Historic Los Angeles neighborhood continues to bear the brunt of air pollution

Last modified on 2011-08-26 17:07:51 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Jasmin López, special to

Photo: Zackary Canepari

As summer temperatures rise, so do fears of asthma and other illnesses caused by all the air pollution converging on the east Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights.

With its proximity to freeways, industrial sites and shipping corridors, activists say the geography of Boyle Heights brings a disproportionate health burden to residents.

Determined to reduce the adverse health effects caused by air pollution, residents and activists of this historically immigrant community are taking proactive and innovative measures to improve their environment.

“It’s a low-income, mostly transit-dependent community, there’s a lot of walking that happens, there are a lot of people that are out, being mobile through that pollution,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, associate director at the Alliance for a Better Community.

Rodriguez said Boyle Heights wasn’t designed for a mix of residential and industrial uses, nor the density of traffic it bears today.

“A lot of their central arteries are being used as thoroughfares,” she said. “The freeways that dissect the community, their entrances and exits cut up children’s routes to and from schools.”

One community group is installing air filters and monitoring devices in schools, hoping to draw attention to the issue.

The Air Quality Advancement Project of Mothers of East LA is funded by settlement money from a class-action lawsuit, and will install high-performance air filtration systems in seven Boyle Heights schools, and study air quality in and out of the classrooms.

“It’s an opportunity to get us on the radar regarding the injustice that is happening. We’ll be able to really validate what we’ve been claiming,” says Diana del Pozo-Mora, MELA’s executive director.

Health advocates are particularly concerned about ozone and particle pollution from traffic, which recent studies link to childhood asthma, hypersensitive allergies, infant mortality, and a variety of respiratory illnesses. Diabetics, people with heart or lung diseases, older adults, children and low income communities are at greater risk, especially when they are physically active.

Los Angeles was recently ranked by the American Lung Association as one of the most polluted cities in the nation, with several vulnerable and disadvantaged communities at greater risk for exposure to ozone and particles [PDF].

With plans underway to expand the nearby Port of Long Beach (the largest source of air pollution in California, combined with the Port of Los Angeles) and the 710 freeway, residents face an even greater density of cargo ships, loading docks, diesel trucks and trains.

Activists say that so far, little has been done to address the health impacts on neighboring communities.

“There is a huge body of information to support that living in close proximity to polluting sources, puts one at great risk. The current level of standards doesn’t protect people,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen of the group’s California office.

Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment, claimed that official statistics “don’t even begin to capture” the high rates and impacts of asthma, cancer, heart disease, pregnancy and childbirth complications, and respiratory problems.

“The county health system is struggling to survive, just to meet people’s basic needs,” he said. “With all these budget cuts it looks like what we’re facing is going to get worse.”

News from The Beat: Undocumented Boyle Heights student is arrested in the midst of new deportation rules

Last modified on 2011-11-09 18:16:23 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

When the Obama Administration announced last week that undocumented students and other “low-priority” immigrants would no longer be targeted for deportation, Isaac Barrera did not have a chance to react.

That’s because the undocumented college student from Boyle Heights was in Los Angeles County Jail, in the middle of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) interviews and fearful that he was on the verge of being deported.

Last Wednesday night, Barrera, 20, was pulled over by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on Cesar Chavez Avenue and Mission Road and arrested for an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court after a traffic violation. It’s the kind of chance encounter with legal authorities that has snared many without papers.

“I felt alone,” said Barrera. “I was mentally preparing myself to be there for two months.”

Barrera, brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his parents when he was three years old, is now a Pasadena City College student and an advocate for immigrant rights such as the Dream Act, which proposes to grant undocumented students like him conditional permanent residency. He had already learned about ICE procedures firsthand earlier, when he was arrested during an immigrant rights protest. However, this time, his arrest came just as the Department of Homeland Security ushered in an important change to its handling of deportation cases.

