Defining Highland Park with El Mercado



HIGHLAND PARK — Saturday, February 21 marks the grand opening of the York Park at Avenue 50, with a design that was selected by the community vote. (Did anyone specifically ask for a snake slide?) Along with the park’s opening the local Chamber of Commerce and Councilman Jose Huizar will host a community event that hopes to celebrate the businesses and artists from the neighborhood, The York Village El Mercado.

The organizers of the event are not afraid to admit that El Mercado, which will feature local artists and craftspeople as well as music and food,  is in celebration of the Latino and Chicano flavors and influences in the neighborhood.“I want to make sure that the Latino footprint does not disappear from Highland Park,” says Edmundo Rodriguez from Elsa’s Bakery, one of the participating businesses.

It’s safe to say that the last few years in Highland Park have been a tumultuous time, with the community’s identity constantly being scrutinized from the national media to social networks. York’s business corridor, from Avenue 50 to 52, has changed wildly in recent years, and housing prices have soared.

Local business owner Yolanda Nogueira sees the event as a way to better define the community, a chance for people who live and work in Highland Park to meet each other.

“We want world recognition that artists and working class people are celebrated here,” says Nogueira, whose family has owned the building at Avenue 50 and York since the 1960s.

A number of volunteers have been actively preparing for El Mercado, including local resident Saúl Narro who holds up a decades-old image on his phone of a York Boulevard Easter Parade . Huizar’s office wanted El Mercado to coincide with the opening of York Park, which meant any delay for the park meant a postponement for El Mercado.

Zahara Jaime of the band Big Circus is playing El Mercado and she is thrilled to play her own neighborhood.

“We usually get asked to play in Silver Lake, Echo Park, Atwater,” says Jaime. “So it’s nice to play my hometown. I guess this is one of the positive aspects of gentrification. I’m able to say a community is rising and bringing forth opportunities for artists, vendors, and musicians.”


Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.


  1. How about we get some of that long lost European flair back???

  2. We all payed for the park, so how about celebrating everyone?

    The park is for the COMMUNITY…. which by the way includes lot’s of other kinds of people as well as Chicanos.
    If any other group other made the park opening all about their culture, you guys would have a meltdown.

    Sadly, the park will start to be tagged within 1 day of the opening. Mark my words.

    • “Sadly, the park will start to be tagged within 1 day of the opening. Mark my words.”

      Is that a literal threat that you’ll tag in order to see your prophecy fulfilled?

      Seriously, though, I agree with your sentiment. Exclusionary, hypocritical, and blearily racist. If the so called “hipsters” celebrated their culture in a similar fashion there would be protests from masked eviction generals.

    • Relax, the sign is in English and in Spanish… looks pretty inclusive to me. Maybe you should just show up and meet your neighbors.

      • Sadly, that would be too much to ask! NELA Alliance’s instillation brought forth the attention of the long time neighbors that have been displaced due gentrification.

  3. York Boulevard has the potential to be something even more special if it is accomplished through level headedness and respect. It is a unique street in that it is relatively narrow and still has a quaint feel. You can just about carry on a conversation with someone across the street. Fig has better bones but York has a calmer feel to it. The business owners seem unified too.

  4. In what world will the Latino footprint on Highland Park ever “disappear”? Seriously? It’s idiotic hysteria like this that does nothing to help the larger goal of improving the community for everyone.

    This festival is a total fail as it’s EXCLUDES instead of INCLUDES.

    If the tables where turned and this festival had an Anglo theme, people would be out in the streets with pitchforks and torches. Think about it.

    • MHR, maybe it shouldn’t matter what the ethnic theme of the event is. I am white. But, I moved to Highland Park in no small part because I like the ‘Latino footprint’. I agree that it is hysteria to think that it is dissappearing. As much as the neighborhood is ‘gentrifying’, it is still rich in its Mexican (Latino) feel and heritage. Rich in its multi-culturalism too. As much as i think it is hysteria to think that this is dissappearing, I think it is hysteria to think that a Latino theme is somehow exclusive for this event. If white people take offense to, or feel excluded by, simply naming an event in Spanish and throwing up a pitcure that is vaguely of a mexican artistic tradition, then maybe buffoons like Proper Dos are right.

    • Did a Mexican personally see you at the opening, kick your ass, and tell you to leave? No? Then there was no “EXCLUSION”. Simple-minded fools fear that which is different.
      Don’t worry about themes, either. Raza have been congregating on weekends in public places long before hipsters started moving in…don’t be afraid…meet your neighbors and have fun with it :]

  5. Well so much for a peaceful discussion! Do you armchair activists seriously think this whole event will be strictly Chicano based? Have you ever been to Cafe De Leche, Schordorf’s or Elsas? It’s a total blend. The families will be out on this day enjoying the park and not questioning the cultural inclusiveness of it. And we all know who the newer families are. So seriously calm down you reactionaries.

    • Yes it is a blend, and many people who may look one ethnicity are actually mixed in their own descent or their partner is of different ethnicity. Somehow, though, I have a feeling that someone will complain that the event is “overrun” with “white” people / “hipsters” in attendance.

