Of course, along with English, Chinese (Monterey Park is next door, you need to be good neighbors), Japanese, Spanglish, Calo, Pocho-Spanish (that abrasive tongue of the 2nd and 3rd generation Chicano), and a few others I know I’m missing. Maybe that way when some idiotic governor comes into the East Los territories, he can be charged with committing a hate crime for his continued attacks on people that refuse to be monolingual. Just because he has chosen to turn his back on his Austrian culture and language to try and learn English (keep trying!) doesn’t mean others need to do the same. Turn off all Spanish language media to learn English? Dude, yer not even an English teacher, STFU! How else am I to know that Antonio Aguilar passed away, without him being compared to some dude named Roy Rogers? Where else can I expect decent -live- coverage of the police going apeshit on May Day marchers? Am I supposed to give up watching a game I enjoy (along with the rest of the world) just because English speaking broadcasters here think baseball is interesting? Yeah, right! Meester Arnie, jew arr wrrong.

Growing up ni de aqui, ni de alla I’ve realized culture and cities can only remain vibrant by hearing, learning, and making use of elements from other cultures and places. Those that refuse to accept change or to allow different-ness are dead cultures: when the last boneheaded stalwart kicks the can, your place in history is over. Take a cue from the Mexicans: they managed to find a good use for your Austrian/German oompa instruments, incorporated it into the culture, and are still blasting new tuba and accordion songs out of car radios. (Maybe to the dismay of many Angelenos, but don’t worry, once you learn to appreciate the thump you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.) They’re even putting English words into common Spanish usage. For example, the picture above where it says Parqueo, it should read Estacionamiento but cross-cultural pollination has made it a common and accepted term for parking. It’s even in use down south.


Here’s another one: instead of peseta, the term for quarter has turned into cora, which sounds similar to the English term. See? Spanish speakers learn more English than the haters want to realize. Mexicans are trying hard to meet you halfway, but you keep pulling the line closer to you as soon as they get there.

So those are my suggestions for what might make an interesting city of East LA. Actually, considering the backwardness of the times we live in, I think I’d be satisfied with just the acceptance of a multi-lingual city. Does anyone else think that would be a good idea?

23 thoughts on “Republic of East LA? Some Suggestions”

  1. I anxiously wait what you write on saturday mornings. Absent the resources to dig from her (slow ass wifi connection on the road) I wish i knew how that area never was incorporated in the great land grab that started at the turn of the last century when little wasn’t annexed by LA City Hall proper. Sometimes that history gives us a clue on what do to now.

  2. Ya I found the governator’s statement a bit amusing. Turning his back on German didn’t seem to help that much. Who can understand what he’s saying through that thick Bavarian accent?

  3. By the way, Arnie has been largely disowned by Austria. He went from being hugely popular to being generally reviled over his strong support for capital punishment.

  4. I remember reading somewhere (I don’t remember where; maybe City of Quartz?) that East L.A. wasn’t annexed in the 20th because annexation would give too much power to Latinos; in short, it would counterbalance the power held by the other regions of the city, namely Hancock Park.

    I hope this inspires other unincorporated areas (Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Baldwin Hills, Willowbrook) to become cities. I’ve never understood why some regions of the map don’t become cities or join others (like Walnut Park).

  5. I’m curious about the photo at the top of this post (eastla_parqueo.jpg).

    That parking garage is on Commercial St. just east of Alameda in downtown LA. That’s the Alameda-facing side of the building.

    (You can see a birds-eye view via Live Search here.)

    That’s not exactly the Westside, :-) but it’s certainly not East Los. (It’s about 2 1/2 miles from the nearest border of unincorporated East Los Angeles.)

  6. LA Mapnerd,
    Yeah, that was taken Downtown, it wasn’t meant to represent ELA, just used it for the language usage. The other one is from a water store in Highland Park.

  7. “Maybe that way when some idiotic governor comes into the East Los territories, he can be charged with committing a hate crime for his continued attacks on people that refuse to be monolingual. Just because he has chosen to turn his back on his Austrian culture and language to try and learn English (keep trying!) doesn’t mean others need to do the same.”

    What a closet fascist you are! Force East LA to be more like a colonia replete with English illiteracy and then charge anyone with a view different than yours with a hate crime. Hey, that’s not a brown skin, that’s a brownshirt! If East LA incorporation means just another South Gate to service the wetdreams of wetback irrendentists and MECHIstas, then the LA County Supes should have a few more decades running the place. In all seriousness, I support East LA incorporation though I fear some of their fascistic supporters will steer a good idea into the cliff. Mexican Americans are tired of being social experiments.

  8. WESTWOODNC, MEChA had nothing to do with what happened in South Gate or any other Southeast LA County city. It was the work of shady politicians conducting shady deals with others; this can occur any place where power is held by one person or a group of persons.