Under the newly announced rules, many undocumented immigrants who face deportation could have the chance to stay in this country and apply for a work permit. Some 300,000 deportation cases would be reviewed to identify those who are “low priority” offenders including those without criminal records; youth who arrived here as children and those who served in the U.S. military or their families. The focus of deportation efforts would be on those convicted of crimes or who pose a security risk. (read full story here…)

‘News from The Beat’ are selected posts written by students, contributors or myself for

photo by pocho1 photography/

“So Far:” A coffee table book by Eastside photographer Rafael Cardenas

Last modified on 2011-11-03 22:07:16 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Back in February, we told the story of how Rafael Cardenas aka “Eastsider Writer” became a self-taught photographer shooting the streets of East L.A., Boyle Heights and beyond. Although he’s been at this photography thing for two years now, Cardenas feels he’s still new to the game.

His raw images of people, places and scenes from the Eastside have earned Cardenas a great response. Now, there’s word of a book in the making—a collection of photos from two of his previous shows and other photos he’s collected, so far.

The book, exclusively sold online, will be available in September. To reserve a copy or to purchase individual photos from Cardenas’ collection, including his first Self Help Graphics and Art print, visit or like his page on Facebook.

Watch this photo slideshow for a preview of the book.

No Boyle Heights Expansion for Next CicLAvia

Last modified on 2011-11-03 22:07:31 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

This week, CicLAvia announced their final route for October 9, and it’s sad to see there will be no Boyle Heights expansion route.

Although community members and CicLAvia organizers have been working to bring significant eastern, southern and northern expansions to the route, only three additional miles made the cut.

The route branches off in downtown, with a south spur ending up at the African American Firefighter Museum and a north spur leading to Chinatown’s Central Plaza, adding 2.5 miles to the original 7.5-mile route. The length of the new additions were a surprise to many who expected to see deeper paths creep into their neighborhoods. However, organizer Joe Linton said they’re hoping for additional expansions in 2012 but it all depends on fundraising.

“I had hoped we could expand greatly – miles and miles… but now it looks like, between the non-profit and the city, we need to look at shorter expansions – like adding a mile or two in a given place at a given time,” said Linton.

Hollenbeck Park will remain a rest stop from the original route, but with everyone’s support and continuous fundraising efforts, we might see a Boyle Heights expansion next year!

Still, I‘m excited for the next car-less day to come.

Donate or spread the word about the CicLAvia Kickstarter Campaign
Join the CicLAvia Facebook group

SandOne: “A girl with eyelashes”

Last modified on 2011-11-03 22:07:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    “My Mission at 20: To visually drill my name, presence and characters into your mind.
    My Motive at 20: Total motivation to the youths and minorities to persevere and break frontiers as they follow a their path to achievement”

                                  &#160                                                                 &#160 -Sand One

  • To see more photos of SandOne’s art visit her blog here
  • Read a Q&A on
  • The Effort Continues to Save Wyvernwood

    Last modified on 2011-11-03 22:08:03 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

    By Mariana Ramirez and Jessica Perez (Jessicas2cents

    An air of worry and anticipation for the proposed redevelopment and relocation of thousands of families clouds a nice summer evening at Wyvernwood Apartments. A nearby playground is filled with children while residents slowly gather to begin the monthly Comité de la Esperanza resident meeting.

    The comite, which started a few years back, is a joint effort between group leaders and active residents—sometimes going door to door— to inform others about the $2-billion redevelopment project proposed by Fifteen Group. The plan, opposed publicly by Councilmember Jose Huizar in April, consists of demolishing the existing garden-style residential complex and converting the property into high-rise apartment dwellings with an added commercial zone. With it come issues of preservation, density, rent-control and gentrification, to name a few.

    Speakers at today’s meeting included leaders from the Comité de la Esperanza, a representative from the L.A. Conservancy, as well as lawyer Maria Elena Rodriguez, who announced that the Environmental Impact Report (data that that will influence the project’s development) would be released next month. Residents were also cautioned by the developer’s attempts to lure residents into relocating by offering $18,500 to qualifying residents— namely those who can provide a social security number. One of the organizers explained that after state taxes and moving costs, each relocating family may end up with a $10,000 reward.

