Where is the Eastside of Los Angeles? A brief history of class, gentrification and maps
In 2014, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council voted to stop calling Silver Lake “the Eastside.”
In practice, the vote was relatively meaningless – there was no way to enforce it and the council had no authority to demand compliance from anyone – but it was a token effort to end the struggle. on the exact location of the Eastside of Los Angeles.
The debate had started slowly. As neighborhoods like Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Echo Park began to gentrify in the late 1990s and early 1990s, new residents began referring to the areas as “the Eastside” – probably in reference to the proximity of the communities to the Pacific Ocean.
But what these recent residents seemed to not realize or ignore is that the “East Coast“The nickname was already taken. It was shorthand for predominantly Mexican American neighborhoods east of the LA River, such as Boyle Heights, El Sereno, and Lincoln Heights.
As the argument escalated online, it touched on issues of race, class, gentrification, community, culture and identity.
It’s personal. It is pride.
Activist Al Guerrero, an East Los Angeles native who advocated for SLNC to vote in favor of eliminating the phrase, told LAist that “the real Eastside (east of the river LA) means, to me, a community born out of marginalization, which has thrived and fought the challenges of racism and oppression to create a culture of identity and pride.
A gentle reminder for those in need
East Los Angeles is an unincorporated area governed by LA County, not to be confused with the more amorphous Eastside.
Guerrero calls the gentrifiers’ mindset “a bubble world where LA starts in Santa Monica and ends in Echo Park and there’s nothing south of Wilshire.”
Jesús Sanchez, also from East Los Angeles, runs the blog the east side and disagrees with the geographic boundaries of Guerrero.
“For me, [the Eastside] is basically like unincorporated East LA down to Los Feliz and Hollywood,” he said. “It’s a feeling or a vibe…it’s, ‘Would I feel at home here?’ It’s very personal, which largely explains the friction over the issue.
Silver Lake Ward Council meeting tackled a modern-day conundrum, but Eastside/Westside demarcations of Los Angeles date back to the 1700s.
In 1781, 44 people established a settlement called El Pueblo de La Reina de Los Angeles at the foothills of Elysian Park, straddling the banks of the LA River. The east and west sides of the waterway were quickly designated for two different purposes, depending on a map drawn up by a Spanish soldier in 1786. The west bank was for settlers. The east bank was made up of “land belonging to the crown”.
Over the years, the area has been built up, industrialized, and parts of it incorporated with the rest of Los Angeles.
In the 20th century, neighborhoods east of the river – including Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, and East Los Angeles – attracted a wide range of immigrant and minority communities.
Eventually, the area became populated largely by one group.
“[Because of] growing patterns of immigration from Mexico beginning in the 1970s,” said Eric Avila, professor of Chicano studies and history at UCLA, “this area has become predominantly Mexican American.”
As the century progressed and the counterculture took hold, LA’s Mexican American community began to find its voice in politics. The group’s art, activism, and intellectual output gave rise to the Chicano movement, a political and cultural uprising led by young members of the community who fought for, among other things, equality, self-determination, and peace. self-identity.
Linda Vallejo, a artist and teacher whose work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Carnegie Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Print Department, among others, lived in East Los Angeles at this time and was central of the Chicano movement.
It was a very beautiful time when people gathered, the community gathered and discovered each other, its history and its roots.
— Linda Vallejo, artist and teacher
“The artists were working really hard together to create their own movement and their own voice and to be recognized for it… black people were doing the same thing, feminists were doing the same thing and the Chicanos in East LA were doing the same thing – creating a new image, new voice,” she said.
Harry Gamboa Jr., another artist at the vortex of the Chicano movement whose work has been exhibited at the Autry Museum of the American West, the Marlborough Contemporary and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others, said: “The chicano artists original set [included] many poets, writers and philosophers… East LA has always been very fertile ground.
In the wake of the movement, the term Eastside has come to symbolize more than just a geographic area.
“East Coast [is] a state of mind,” Avila said. There was “a whole style that developed around this Eastsider or Eastside way of life.”
“When you work to build something, it becomes an emotional engagement, a spiritual engagement,” adds Vallejo. “It’s like a family commitment. [There’s a] loyalty to the Eastside. The Eastside means something. The emblem is steeped in loyalty, honor, culture, history, familia – all sorts of things that make up the commitment.
Back to voting
Presented in a movement by Councilman Dorit Dowler-Guerrero, voting that night at Micheltorena Elementary School in Silver Lake was difficult, at best.
A council member ‘rais[ed] his voice,” according to a liveblog published by Curbed LA. Another person wondered aloud why the council would strip him of his “badge of honor” by revoking Silver Lake’s status in the Eastside.
“The vote caused a lot of ruffled feathers,” Dowler-Guerrero said in an email. “Many people had a vested interest in the Eastside branding of Silver Lake and surrounding communities.”
In the end, SLNC voted 12 to 3 (with one abstention) to stop describing themselves as the Eastside.
Guerrero insists that to this day, some people are still unaware of the decision. “The fake label carries too much ‘hip jitters’ to give up so easily,” he said.
He’s not wrong. In 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio, who grew up in Echo Park, told a journalist on the Oscars red carpet that he was from “East Los Angeles”.
Sanchez, the publisher of The Eastsider blog, continues to cover neighborhoods west of the river on the website. He’s made peace with the fact that the group he calls “Border Patrol” – those who argue the river is the Eastside’s border – will probably never see things his way.
“That’s how I feel,” he said. “I’m not going to change your mind, I’m not going to make you change your mind because you don’t want to change your mind either.” We can coexist.
Artist Linda Vallejo, meanwhile, may have found a third solution. Noting that “what’s coming out of East LA has really added to the flavor of LA; the food, the music, the cultural statements, the images,” she decided to claim an area that extends far beyond either side of the LA River.
“I’m an Angeleno – the whole town is mine,” she said. “All of LA is the Eastside.”
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