  6. Anyone else remember when Yolanda Nogueira, whos family has owned the building on York since the 60s, was handed an “eviction notice” by the anti-gentrification protesters? We ever get an explanation about that one? Was it about her displacement of the native wildlife and fauna?

    • The “anti-gentrification protestors” in Highland Park were a small minority of idiotic losers. Moving forward, it would probably be more productive to just ignore them rather than keep discussing them. The concept is similar to why you ignore a whiny toddler instead of trying to figure out/appease it.

  7. “make sure that the Latino footprint does not disappear ” ..
    I agree with the “hysteria” comments.

    Heck, a full 50% of Highland Park Latinos could leave and it would still be majority Latino.
    Latino footprint ain’t gonna disappear in any of our lifetimes.

    • Also feeding the hysteria is Nathan Solis with his consistent overplay of the “tumultuous time” in Highland Park. In the social media age, it is fascinating how one amateur kid like Nathan, writing for a small community site, can so profoundly effect the community dialogue.

  8. I’ve never seen a more insecure community than the hispanic/latino/chicano community of Highland Park. What a bunch of entitled whiners. Totally sick of it.

    • But allow me to tweak your target here. By ‘insecure hispanic/katino/chicano community’, I think you mean about 5 regular commenters here on the Eastsider and a small group of activists given a huge platform here on the Eastsider.

      • You’re right, and the Northeast Alliance. This quote however is inappropriate for a community event:

        “I want to make sure that the Latino footprint does not disappear from Highland Park,” says Edmundo Rodriguez from Elsa’s Bakery, one of the participating businesses.

        and also just plain stupid. Hope it wasn’t taken out of context for Elsa’s sake.

    • It’s just a park why the fuck does everything have to be a racial thing. Enjoy the park and get the fuck over it or get the fuck out of highland park

  9. Good job Nathan! Keep up the good work.

  10. some of you need to check your privelage!

  11. I don’t understand what is going on with the name calling? Idiots, whiners, stupid? This is a grand opening for a PARK. A community park for the neighborhood. Who gives two fucks if there’s a snake slide or a sugar skull on the banner? It’s a park everyone? And yes, what’s wrong with the neighborhood wanting to preserve the Latino footprint? Highland Park is a great town because of it’s blend of cultures. And guess what? Now Highland Park has a cool ass park next to a great coffee house (that has a Latin name!! oh no! hysteria!!) and everyone should be applauding the development of this city and that’s that. Let’s not keep making everything a racial discussion. I grew up in this area and love seeing the diversity that is blooming. And that includes being able to get a tamale and a mid century chair all on the same block.
    Let’s get along everyone and just enjoy the park.

  12. White privilege allows white people to be pissed off and have a strong opinion about Minorities who are afraid of being displaced. According to history, whites have constantly oppressed minorities, and still continue to do so with discrimination. It’s okay for Whites to have a giant hysterical reaction against Isalamic folk after 9/11. How do you think minorities feel after a long historical battle with being opressed. 60 years ago, Jim Crow laws existed, but discrimination is still as lively as ever. If Latinos and blacks moves into White neighborhoods, there would be hundreds of articles. The comments would be fucking racist too. Minorities have a voice too, stop trying to shut us up with your WHITE PRIVELEGE.

  13. I love that the street will be closed and there’s a party in the community. I must admit I don’t like the design of the new park, but the world doesn’t revolve around me and my design aesthetics. I am always happy when community comes together and welcome El Mercado. It’s going to be fun! I’m white, have lived in HP many years, and love it here! Let the festivities begin! Baila la calle de Dia!!!

  14. Tony the Main Spoon

    Forget the Mercado, let’s get beyond cyberspace and get real, real!

    I am going to bring a bag of four square balls bought from the York Blvd Big 5, fully inflated, and I am headed to the Sycamore Grove Park bandshell. Meet me there for a game of good ol fashion Sycamore dodgeball. Come one and come all you voisterous Eastsider commenters and let us all get our frustrations out. We can head hunt, throw at the feet, and peg each other with thunderous throws. I would like to personally call out so-called “true freedom” because I don’t like his points of view and the tone of his comments. So, pick out your least favorite commenters. Call them out! Because at some point their asses will be in your line of sight.

    Dodgeball Rules- 5 commenters on the stage, 5 commenters lined up with rubber Balls.
    -players on stage struck by ball are out/player on stage catches a ball in play they are safe/last person standing wins.
    -players armed with four square balls have three tries to hit opponents.
    -only one ball in play, per throw.

    Let’s start with Group 1 on the stage consisting of: eastsidearts, proper dos, salts, (me) the main spoon, and hlp hood (it’s only fair to mix up the groups). Group 2 armed with the bouncy balls at the base of the stage will include: therealjohnathan, neutral, whiteprivforever, uschi bear, and the arredondo guy. We can accommodate more groups because I forgot to include so-called true freedom, who could pair up with a hipster that throws up wheat paste art, a cholo who tags for sure, and that dork with the pod cast that drinks coffee at Cafe de Leche. Nathan Solis bring some AC/DC music. Believe me everyone, this will be a blast! See you soon so-called true freedom.

  15. Skeeter nobody wants to hear your negative attacks. Go take a nap and get over it. The Eastsider does a great job keeping us informed.

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