    The Comité de la Esperanza is composed mostly of resident adults; however there are very few youth involved. Raul Jaime, a 16-year-old student at Roosevelt High School, has been a Wyvernwood resident for 10 years. He has recently become involved in the Comité de la Esperanza’s efforts to save Wyvernwood.

    “I do this, not just to get community service, but really because we want to save the apartments and the culture that has been here for years,” said Jaime. He hopes his leadership will strengthen the Comité de la Esperanza by bringing in a youth component, he says.

    This Friday, July 8th at 8:30 pm, the Comité will host an outdoor movie night in an effort to create more unity amongst the youth at Wyvernwood. Other youth activities are being coordinated by Luis Salinas, a recent college graduate and lifetime Wyvernwood resident who has returned to give back to his community. Salinas plans to hold several university and college-bound activities during the month of August, geared towards informing the youth at Wyvernwood.

  • Here’s a 2008 post from LA Eastside blogger
  • To learn more about how other communities who have won the struggle against redevelopment click here.
  • Photography Series Pt 4: Avenida Cesar Chavez

    Last modified on 2011-06-18 02:58:43 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Photo by Aurelio Jose Barrera

    Johnny Martinez, photographed in 2003, with a bicycle he customized inside of Norma’s Beauty Salon on Avenida Cesar Chavez near St. Louis. Norma Galindo has worked at the salon since 1976.

    Boyle Heights Beat Ride Along

    Last modified on 2011-06-11 02:13:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Guest contributor Steve Saldivar went along the ride as La Opinion trucks delivered Boyle Heights Beat Newspapers to 22,000 homes around the 90033 and 90023 areas Saturday. He also visited our meeting later that morning where students received a copy of their published work and got to navigate the website, which had about 1,300 visitors in its first two days online.

    Watch the video below where senior editor Anabell Romero talks about the students’ journey.

    What makes you a Boyle Heightnian?

    Last modified on 2011-05-29 01:41:07 GMT. 4 comments. Top.

    Photo by Fabian Debora

    After all the buzz surrounding Hector Tobar’s Los Angeles Times column on Friday offering guidelines on how to be a “true Angeleno,” I began to think. Not about how to be, but what makes me a “Boyle Heightian”?

    Like Tobar mentions, “you don’t have to be a native to be a real Angeleno” Boyle Heightnian. I, like many of the immigrant families that now call Boyle Heigths their home, was not born but raised here. Weather you were born, raised, or eventually became a resident of Boyle Heights, there are icons you value, people you recognize, sounds you long or hate to hear.

    Ideally, being a true Boyle Heightnian would mean you are a part of the community because you care for it, want to see its people thrive, you value its history, and most of all, you get it—You get what it’s been through and the challenges it faces because they affect you.

    In many vecindades around the world people know each other, greet one another, and spill their chisme at the corner tortilleria or cafe. I love to see my community connect this way but our accelerated lifestyle, our dense population and lack of trust rooting from the violence that has plagued our neighborhoods have made it harder to offer a simple smile.

    Still, I can say My Boyle Heights has many qualities other neighborhoods don’t have, and many are catching on to this. Overtime the faces of Boyle Heights have changed, the streets renamed, and businesses closed to bring other projects. Although change is inevitable, it’s our responsibility to maintain our community’s identity and pass along its history.

    Through people, sights, sounds, and experiences in our communities, we relate. So today, I decided to share some reasons I feel innately make me a Boyle Heightnian, based of course on my own experience in my own era. By no means are these guidelines on how to be, please, this isn’t a checklist for the curious.

    So, what makes you a Boyle Heightnian? Read, agree, disagree and add!

