Welcome to East LA Weekly
In this issue, we look into the story behind one of East LA’s most iconic images. We report on a new park proposed for East Los Angeles. And we give you a taste of the latest birria trend. Puede leer una versión en español de este boletín aquí.
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Antonio Mejías-Rentas, Editor | East LA Weekly
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Harry Gamboa Jr.: A life of activism and art that began in East Los Angeles
On a traffic island, four young people in costume sit down for dinner, ignoring street traffic and passersby. A skeletal image hangs from a Whittier Blvd. sign behind them; a giant baby Jesus rests by the table.
A photograph of the 1974 performance “The First Supper (After a Major Riot),” taken by Harry Gamboa Jr., is one of East Los Angeles’ most iconic images. Gamboa arranged and directed the performance with fellow members of ASCO, an art collective formed a few years earlier.
It was staged near Arizona and Whittier, where a peaceful rally against police brutality and the Vietnam War on January 31, 1971 degenerated into deadly violence, with one person reportedly shot and killed by Sheriff's deputies.
Gamboa and others disputed news reports that said demonstrators had attacked deputies and claimed the media minimized the death toll.
“We walked from Belvedere Park to the corner of Arizona and Whittier, and when we got to a block and a half away from the intersection, nearly 25 police officers aligned themselves across Arizona on Whittier Boulevard, and started firing live ammunition into the crowd," Gamboa recalls.
“That was actually the day that I decided I would take a different tact in my approach, no longer trusting in that kind of peaceful demonstration,” Gamboa says. “Instead, I decided to engage in the creation of art.”
One of the most recognized Chicano artists of the late 20th Century, the 68-year-old Gamboa grew up and formed his aesthetic along the Eastside’s civil rights movement. As a teen he attended Garfield High School and was one of the student leaders of the 1968 student walkouts. He also participated in the Chicano Moratorium march of August 29, 1970.
Last month, Gamboa gathered several fellow writers, artists and thinkers and posed them wearing protective masks in the Downtown L.A. Arts District. The result was “Striking Distance”, a book of portraits just released by the Chicano artist and educator.
“I felt that July 2020 would be the high point of COVID-19, in that it pointed to the ultimate disregard and disrespect of human life by those in leadership,” he says. “At the same time, it was a moment of recognition that Chicanos have a responsibility to share that knowledge that we should all be very mutually respectful and peaceful.”
A double entendre in the book’s title is intentional, he said.
“You're close enough to strike someone, but you're also close enough to get struck by COVID,” the artist says. "And at the same time, when you look at the images, everyone in their own way is strikingly beautiful.”
The painter, video artist and writer – who co-directs the photography program at Cal Arts – is unsure if he will join the official activities of this month’s 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. More than likely, he will create an art piece to mark the anniversary in his own way.
It’s part of a life of activism that he says began in preschool in Boyle Heights, when a teacher made him wear a dunce cap for being a monolingual Spanish speaker.
“It was always the idea of having to overcome adversity through creativity,” he says. “That's been basically the approach from day one till today. In fact, it's probably pretty necessary today.”
East LA Scene
County is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about downward trends
County health authorities say they are “cautiously optimistic” about encouraging trends, such as decreased hospitalizations and average daily rates of positive tests.
Those trends are visible in East Los Angeles, where daily number of cases are lower this week than the week before.
The numbers for East LA:
- 41 new cases were reported on Tuesday.
- As of Tuesday, a total of 4,731 cases have been reported in the community.
- In the last seven days, 3 new deaths were reported. Total number of deaths is now 72.
Free food in East LA
The Los Angeles Food Bank is holding an East Los Angeles Regional Food Distribution event on Wednesday, Aug. 5 from 9 am to noon at Belvedere Park, 337 North Mednick Avenue.
It’s a drive-thru distribution only; everyone must wear masks and walk-ups will not be permitted.
Cars can begin lining up no earlier than 8:00 a.m. Drivers are instructed to enter southbound on Monterey Pass Rd. from Floral Dr.
New park coming to East LA
For years, East LA residents have pleaded with authorities to turn a huge, vacant corridor filled with electrical transmission towers off Whittier Boulevard, on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, into a public park.
Their wish may come true, as county supervisors approved a motion Tuesday to do just that.
The motion from Supervisor Hilda Solís authorizes the county’s Park and Recreation department to apply for Proposition 68 funds to build the park, and to enter into a 30-year lease agreement with Southern California Edison, which owns the corridor which begins at 6254 Hubbard Street.
“I am advocating on behalf of my constituents so that no child in East Los Angeles is faced with the choice of either playing on a vacant lot or on a crowded street,” she said.
According to the supervisor, only 34% of East Los Angeles residents live within walking distance of a park. The number for the rest of the county: 49%.
Where ramen and beef birria meet
Lines form on weekends near a popular birria stand on Olympic Boulevard near Gage, with customers eager to try a Mexican-Japanese mashup. Cocina Los V is getting attention for its unique fusion of traditional birria de res with ramen noodles.
The food stand was recently featured on KABC-7, which said it all started as an experiment last year, when the cooks decided to drop some noodles on the birria’s thick broth.
"The noodles really soak up the consommé which has a ton of condiments, a ton of flavor, and it just really just absorbs it,” owner Miguel Velasquez told the station. “And then you get a chunk of the meat, and it just kind of all melts in your mouth, and just it creates a perfect blend."
Velasquez said the secret to his birria, which is served in more traditional tacos and mulitas, is a recipe handed down from his late mother.
Cocina Los V sets up on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Eleventh homicide, second female victim
A 20-year-old woman shot to death this week in East Los Angeles was the eleventh homicide victim reported in the area so far this year.
Sheriff’s deputies found the woman Monday just before noon at a home in the 700 block of South Hillview Avenue. She had multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead on the scene.
A male resident of the home was detained at the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station pending investigation.
A handgun was recovered at the scene.
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