Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gold in East LA: A Photographic Journey

Olga Garcίa Echeverrίa

Ya llego! Nearly five years and $898 million dollars later, the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension is finally here. There are eight new Gold Line stops that connect the Eastside to Union Station: Atlantic, East LA Civic Center, Maravilla, Indiana, Soto, Mariachi Plaza, Pico/Aliso, and Little Tokyo.

You can ride the Eastside Gold Line for free today, with Grand Opening celebrations at various stops.

This past Friday, my roommate Sandra and I followed the Gold Line and visited each of the new stations. Of course, we wanted to ride the actual metro, but since its opening wasn't untill today, we got into her hybrid bat-mobile and pursued the tracks from East to West. We weren't exactly chasing tornados, but there was a sense of adventure as I snapped endless photos and Sandra zigzagged through the East LA streets, scoping out strategic places to stop.

Here are some of the photos from our journey. They don't attempt to capture all of the great East LA and downtown spots located along the new Gold Line route, rather they highlight a few and hope to inspire you to check out and ride the Metro. And please forgive any awkward spacing/placing of these photos on this blogspot...manipulating pictures in this program is a pain.

Atlantic Station

Depending on which direction you're traveling, aqui empieza o termina the Eastside Gold Line.

Less than a couple of miles away, there's stop number two...

The lovely East LA Civic Center. This is definitely my favorite stop.

California Poppies, the State's official flower, brighten up the East LA sky.

Poppy Haiku...

Bright yellow petals
against the blue sky, capture
the wandering eye.

On one of the sky panels there's this quote from Jaime Escalante. It's a stencil with sunlight shinning through the words.

Sandra and I got a kick out of this quote because Escalante is our former math teacher. This doesn't sound anything like the Escalante we knew. The Escalante we knew was kinda crazy, hella funny, and in love with math and teaching. An immigrant from Bolivia, Escalante learned English as a second language and it showed in his accent and sometimes his syntax as well.

(detour down memory lane)

Take, for example, the giant quotes he plastered on the walls of our classroom to inspire us. Here's a picture from our yearbook. Can you read the signs in the back walls? One of them says, "Student who says it cannot be done should not interrupt student who is doing it."

And another, "Calculus need not be made easy. It is easy already." Wouldn't it have been so much more intersting to have one of these quotes on that stencil sky panel?

And right here at the Civic Center stop, the beautiful East Los Angeles Library.

And by the library, the colorful duck park.

The famous (well at least in East LA) Roybal Clinic or as people in the neighborhood call it El Edificio de Colores.

Garfield Drill team practices for today's grand opening. They will be at the Civic Center stop welcoming you all.

Only yards away I spot a rooster. Ay, how I love my hometown.

Practice train leaving East LA Civic Center.

Down further on 3rd Street along the Gold Line route, Victor sells elotes con mayonesa, chile, limon, y queso. He thinks the Metro's going to be good for business.

Lupe's famous 12 Kinds of Burritos on 3rd. We missed the shot when we first passed it, but being the devoted barrio photojournalists that we are, we went back for it at the end of the day. Thus, the night shot.

The Maravilla Station. Another night shot taken on our way back.

As Sandra said, "Maravilla Station? Why didn't they just call it the King Taco station?" That's what we're calling it.

The Gold Line runs along some of East LA's numerous cemeteries. This is the Serbian Cemetery on 3rd. Close by there's a Chinese cemetery and a Jewish one as well, all evidence of different ethnic groups who've been historically part of this changing community.

Up on the hill, the quaint little church of my childhood, Santuario de Guadalupe.

The Gold line runs down 3rd Street, right along Calvary Cemetery. The cemeteries in East LA make up a good portion of our green spots. Thanks to them, we breath a little better.

An extended view of the Gold line running down 3rd Street.

Indiana in the house!!

Home of the big bucket raspado.

Also at Indiana, spectacular art pieces by Paul Botello. I caught up with Paul and asked him to share a little about his Metro artwork.

"I am usually known for my painted murals, the colors, and brush strokes. This site was completely different, I created 'metal murals' in stainless steel. No colors, except for the endless hues of natural and man made lights reflecting off the surface. No brush strokes, only the positive and negative shapes of forms. The title of the work is 'Syncretic Manifestations.' The works are site specific. It is hard to briefly summarize them since there are 14 different pieces. The content of each work varies from Latino imagery to scientific and philosophical iconographic themes."
Like many Angelenos, Paul will be riding the Gold Line to all the stations today. He will be at the Indiana station from 1-2 pm. Check out his great work.