    1. You know the best food joints without referring to a food blog or yelp.
    2. You appreciate the community’s artistic history, not only after it’s been designated an “Arts District.”
    3. You know what a paisa bar looks like, before it’s been taken over by hipsters.
    4. You get a courtesy wake up call from the tamalera yelling at the top of her lungs.
    5. You know the various hang out spots for the hood’s musicians: norteños, trios, and mariachis, (they’re not all on 1st and Boyle).
    6. You’ve lined up for some sort of give away (Hollenbeck toy drive perhaps?).
    7. You’ve taken wedding, first communion, quinceañera, or headshot photos at Hollenbeck Park.
    8. You’ve accidentally peed in the Roosevelt pool (or on purpose, admit it).
    9. You understand why there are synagogues, churches, and temples in your hood.
    10. You recognize local everyday icons— everyone has them (mine: Tony, the 20-year security guard at Soto and Brooklyn, or Chavez; El Catrin, the sharp–dressed elderly man who you know has a story; the workers at George’s Burgers, some working there for over 20 years),

    -Boyle Heightnian is a term I’ve heard Luis Sierra Campos use in our Boyle Heights Beat Newspaper meetings, I’m sure he doesn’t mind me using it.

    -Read Millitant Angeleno’s response to Hector Tobar’s column here

    Tamalera by Trade, Mother Unconditionally

    Last modified on 2011-06-11 02:14:43 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    By Maria Zamudio

    Every morning Celia loads up her minivan with the tamales and champurrado to start her usual route.

    She drives around Boyle Heights selling the goods she makes everyday. Her last stop of the day is on Sheridan and Soto, where dozens of mothers walk their children to school.

    Celia has been doing this for 20 years – since she moved here from Mexico.  Selling tamales has been her sole source of income to support her four children. She is like thousands of hard-working mothers who get up everyday to provide for their children.

    “My children are the engine that keeps me going,” she says.

    Young people define a healthy future for Boyle Heights

    Last modified on 2011-05-05 14:15:29 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    By Jasmin López

    Whittier Boulevard and Soto Street in Boyle Heights. Photo: Zackary Canepari

    New community collaborations in Los Angeles are giving young people a leading role in improving their neighborhoods.

    Youth are setting goals and organizing action in the Los Angeles communities of Boyle Heights, City Heights, Coachella, Long Beach, Santa Ana and South Los Angeles — many convening over a recent weekend for a meeting of the Building a Healthy Boyle Heights Collaborative at a local computer access and education center.
    News about Boyle Heights tends to be about crime, but young residents see it differently.

    “Violence isn’t the biggest issue in Boyle Heights. I see health as the biggest issue right now — lack of healthy food and exercise. Diabetes and obesity are big problems in our community. Seeing my dad struggle with diabetes motivates me to exercise everyday so that I don’t have those problems,” said Carlos Jimenez, a Building Healthy Communities youth leader and volunteer with Proyecto Pastoral, which provides low-income community services in Boyle Heights.

    Participants also joined in the 22nd Annual L.A. River Clean-Up, attended workshops on social-movement history, media and “Organizing 101? — and developed their own workshops and priority issues, such as “access to healthy food options” and “reclaiming public spaces,” for a statewide convening on June 24.

    The program “has been very empowering for the youth and assists in helping change behavior that would ultimately affect their health. They are identifying issues and making healthier choices in their lives,” said Eric Hubbard, director of development at Jovenes, Inc., an organization working to bring opportunities to disenfranchised youth and families to become active and integrated members of the community.

    Building a Healthy Boyle Heights is the collaborative of organizations working through this initiative to outline and prioritize outcomes for the community based on resident and youth response. Most recently residents selected the outcomes chosen by the youth as first priority.

    “Being involved in Building a Healthy Boyle Heights, one of the lessons that I walked away with was that community efforts — while they seem very extensive and complicated — do work. When you work with the community and create advocates out of the community, they’re the ones that really make the choices that ultimately become the right choices for the community. They’re the ones that bring progress into the community,” said Lucia Torres, director of Proyecto Pastoral’s academic-support program.

    Lucia Torres, program director of IMPACTO at Proyecto Pastoral by Jasmin Mara

    IMPACTO youth speaks about her community by Jasmin Mara

    Also published on

    Boyle Heights Toxic Tour: One Community’s Fight

    Last modified on 2011-04-25 21:56:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Photo by Zachary Canepari

    By Jasmin Lopez

    News about Boyle Heights in Los Angeles tends to be about crime or gentrification. There’s little coverage of air pollution, lack of safe and green spaces, lack of access to affordable and healthy food options — or the residents and organizations that are determined to change this.

