Plus: Danny Trejo’s home in “Heat” for sale
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The Eastsider LA - East La Weekly

East L.A. artist turns high school gym into his canvas

Hello All!

Welcome to the East LA Weekly. I’m Monica Rodriguez and I hope you’re having a good Groundhog Day. This week we have a feature article about a local artist who has brought an interesting mural and a burst of color to one of our local schools. Read on and you’ll find some morsels I hope you’ll find informative.

Here we go!

-- Monica Rodriguez, East LA Weekly Editor

PS: If you don't want to receive the East LA Weekly in your email, please reply with "unsubscribe" or click on the "Unsubscribe" at the bottom of this newsletter.

📷 East LA Scene 

East L.A. artist turns high school gym into his canvas

By Monica Rodriguez

One of the entrance markers at the Third Street entrance to the East L.A. Civic Center. The metal artwork designed by Michael Amescua is intended to look like papel picado (perforated paper) and include symbols for  education, recreation, law, medicine, music and relaxation.

Go here to share your neighborhood photos or just reply to this newsletter, attach your photo, and include details about the image. You can also tag your Instagram photos with #theeastsiderla.

📢 News 

Commerce Casino evacuated 

A man was arrested and hospitalized after he became distraught at the Commerce Casino in Commerce Tuesday morning, according to KCAL. The incident resulted in the evacuation of a portion of the casino situated on Telegraph Road.

Along with sheriff deputies, crisis negotiators and a mental health team responded to the scene. They spoke with the man for about an hour before arresting him and taking him to a hospital, KCAL said.

Man arrested following chase 

A car chase that began in East L.A. ended in Montebello, where sheriff’s deputies arrested the driver, KABC reported.

The man, who authorities said was sought on suspicion of pointing a gun at a neighbor, led deputies on a chase on surface streets and freeways before it ended after the man abandoned his vehicle and hid among bushes on Lincoln Avenue.

Man sentenced to life in prison

A man convicted of killing the mother of his child and a Whittier man 10 years later was sentenced late last month to consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole. 

Jose “Joe” Luis Saenz was convicted in the death of Sigreda Fernandez in East LA in August 1998, according to City News Service. Saenz was also found responsible for the killing of Oscar Torres in October 2008 in Whittier.

Saenz had an on-again, off-again relationship with Fernandez.

In September Saenz was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of kidnapping, forcible rape and sodomy by use of force in the case involving Fernandez. In addition, he was convicted of the attempted murder of a man wounded in the shooting that resulted in Torres' death.

East L.A. artist turns high school gym into his canvas

"We Believe in You," a mural by Paul Botello at Esteban Torres High.

Monica Rodriguez

East LA artist brings mural to Torres High

The mural on a wall of the Esteban E. Torres High gym is imposing and not just because of its dimensions and vibrant colors.

“We Believe in You” was created by Paul Botello, a teacher, muralist and artist who grew up in the community where Torres High is located and continues to live just a few blocks from campus. Botello taught at Torres High’s Humanities Academy of Art and Technology until December 2021 and is currently on leave.

“All the stars aligned, and the planets aligned,” Botello said. “I was able to do something that reflects the spirit of my community."

The approximately 50’ by 50’ work of art weaves images and symbols representing the past, present and future. There are ancient Mesoamerican cultural symbols from the past. Fast forward several centuries to find reminders of the East L.A. high school students, who in 1968 demonstrated for better education, resources and culturally relevant curriculum. There are images of immigrants in pursuit of an education, determined to reach and achieve goals, along with the support of family and the community.

The mural also includes the upheaval experienced in recent years as well as unity among people of different races and the strength to overcome what, at times, have been unimaginable hardships.

“This is a visual presentation for unity, peace and equity,” said Botello, who has created murals across Southern California and beyond.

Spearheading the mural's creation was former school board member Monica Garcia. Last year, knowing her time on the school board was coming to an end after 17 years, she looked for a way to thank her constituents.

“How do I honor the people that allowed me to represent them,” she wondered.

A friend suggested a public art piece.

As Garcia worked on the idea, a principal at Torres high suggested she speak with Botello. That led to a conversation and eventually to the mural visible from North Marianna Avenue. The mural cost $141,000, Garcia said.

Botello’s mural tells a story that has resonated with people within and outside the school's gates, Garcia said.

“It’s been super well received,” she said.

🗒️ Notebook 

Former City Terrace resident honored  

Elsa Gutierrez-Aviles, a college counselor at Wilson High School in El Sereno, was recently recognized for her work assisting students develop and execute plans leading to college.  Gutierrez-Aviles and her team received the 2023 Excellence in College Counseling Award, which is part of Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative.

The daughter of immigrant parents, Gutierrez-Aviles grew up in City Terrace and graduated from Wilson High. - The Eastsider

Danny Trejo’s home in “Heat” for sale

The Stilt House from the 1995 movie "Heat" is up for sale for just under $1.6 million, Dirt reported.

The mid-century three-bedroom -- propped up on a set of steel supports anchored into a steep hillside -- appeared in the movie as the home of Danny Trejo's character Gilbert, the getaway driver for master thief Neil McCauley, played by Robert De Niro.

The quarter-acre property at 1219 Dodds Cir. last changed hands in 2003 for $289,500, Dirt said. Location scout Lori Balton told L.A. Taco last year, “I’ve always been curious about the kind of person who could live in a house that’s so precariously balanced because I could not."

 🗓️  Things To Do

Saturday, Feb. 4

Shop for fresh produce and other food products along with locally produced crafts all while listening to local performers at the East Los Angeles Certified Farmers Market.

Monday, Feb 6

Get the jab for free. Flu and COVID vaccines will be administered at the East Los Angeles Library. Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.

Thursday, Feb. 9

Explore the world through dance with Teresa Smith who will present her interactive program at the East Los Angeles Library. Learn about different types of dance including ballet and Charleston.

👋 Until Next Thursday

That’s it for this week. But, before I leave you, I have something for you to ponder. What do you love about East L.A.? After you've thought that over, share your thoughts with me and fellow readers by responding to the newsletter. Reader responses will be published February 9.

Enjoy the rest of your week! 

-- Monica Rodriguez

Have a tip or a story to tell? Don't forget to contact me with ideas and suggestions at

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