You probably know Louie Pérez principal songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for his work with the acclaimed Grammy Award-winning band Los Lobos, but do you know where he came from? Pérez showed us the spots that mean most to him –- the spots that celebrate, define and inspire the Chicano experience and make East LA his home.
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C & R Auto Electric Shop
506 North Brannick Avenue 90063
We started north of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, nestled on the edge of a quiet residential street at C & R Electric, an auto repair shop owned by another Louie — Louie Silva. The garage has been in the Silva family since 1956 when the two Louies were young boys and their mothers became friends. Louie is the eyes and ears of the neighborhood; there is nothing he can’t tell you about its history.
4931 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles
Perez dubs Whittier Blvd., starting at Eastern Avenue, the Chicano Miracle Mile. “This is where all the movie theatres were and this is where the cruising took place every Sunday night starting on Eastern Avenue. Everyone would cruise all the way to Atlantic Boulevard, turn around and come back,” says Perez. “That Top Value used to be the Johnson’s Market. Conrad and I used to stand right in front. We didn’t have a car to cruise in, so we’d just stand there and watch all the cars go by.”
Garfield Senior High School
5101 East 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90022-3209
In March 1968, students from Garfield Senior High School –– Pérez’s alma mater — and four other East Los Angeles high schools (Lincoln, Belmont, Roosevelt and Wilson) protested unequal conditions in the Los Angeles Unified School District by walking out. Students were forbidden to speak Spanish and those who did were punished with the spanking paddle in front of their classmates. The curriculum mostly ignored or denied Mexican-American history, and Chicano students were pushed toward menial labor or the secretarial pool instead of college. The protests soon spread to 15 additional high schools, including ones in Huntington Park, Venice and Hollywood. In all, 22,000 students walked out.
Mariachi Plaza Los Angeles
1783 E. 1st Street, Mariachi Plaza
East Los Angeles
One mile west of Downtown LA in Boyle Heights, the historic Boyle Hotel and surrounding Cummings block, link a legacy of mariachi music with the vibrant Latino culture of the Pueblo of the 1800s. Since the 1930s, mariachis in their tidy charro suits have gathered outside the hotel on the plaza with command performances for restaurants, parties and the neighborhood. The 118-year-old Mariachi Hotel is currently undergoing restoration and will reopen in the Summer of 2012, but the plaza is open for business and music.
Goez Art Studio
5432 E Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA. 90022
Painter, muralist, sculptor, restorer, and curator Jose Luis Gonzalez is one of the pioneers of the 60s Chicano mural movement. In 1969, he founded his studio and gallery dedicated to the recognition and training of Chicano artists in the United States. It was the first gallery devoted to Chicano art in the country.
Eastside Luv Wine Bar y QUEso
1835 E. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA, 90033
Formerly the Metropolitan, this corner bar in the barrio has been in business since the 1940s and the new look and name is about the love owner Guillermo Uribe has for the Chicano/Pocho/Latino Eastside experience. The lowrider “chaindeliers” inspired by lowrider chain steering wheels, black corduroy and Pendleton fabric are old school authentic, so much so that the bar has been used as a filming location for series like NCIS LA.
Green Mill Liquor
3812 Whittier Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90023-2402
On August 29, 1970, Rubén Salazar, a Mexican American, investigative journalist, was killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Tom Wilson, during the National Chicano Moratorium. What started out as a peaceful park protest against the Vietnam War turned into a riot when the owners of Green Mill called in a complaint about people stealing from them. Deputies responded and a fight broke out. Forty-two-year-old Salazar, a Los Angeles Times reporter for over a decade, had left the paper about a year before to become news director at the Spanish-language station KMEX-TV. He was shot in the head at short range with a tear gas projectile sitting inside The Silver Dollar Cafe (now a discount store). A coroner’s inquest ruled the shooting was a homicide, but the deputy was never prosecuted. At the time many believed the homicide was a premeditated assassination of a prominent, vocal member of the Los Angeles Chicano community. The Chicano Moratorium was the largest anti-war action on the part of any ethnic community in the United States.
Arte & Charro
2737 East Cesar Chavez Avenue
The American cowboy traditions of the late 19th century grew out of the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico, but the deep history traces back to Spain. On the block for at least 20 years, Arte & Charro specializes in custom alterations, Mariachi alterations, custom made charro suits and a whole line of vaquero wear for every Don and Dõnia.
East Los Angeles College Stadium
1700 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA
“My sister actually brought me here to see Sony & Cher, with Chad & Jeremy, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Bobby Fuller Four, in the 60s…Big rivalry between Roosevelt Highschool and Garfield Highschool and they would have the games there at the stadium and it would get full, it would get packed — almost as packed as the parking lot where they’d be drinking beer. We’d always end up at Shakey’s, Shakey’s pizza parlor.”
Anthony Quinn Public Library
3965 E Cesar E Chavez Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
Actor Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, to an ethnic Irish-Mexican father and an ethnic Mexican mother. After starting life in extremely modest circumstances in Mexico, his family moved to Los Angeles where he grew up in Boyle Heights and went to Belvedere Junior High. His childhood home occupied the site of the present-day library and it was renamed in his honor in the 80s.
For more Chicano history, check out CIVIL RIGHTS AND GO-GO BOOTS, a groovy evening of theater, live music and facts presented by About…Productions and 89.3 KPCC at KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum, April 13, 20111, 7pm. The workshop and community forum is part of a larger piece in progress, Evangeline, The Queen of Make-Believe, featuring the songbook of Louie Pérez and David Hidalgo and set for a world premiere in 2012. — Kim Kuhteubl