To an extent, I don’t like living in East L.A but that may be because my house is in the dead center of a gang’s territory. We luckily haven’t seen a lot of conflict between gangs due to the placement. However, we are used to living alongside gang members and had to deal with their terrible life styles due to their choice of making the front of my house their hangout spot. From an early age, I was shown the world of alcoholism and drug use. My parents tried their best to keep all these things out of my sight but it wasn’t enough. The smell of weed would travel by wind into our windows and fill the house with its strong scent. At night, their drunken laughter would be heard and empty beer bottles would be found, evidence of how they spent the previous night. If outsiders were to see the area I live in, they would believe the stereotype that East L.A. is a dangerous place infested with gangs and drugs. But just that would not have given enough proof; these strangers wouldn’t have seen the good side of East L.A.
Due to where I live, I don’t like staying around my neighborhood. In 6th grade, I started skating. I instantly developed a love for the sport. There is this board shop on Atlantic and Whittier next to Sketchers where it all started. It’s called the Garage Boardshop. The owners were kind people who gave back to the community. They hosted a variety of events and activities ranging from tutoring to skate events to art shows. Graffiti is glamorized here. Artists are invited to show their skills and style. Here, graffiti isn’t used to distinguish where a gang’s territory ends and another starts. It is all pure art, with various colors and abstract drawings that all mesh together and catch the attention of anyone that sets their eyes on it.
If I never went to that shop, I would have never picked up this hobby that connected me to East L.A. and launched me into a whole new community, not marked by city lines or gang territories. I distinguish areas by what they have to skate on. I use skate spots, which are basically landmarks in the eyes of any skater, to determine where I am or where I have to go. This is my pastime. It connects me to the community in many ways through events and contests hosted at local parks, where almost hundreds of kids show up and skate together, or skating all over the area and noticing new things. I see artwork that I never noticed before, try new places to eat, and find spots to relax. If I had never gone to that boardshop, I most likely wouldn’t be the person I am today. The connection I have with where I live would have never existed.
East Los Angeles is very important to me. All the pros and cons have had a huge influence on me. I have been exposed to a culture that is a mix of my parents’ and American culture but I have also been introduced to the life of gangsters, to alcohol abuse and drug use. However, that didn’t influence me in a negative way. Living in East L.A. didn’t cause me to develop an interest in gangs and drugs even if they have been a daily part of my life as long as I can remember. It is actually beneficial. I find that type of lifestyle to be repulsive. Their lifestyle has given me an incentive to succeed in life. I am driven to pursue a better life in a better place through any means necessary whether it is through education or work.