    On April 5, the East LA Community Corporation gathered residents and community leaders to discuss the Boyle Heights Clean Air pilot project in which community residents will participate in trainings and collect community level data on pollution and health exposures.

    “People really want to engage with us. They want to mobilize, act, and learn more,” said Lina Stepick, community organizing fellow at ELACC.

    In January, the Clean Up Green Up campaign was launched and proposed to bring greener industries and jobs to “toxic hot spot” communities where concentrations of environmental hazards have resulted in high levels of health risks, including cancer and asthma. Clean Up Green Up is led by Communities for a Better Environment, Coalition for a Safe Environment, Pacoima Beautiful and Union de Vecinos.
    “We know that Boyle Heights is very polluted and it’s a concern in our community. The children have asthma and there are more and more illnesses. We don’t know if it has to do with the pollution, the freeways, and the cars and trucks in our community,” said Angela Gutierrez, a volunteer at Union de Vecinos and White Memorial Hospital.

    A mostly working class Latino neighborhood east of the Los Angeles River and north of the industrial city of Vernon, Boyle Heights has long been home to immigrant families, rich social capital and strong civic engagement.

    It also has experienced generations of environmental inequality.

    In the summer of 2006, The Southeast Regional Energy Center proposed building a 943-megawatt fossil fuel power plant that would emit approximately 1.7 million pounds of toxic pollution per year as well as 2.8 million tons of green house gases. The plant would have affected the communities living in the six-mile radius around the proposed 27-acre site on the southeast corner of Boyle and Fruitland Avenues in Vernon.

    Residents and organizations from surrounding communities, including Boyle Heights, formed an alliance and fought against the proposed project for three years. In 2009, Vernon abandoned its plan.

    The alliance led mostly by immigrant Latinas, youth, and supported by several organizations including Mother’s of East Los Angeles, Resurrection Church and Communities for a Better Environment was a victory for low-income communities across the country that are suffering from political, economic and social inequities.

    “Environmental issues are just one of many issues of structural inequality faced by poor people of color. You can’t understand this issue as separate from the attacks on undocumented immigrants, inequality in schools, housing, and employment, police brutality, cultural language repression, all of the facets of people’s repression,” said Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment.

    This story was submitted for posting by its author and originally posted on

    Mis Memories: Teatro Azteca

    Last modified on 2011-04-25 14:26:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    One of my oldest Boyle Heights memories is visiting the movie theatre that once stood on the corner of 1st and St. Louis Streets.

    When I talk to neighbors and friends about old movie theatres in Boyle Heights, they mostly remember the Brooklyn Theatre or the Joy. But for me, Teatro Azteca, also known as the Meralta Theatre, is hard to forget.

    I must have been around five or six-years-old when I last saw a movie there, so I have blurry memories. But I do remember watching a Freddy Krueger flick and how my parents made me sneak in home-made popcorn con Tapatio— a habit they encouraged until my teen years.

    The theatre survived many decades, adapting its name and film selections to fit the changing ethnic populations in Boyle Heights. I probably caught some of the last showings at Teatro Azteca in the late 80s, because shortly there after, it closed.

    Our neighbor, Juan Barilla, remembers taking his high school sweetheart to the theatre frequently. Watch below.

    A New Home for Boyle Heights Kids

    Last modified on 2011-04-15 09:55:23 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

    For a few months now, the sound of boisterous children, bouncing gym balls, and coaches whistling have been replaced by drills and bulldozers at the Variety Boys and Girls Club in Boyle Heights— I should know. I live nearby.

    That’s because early this year construction began on a $10.1 million transformation of the 85-year-old facility. A ceremony was held today to present the groundbreaking of the new 28,500-square-foot club, which will allow an increase in member participation from 255 to 400 youth per day.

    About the VBGC via the Architecture for Humanity Game Changers Website

    Since 1949, the Variety Boys & Girls Club has offered afterschool enrichment programs that directly respond to the most pressing needs of youth, ages 6-17, living in Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, East L.A. and Downtown L.A. The Club’s mission is to provide young people with positive alternatives that build self-reliant, tolerant citizens who strive to make a difference.