A que la fregada, la panza was rumbling, so we stopped at Aque Tacos, which is kitty-corner to the Indiana Station.

I went vegetarian a week ago, so for the record I'd like to state that I didn't eat meat.

At Aque Tacos, we chatted with Arnulfo Delgado, a graduate student in Urban Planning at UCLA and a member of the East Los Angeles Planning Advisory Committe. Arnulfo focuses on issues affecting Area 3 in East Los Angeles, which covers the area from Indiana to Eastern.

Arnulfo had plenty to say about the Gold Line and the recommendations he and the ELAPAC are making to assure safety in the community. Among his concerns are the need for safety arms in Eastside stations, more signage in Spanish, and security gates to prevent jay walking. Some of these things are not required by law because the trains do not exceed 35 mph. However, proximity to a high number of schools and concern for the safety of community members has led Arnulfo and others to advocate for these security measures. He also noted that there are only 40 parking spaces at the Indiana Metro stop, an insufficient number for such a busy area.

It was a pleasure to unexpectedly meet Arnulfo at Aque Tacos, as he was so passionate about making the Metro safer. He made Sandra and me laugh, though, when in the middle of his vehment discourse he said, "Wait a minute, let me go get my tacos." I love my peeps and my peeps loves their tacos!

Sandra made a quick illegal stop so that I could get this picture. And then we're off again...

Right after the Lorena intersection, the Gold Line goes underground. UUUUU, this is exciting.

Evergreen, another great cemetery in East Los Angeles. This one even has a rubber track!

Soto stop. Beam me up, Scotty.

This station was gated, which made it difficult to get any pictures of the inside, but there's a poetic bird motif in the underground. I can't wait to see it.

Next stop...(insert mariachi music here)...Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

There's a block party and mariachi festival going on at this stop today from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

Tierra, Quinto Sol, Domingo Siete, Umo Verde, Dirty Hands Johny Wallz, and various mariachi groups will perform.

Free kid's corner with giant bouncers, arts, and crafts, as well as a photo exhibit on migrant workers who were part of the Bracero Program.

A bronze statue of ranchera singer Lucha Reyes.

This is the entrance to the underground Metro rail on Indiana. It was technically closed, but...

I managed to sneak in and get a shot of the downstairs. Isn't it wonderful? We're so cosmopolitan!

And, of course, the Mariachi Plaza wouldn't be the Mariachi Plaza without the mariachis.

This is Refugio Peῆa from the Mariachi Internacional Varas Nayarit. He gave Sandra a free strawberry gelatina and was trying to pick up on her while I snuck into the underground metro station. He gave me his card and offered to pay me if I put his info on "El Internet." That gelatina was goooood, so let's just call it even Refugio. If you need a mariachi call (213) 453-8906.

Mujeres comadreando en la plaza y compadres looking on in the backdrop.

Boyle Heights youth hanging out at the ice-cream shop at the Mariachi Plaza. The metro means easier and faster mobility for them.

Towards the sunset we go.

1st street bridge. Taken on our way back, but placed here because it's the next part of the Gold Line journey. You get the picture.

Pico Aliso Station

Ain't it pretty?

Aside from the view of downtown, cabeza art is one of the highlights of this stop. These are not to be mistaken for cabezones.

Does this one look like Mao or am I imagining things?

Little Tokyo/Art District

The Japanese American Museum is right around the corner from the Gold Line station.

Japanese Plaza. Please do not try to climb if you visit.

Union Station

From Union Station you can travel Northbound to Pasadena. North Hollywood, Long Beach, and Koreatown are also possible destinations.

Carlos Vasquez and Alex Bandayan, two of the Gold Line conductors who will be driving trains to and from East LA today. They say, "Welcome and have fun!"

Inside one of the Gold Line trains. I'm getting Mexico City and New York flashbacks. We're far behind those cities when it comes to public transportation, but the extension of the Gold Line is definitely a step forward.

Track 1: This is where you exit or enter the Gold Line at Union Station.

Trains leading to many places. I recommend you get crazy and go everywhere!

The architecture in Union Station is breathtaking. High cielings, huge arcs, and magnificent light fixtures--only a few of the highlights here.

Everyone should travel to Union Station at least once to sit on these old chairs and stare up at the light fixtures.

One of my favorite buildings in Los Angeles.

When you exit Union Station, you are greeted with palm trees. There's plenty around to do and see--Olvera Street, Chinese American Museum, Chinatown, Cielito Lindo taquitos, Yang Chows, Philippe's famous dipped Sandwiches...the list goes on and on.