    Would you call other locales, such as Alhambra, Monterey Park, or ethnic enclaves as “replete with English illiteracy” because their businesses are conducted in an language other than English and/or the residents choose to speak another language amongst each other?

    East Los Angeles has long been an autonomous community, except for the legal status. It should finally incorporate itself in order for its residents to have a greater say in their own affairs.

  9. United Way in 2004 released a study with the finding that 53% OF ANGELENOS ARE FUNCTIONALLY ILLITERATE . That means 3.8 million can not read a bus schedule, complete a job application, or read instructions on their medicine. Also according to the study, “L.A. County recent immigrants are more than twice as likely to have low literacy skills as recent immigrants across the U.S.”

    So as to your question, “Would you call other locales, such as Alhambra, Monterey Park, or ethnic enclaves as “replete with English illiteracy…”? Yes, with ease. Speaking multiple languages is one thing being LITERATE, the key to success, in any is another.

    “Take a cue from the Mexicans: they managed to find a good use for your Austrian/German oompa instruments, incorporated it into the culture, and are still blasting new tuba and accordion songs out of car radios.”

    Mexicans have made great contributions to culture, music isn’t one of them. Your implying that the Mexicans improved on Tuetonic music, my neighbors are playing ranchero loudly as we speak (of course, through their pickup car stereo parked in the driveway–with the obligatory heavy bass turned up) and it’s seriously shit music. Proving once again that being brown is not a sure path to good taste.

  10. Diego,
    I believe Hacienda Heights has tried to become a city and most recently

    I hadn’t heard about Arnold’s comments until last Friday night (the 15th). My mom told me while she watched one of her novelas. I started off trying to say something like, well the Governor usually makes those kinda stupid comments. And if you look at the facts, immigrants do learn English and their kids do too. My dad interrupted me to say that immigrants don’t need to learn English. He pointed to my grandparents who do just fine knowing only Spanish. My parents rock.

    And yeah, a multilingual city (and schools! Too many pochos barely understanding the language of their southern neighbors) would be grand.

  11. Diego,
    I didn’t finish my comment. Hacienda Heights tried in 2003 and the measure failed 2-1. I know they tried in the 1990s too.

  12. Westwoodnc,
    “Wetback irrendentists”? Okay, I’ll let that one slide. But to diss on all Mexican music? You are full of shit.

  13. Westwoodnc, you got your musical genres mixed up. The “oompa” instruments are used in banda and norte√±o/Tex-Mex music, whereas rancheras share more with French/Iberian/Italian classical music than the music brought to the Americas by German, namely Bavarian, immigrants.

    A simple video search on youtube would clarify that up.

  14. Yeah, this is just a bad idea. Look at what happened to West Hollywood when it incorporated. No free parking anywhere, yogurt shops moved in, and auto repair shops were converted into restaurants,cafes, and night clubs. This is a perilous road East Los is headed for. It begins with self-governance and ends with $5 tacos.(That’s with a $2 city imposed taco tax of course.)

  15. The Guv’s delivery leaves some to be desired, but outside of LA he’s a hero. In Las Vegas everyone was yacking it up on how he says what every other politician is afraid to say. I don’t advocate losing your native language, but I do advocate learning English. Its the language of business and I have seen so many great ideas in the latin communities that if they took the time to tell everyone what they were doing and were understood they could make a mint. Think of it as a marketing tool to get to a broader audience.

    Keep these coming El Chavo…food for thought, more importantly you will find what the the greater community is thinking and if you listen will find ways to convince them to your way of thinking.

  16. “Just because he has chosen to turn his back on his Austrian culture and language to try and learn English (keep trying!)”

    Wow. There’s so much wrong with your reasoning and your own delivery it’s hard to know where to start.

    But a nice place to start would be: for everyone against initiatives in increase English proficiency (among everyone would be nice, including native speakers) I’d LOVE to see the argument couched in terms that didn’t make fun of the Governor’s own accent or language.

    If he faked a broken English/Spanish accent or made fun of Spanish-accented English language, we’d be over him like butterscotch on a sundae. But NOPE! It’s okay because he’s . . . he’s . . . I dunno, why is it okay again?

    Attacking him on the same “merits” by which you say he attacks others’ languages won’t do much to help your cause.

    I also didn’t know that learning a new language meant turning your back on your culture.

  17. WestwoodNC: norteno/ranchero music is awfully uptight and traditional, but that doesn’t make it “in bad taste.” It is also anecdotal to the argument.

    Frazgo: Agreed. English is also the language of the law, though, too. To maintain English as the official language is also to maintain the culture our laws support. The same culture that is obviously much more beneficial to Spanish-speaking peoples than Spanish-speaking lands.

    CindyLu: Your grandfather is right. No one needs to learn English. As a matter of respect and a commitment to becoming American, they should. As a facet of legal immigration, they must (to a certain extent).