    New state-of-the-art program areas will allow for expansion and modernization of our programs, including: tutoring and academic support, scholarships, college and career guidance, mentorship, arts and crafts, aquatics, recreation and sports, community service opportunities and social events. By increasing our capacity through this important project, the Club can better prepare our youth for academic and life success, while overcoming the challenges that plague their underserved communities.

    The renovation is being funded by “Changing Children’s Lives” Capital Campaign as well as Variety, Tent 25, who committed to $5 million towards the campaign. Although this project has been 10 years in the making, the club’s members will finally get to enjoy the new facility in February 2012.

    Variety Boys and Girls Club
    (323) 269-3177
    2530 Cincinnati Street, Boyle Heights

    After demolition. March 5, 2011 Photo by

    Before demolition. January 10, 2011 Photo by jessicas2cents

    Future model of Variety Boys and Girls Club.

    Future Variety Boys and Girls Club gymnasium.

    CicLAvia, Round Two

    Last modified on 2011-04-14 16:29:36 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Armando “El Primo” Velez shares his images of this past weekend’s CicLAvia. If you missed it, don’t worry. CicLAvia will come again on July 10, with an extension into South L.A. and will roll deeper into Boyle Heights on October 9.

    CicLAvia, Here We Come!

    Last modified on 2011-04-08 06:42:42 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

    We’ve arrived. Weather’s good (or will be), bikes are tuned-up, and L.A. streets are getting ready for us. CicLAvia, here we come!

    This Sunday, April 10, from our town to… another town—Boyle Heights to East Hollywood— 7.5 miles of L.A. will be closed off to traffic making way for bike riders, skaters, roller bladders, joggers, walkers, and even those cruising on strollers.

    CicLAvia is expected to have a bigger turnout than last year’s event on 10-10-10, which brought out about 100,000 people. Last year was great, especially for someone like me who is not a confident bike rider. But this year, get ready to see more along the ride: food, beer gardens, entertainment (including the Eastside Drum Circle), street art, creative folks (or people acting a fool cause they can) and advertising! Yes, it’s too obvious—I’m sure people caught on that CicLAvia is a great way to advertise, for free.

    So don’t be surprised if you see a Mis Neighbors poster or two… hey, we got to get out there somehow. See you at Hollenbeck Park neighbors!
    Ride goes from 10-3 pm.

    For more, check out the CicLAvia website here.

    Click here to join the Boyle Heights Historical Society’s Historic Bike Tour

    All About WATER

    Last modified on 2011-03-22 08:36:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    As you may or may not know, March 22 marks World Water Day. So on this day, countries around the world promote activities and recommendations to bring awareness on the issues surrounding our worldwide water crisis.

    There are several ways to participate. For starters, you can do like me and use a Brita dispenser that you fill straight from your sink– and most of us are renters so water is free! (you can score cheap dispensers and filters at the many closeout stores in Boyle Heights).
    But if you’re dining out during this World Water Week (March 20-26) you can participate in UNICEF’s Tap Project— where you will pay $1 for a glass of tap water you normally get for free at participating restaurants. The funds raised will support UNICEF’s efforts to bring clean and accessible water to millions of children around the world.

    A couple of Eastside joints are participating, including Café In the Heights in Lincoln Heights and The York in Highland Park. For more participating restaurants click here.

    On the topic of AGUA, The Estria Foundation unveiled its first mural from their Water Writes campaign this weekend at KIPP LA Prep in Boyle Heights. The project will bring water-themed murals to 10 cities around the world to help communities express their perspective on water issues. It was nice to see our neighbors as the featured artists: Erin Yoshi, Raul Gonzalez, Ricardo Estrada, and Vyal Reyes,

    Hear more about the project below

    Water Writes LA by jessicap12

    Know Your Rights!