On our way back, as we make our way through the 3rd Street-Downey tunnel, both Sandra and I are moaning, "Mama's tired, mija."

So now, it's up to you. Where to...?

Upcoming Events:
Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership!
Save the Date, November 18th, for a book signing and discussion in Los Angeles with the authors of Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership! Connect with colleagues and friends and hear from the authors Frances Kunreuther, Helen Kim and Robby Rodriguez.Working Across Generations offers a comprehensive look at the leadership and generational shifts in the nonprofit sector. The book presents ideas and gives practical advice on how to approach generational changes in leadership so that the contributions of long-time leaders are valued, new and younger leaders' talent is recognized, and groups are better prepared to work across generational divides. This book examines the meaning of leadership transfer for individuals, their organizations, and the field; reports on how older and younger social change leaders are preparing (or not preparing) for these changes; and recommends how these transitions can take place in ways that move social sector work forward.
Words with a Purpose Writing Colective Fundraiser for Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance
Words with a Purpose Writers' Collective is holding its 2nd fundraiser. Please join us for some fun, poetry, fiction, Korean drumming, and an art raffle. Light refreshments will be served.
Saturday Dec 5, 2009
7:30 PM
KIWA Cultural Education Center
3471 8th Street, LA 90005
Featuring Guest Poets: Sung Yi & Daniel Choi
KIWA’s Awesome Korean Drummers
WWP Colective: Olga García Echeverría, liz gonzález, reina alejandra prado & Frankie Salinas
Suggested minimum donation: $7 (free raffle ticket included). No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
All proceeds will be donated to Koreatown Immigrant Worker’s Alliance (KIWA) to help support the ESL and Computer classes that service Korean and Latino immigrants. Words with a Purpose Writer’s Collective is an LA County based group of writers dedicated to making a difference in communities. For more info:
ABOUT KIWA: Founded in 1992, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) is one of the oldest and most well-established worker centers in the nation. KIWA is based in Koreatown, Los Angeles, one of the country’s densest neighborhoods, with over 200,000 residents living in an area of two square miles. Approximately 25% of Koreatown residents are from Korea and 60% are from Latin America. A majority of these residents have limited English proficiency, work in low-wage service sector jobs, and have difficulty accessing public services and local decision making processes. Almost all of Koreatown’s population is part of the working poor, and more than 40% fall below the federal poverty line despite the fact that most people work full-time jobs. KIWA’s mission is to empower Koreatown’s low-wage immigrant workers and to develop a progressive constituency and leadership in the Koreatown community that can struggle in solidarity with other under-representative communities.


Manuel Ramos said...

Olga - Flo and I just got back to Denver yesterday from Long Beach; your photos remind us of what we left behind, especially the sun! We actually were hoping that the Denver weather would make us get "stuck" in Southern California one more day so that we could go to the opening day festivities for the East L.A.Gold Line. Instead, we arrived here in Colorado on Saturday just in time for another winter storm, so rather than singing along to mariachis and drinking champurrado, I will be shoveling snow. Oh well .. The East L.A. Civic Center is quite the place - we were there for Dia de los Muertos and listened to Conjunto Los Pochos as they played from the stage near the pond. Thanks for the memories.

msedano said...

having the gold line reaching the heart of the eastside seems a miracle and a hugely nourishing advance in the history of el la transit. now one can "all aboarrrdd!" in Pasadena and in a few minutes without traffic hassles be comiendo tacos al pastor with chile rojo at king taco on soto/brooklyn, or the civic; moles la tia every day until you've sampled every one of her fabulous recipes... union station truly a nostalgic spot. those chairs used to have blackandwhite teevees attached. plug in a quarter and watch dorothy and dick's matinee movie until the PA announced one's train. thanks for a great preview!

Francisco Aragón said...

I enjoyed all the different elements (the different types of photography--people and things, and commentary) you brought to this post. Thanks.

Viva Liz Vega! said...

I'm so excited! Loved the pictures and the commentary, a mix of everything, art, love, poesia and Barrio peeps. Perfect!

Olga said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'm so excited about the Gold Line extension. I've always been a fan of big cities with great transportation. Mexico City is my all-time favorite, but New York no se queda muy atras. Nos falta mucho to have affordable, accessible and effective public transportation in Los Angeles, but the Eastside Gold Line is appeasing a little of my subway envy.

Cheryl said...

Poppies, roosters, metal murals--this post makes me love L.A. even more. It's nice to know I'll have easier access to all its parts now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the metro tour, pix and commentary were great! :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful tour of L.A. Since I'm from northern California, this is like another county. Loved the photos!