    CD: You are absolutely right. There is a double-standard with regards to Arnold because he is white, of Euro ancestry and because his nation is much more distant than Mexico. And the idea that learning English is synonymous with turning your back on your own culture is a ridiculous idea. Why can’t it be seen as embracing your new culture? Why is that so embarrassing?

    Well, we know why. No matter how much of the world streams into America, they simply can’t admit ITS THE BEST. Asking immigrants to learn English in exchange for naturaliaztion is a fair deal and is not anomalous to other countries’ immigration policies. Hell, its more fair than Mexican immigration policy. Mexican citizenship is far more difficult to come by than American. It just doesn’t seem that way since more people are obviously trying to become American as opposed to becoming Mexican. And that is because the value of Mexican citizenship is nil compared to the value of American culture, which the English language couches.

    Also, if Mexicans were really so dedicated to their own culture, they would logically do what is best for Mexico and return to it and work as hard as they can to reform the lawlessness and lack of ownership rights which prevail.

    Immigrants of all languages and cultures want the benefits of the American political system without losing the cultural familiarity of their home lands. For the most part, they get that, and how could I begrudge them? I don’t really expect any 1st-generation immigrants to learn English anyway. I doubt my Polish and Italian ancestors did, even if they should have.

    But their children should learn English. Our schools, our laws and our business culture deserve the respect of immigrants who desire each. Maintaining English keeps us powerful and distinct and brings us all closer together. It also avoids the righteous pain of maintaining a foreign identity which people must admit contributes more to personal pride than to any personal or familial well-being.

  18. You don’t need to stop using Spanish to learn English. If you moved to France to persue a job, would you find acceptable if they told you to stop reading English newspapers or watching media in English because they want you to learn French? Of course not. I’m not sure where you people keep getting these baseless notions that immigrants don’t want to learn English, that’s just wrong.

  19. I now live in texas ( redneck, B.F.E!!! Married to a pretty white girl from Kansas. But being 100% Mexican, but born in L.A. Lived there for 33 years. ( does this qualify as a run sentence?) I sure miss that place. been here in Hutto, texas for three years. I had no idea about mexicano’s are wanting to make their (our?) city. makes me wonder if that starts happening, will it make my old violent east a thing of the past, or will the mordidas and drogas and the prerequisite cop beating now be handled by my own people? Just curious…and drunk….But I love free speech as much as my peeps back in Montebello, you know where the rich mexicans live….

  20. There are obviously many pros and cons to cityhood for East LA, but the fact of the matter is that the pros are much heavier and definitely do outweight the cons! In our current state of affairs, we’re living under “taxation without representation.” L.A. county receives our tax money and THEY decide how they best see fit the redistribution of those funds. Without proper representation (our only rep is Gloria Molina who represents 2 MILLION constituents), how can we make sure that East L.A. gets its proper share of the pie? We NEED autonomy and sovereignty. We currently don’t have representatives that have to live within the confines of “unincorporated East L.A.” and hence don’t really (excuse my language here) give a fuck about this area if they know they do not need our vote to get elected (because we don’t get to vote for any kind of local representation). We are a disenfranchized community. How else do you excuse the fucked-upness we see in this area? A HS with almost 5,000 kids (Garfield HS) where the norm is for kids to fall under the cracks–that is completely unacceptable. Yeah, that’s the norm for many LAUSD schools but I think we could have more control over this as an incorporated city.
    The point is that there is so much potential for the area. The path to cityhood is a bumpy one, I must admit. Yes, it will probably mean that we do have to pay more taxes. Yes, it will probably mean that we will have some inefficiencies due to the extra layer of what is a local bureaucracy. However, no important desicion is ever black and white and something has to be done about the status quo. East LA is in need of economic revitalization and if we can become autonomous and decide what WE see fit for our area, the results could be truly gratifying. I do think there’s a correlation between economic revitalization and community fortification. I think an East L.A. that can rid itself of some of the current negative effects of unincorporation can bring the community closer together. So, of course the following example is completely linear and doesn’t take into account many other external factors, but I’m simplifying this logical equation for the sake of time. If we can bring in larger capital businesses and be strategic about it (of course NOT a Wal-Mart) but maybe other stores (i.e. in that long strip on Atlantic Blvd. where all you see are used car lots), we can begin to see a rise in the revenue that the city produces. With higher revenues we may be able to reinvest that money in community projects….what about a technological center? a YMCA-like place? a central hub like a plaza? The point is that we don’t really have community projects like that in UNincorporated East LA (perhaps you do in Boyle Heights) and I really do think that those kind of centers add value to the social capital of the area. I could go on and on about this, so I’ll just stop there. That’s just my 2 cents…

  21. Looking at the map on the Cityhood website, I can’t help but come up with the following campaign slogan: “Vota Por La Bota!” Cheesy, but it could work!

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