    Last modified on 2011-02-11 08:34:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    If you have ever been:
    a) walking down the street, minding your own
    b) at work trying to make a living
    c) driving down the highway
    d) at home watching novelas
    e) told you “look undocumented”

    You better watch out! You are a target for the police or ICE. Because government agencies tend to (soft word huh) abuse their power, it’s important to know your rights.

    Corazon Del Pueblo along with the Law Offices of Mercedes V. Castillo hosted a Know Your Rights Workshop last night with informational presentations on how to deal with police during questioning, stops and arrests, and searches and warrants. They also provided information on immigration raids at work— like the ones we saw make headlines this week at Chipotle, but are seen all over the country. The night ended with a chance for audience volunteers to role-play and practice exercising their rights.

    Here’s a list of important points to remember and “Magic Words” to use when encountering law enforcement:

    -Whatever you say to police can be used against you.
    -Whenever cops ask you anything besides your name and address, it’s safest to say, “I am going to remain silent. I want to see a lawyer.”

    -Any time the police try to search you, your car, your house, say, “I do not consent to this search.” Say it LOUDLY! Ask for a warrant and read for specific names and addresses (more details on warrants here).
    -Don’t physically resist when cops try to search you.

    -Keep your hands in view and don’t make sudden movements
    -Observe the police, write down names, ID numbers, descriptions, witnesses
    -Don’t run, don’t lie about your legal status, don’t show false documents

    In an ideal world, cops would respect your rights but we don’t live in that world. You can find a complete Know Your Rights booklet in several languages at the American Civil Liberties Union website here.

    Here’s a video from the Coalition of Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles with several scenarios that can happen or have happened to you. It’s a bit lengthy but what’s 9 minutes?

    If you have questions and need legal support contact:
    Law Offices of Mercedes V. Castillo
    6457 Whittier Blvd, East LA, 90022
    (323) 454-3683

    Boyle Heights Toxic Tour Project

    Last modified on 2011-02-09 22:02:03 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    A team of multimedia journalists are collaborating on a project that will bring coverage highlighting the effects caused by pollution and other harmful environmental health factors in Boyle Heights. The project is part of the award-winning “Toxic Tour” reporting project sponsored by and Spot.Us. The following comes from the project’s pitch and introduction.

    All Roads Lead to Boyle Heights

    Nestled between the Los Angeles River and the 710 freeway, and often passed off as just another crime-ridden neighborhood by outsiders, Boyle Heights is home to a growing concentration of Latino immigrants, many who lived in and strengthened this community for generations.

    Boyle Heights became a center for immigrant life in L.A. as early as the 1920s and remained so for decades. It was a place to call home when other parts of the city wouldn’t open its doors. In the 1930s, its demographics began to shift when Mexican families started to populate the area as Jewish and Japanese families moved out. Today, Boyle Heights boasts nearly 110,000 residents.

    Dissected by five major freeways and neighbor to several industries, the residents of Boyle Heights face significant amounts of noise, air, industrial and traffic pollutants every day.

    If you would like to help fund this project click here.

    If you would like to share experiences or information regarding this issue contact Jasmin Lopez at

    Photography Series: Avenida Cesar Chavez Pt. 3

    Last modified on 2011-02-07 06:36:07 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    A car transmission with two mannequin halves and a small sub-compact car adorn the front of Tony's Auto Repair high above the entrance on Cesar Chavez Ave in East Los Angeles. A FOR LEASE sign has recently been posted on the property. Photo by Aurelio Jose Barrera 2008

    PhotogRAFA:365… and Counting

    Last modified on 2011-02-07 06:40:10 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

    Rafael Cardenas aka “Eastsider Writer” has worn many hats in his lifetime: graphic designer, business assistant, construction worker, vocalist, actor, writer, and after last year, photographer. He took on a challenge at the end of 2009 that had him roaming the streets of L.A. with his Canon 10D camera, capturing moments he sometimes couldn’t believe himself.

    With a solo exhibit done and a second coming this weekend, it makes you wonder… was this a challenge or a calling?

