I was born and raised in East L.A., which is not really a bad thing. After all, everything turned out for the better. I had friends right across the street from me, and I went to school on the other side of my block of Hamel Elementary School. The school had been standing for 100 years, and the teachers knew my parents well since my brothers had gone there too. Then, they bulldozed the place right after I graduated. In its place, a high school was built. I had to switch schools, and I lost all the friends that I played with. I went to a middle school in Rosewood instead of going to Roosevelt or Griffith. When I said I was from East L.A., people would immediately pipe up about how bad of a place it is, but I wouldn’t give them any mind. I enjoyed my time in Rosewood, but when I went back to East LA for high school, I didn’t know anyone anymore. It was as if I was back at square one.
It’s not as bad as it sounds though. Even though I saw this place built from the ground up, it was a new place that I had never been to. There are lots of other schools that are well regarded or have a place in society. They were deeply rooted in what it means to be from East L.A. Torres could now be added onto that list, but this doesn’t mean we should forget where we come from. Even if we try, we probably couldn’t. We grew up in these neighborhoods, spending entire afternoons playing in the park under the sun with family and friends. We went to church on religiously significant holidays, and helped out whenever we could. Sometimes this was at a cost to ourselves, but we still gained something from the event, even if it was not material.
Now that I think about it, I also know a lot of people from around the area. There’s the Carnitas guy just up the street from where I live, my barber and his regular customers, the elote (corn) guy, the iconic churro guy, and the ice cream men. I see them all over the place: Bristow Park, Whittier Park, Troy’s Burgers, and even other random spots where my friends and I hang out. They are either with their family or working. There’s fun events that happen around here throughout the year, like the parade that goes down Cesar Chavez every year. The churches also bring the Virgin Mary on a float and decorate her nicely for a parade. We live in a very urban environment, which adds to the experience and the feel of living in East L.A. Even though every place has its own feel and I have never lived anywhere else, East L.A. is my home. It always will be, and I’m proud to say that.