    Boldly Boyle Heights- An exhibit of Photographs by Rafael Cardenas
    Opening reception:
    Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011 (5-8pm)
    Primera Taza Coffee House
    1850 E. 1st Street
    Boyle Heights- Los Angeles, CA 90033

    To see more of Rafael Cardenas’ photography check out his website here

    The Hustle and Bustle

    Last modified on 2011-01-20 07:28:06 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    by Steve Saldivar

    Photography Series: Avenida Cesar Chavez Pt.2

    Last modified on 2011-01-23 07:53:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Couples dance to Norteño music late on a Wednesday night at La Zona Rosa dance club in Boyle Heights. Photo by Aurelio José Barrera

    East Los Angeles

    Last modified on 2011-01-23 07:51:33 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

    Awesome work by East Los native Steve Saldivar.

    East Los Angeles from Steve Saldivar on Vimeo.

    Photography Series: Avenida Cesar Chavez Pt 1

    Last modified on 2011-01-23 07:52:57 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

    We welcome contributor Aurelio José Barrera, a life-long resident of East L.A. and documentary photographer. You can check out his website here.

    Everyone waited for the groom to arrive at the Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church in East Los Angeles. Bride Diana Lomeli (center) and her parents, Francisco Rocha (left) and Guadalupe Rocha (right) sat out front inside their SUV.

    Even after the groom finally arrived several minutes late, Nazareth Rodriguez, 7, checked the church for him as he held his cousin's bridal dress.

    Adventures con Mis Neighbors: “Snow Baseball”

    Last modified on 2010-12-16 00:15:42 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Snow doesn’t fall in Boyle Heights… Tell that to spoken word artist, Leon who took advantage of the snow left behind by the Hollenbeck Toy Drive on Saturday. Let’s just say we’re glad he’s a poet and not an aspiring MLB player.

    Mis Neighbors in Traffic

    Last modified on 2010-12-15 17:47:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    East Los Angeles, Whittier Blvd. Mis Neighbors. from El Primo on Vimeo.

    Closeout: Peter’s Store

    Last modified on 2011-01-23 07:48:55 GMT. 4 comments. Top.

    I must admit, I too have jumped on the closeout store bandwagon. How do you avoid it? Closeout stores are everywhere on Cesar Chavez. I blame my mom, an avid closeout store shopper who resorts to these stores mainly because they’re cheap and they’re walking distance (which gives her more of a reason to put off learning how to drive). One thing I’ve learned from my mom is you always go to Peter’s Store before you go to any other closeout store. If I ever break her rule, she says, “Ay, Pedro lo tiene mas barato,” as if she knew his inventory. But although Peter’s Store is the most popular closeout store in Boyle Heights, it’s on the verge of closing, and this time, it’s not the economy’s fault.

    Peter says he’s not sure how much longer his store will remain open. But the pressure of having his business shut down helped him out in the long run. Soon, he’ll be opening another store in East L.A., and my mom’s searching for bus routes right now…. no te digo?

    Boyle Heights
    Peter’s Store
    2617 Cesar E. Chavez Ave
    Los Angeles, Ca 90033

    East L.A.
    Peter’s Store
    4529 Whittier Blvd
    Los Angeles, Ca 90023

    Bye Bye, Big Buy

    Last modified on 2012-01-04 21:59:30 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

    There are several childhood memories from Boyle Heights that won’t be so easy to erase; Big Buy is one of them. The cumbia on the loudspeaker; the produce advertising itself outside; against a mirror; the 25-cent pony ride; and the post-it wall I loved to read as a kid. I remember thinking I could get a job there during a high school summer- although I never applied. Now, Big Buy Foods is closing its doors, and will make room for Walgreens (which has been the owner for a couple of years now). It’ll be weird not seeing the Big Buy signs that made up part of our neighborhood landscape.

    “We’re very sad to leave our customers,” said Big Buy’s manager, Tom Rumack. “This neighborhood has seen a lot of change.” His father and uncle opened the grocery store in 1962, after Boyle Heights had turned into a predominantly Latino community from its once Jewish majority. Although Big Buy’s lease is up at the end of this year, Rumack said they’ll most likely be closed by the end of this week.

    I asked shoppers and employes how they felt about the change.

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