I remember falling asleep inside my uncle’s car in Michoacán only to wake up in Boyle Heights hours later. Up until then, my mom, two younger sisters and I were living at my great grandma’s ranch. All I remember from the few months we spent there was running all over the place, catching chickens for the occasional molé and swimming in a stream as my mom washed clothes on rocks further up. Staying with family was the best recourse my parents could have taken as we prepared to immigrate to the U.S. My father couldn’t afford to take us all at once of course, thus he went on ahead to find work and secure a place for us to stay until everything was ready.
We originally lived in Mexico City in some apartments. To make a living, my parents had a fruit stand in one of the local Tianguis. It was the kind of community in which the entire village would raise each other’s child, that’s how well everyone knew each other. Memories of those days are far and few in between, but just like all of the rest, they’re romanticized. I tried comparing them with Google Earth, but they just don’t match.
And so, for the last 20 years I’ve been living in and out of Boyle Heights as an undocumented immigrant. I always considered myself an adoptive son of Boyle Heights, one of the oldest — and depending what year — most diverse communities in all of Los Angeles, because this is where I first landed. My family was among the growing trend of immigrants coming to the U.S. and settling into the greater East L.A. area, but we never stayed in one place for too long.
Over the years, my family bounced around a lot, following work wherever it would take us. Whether it was Central and 91st in Florence-Graham or apartment buildings in Long Beach. To a house in Willowbrook and back to apartments in Inglewood for a bit, followed up by more apartments in Pico Union and finally ending up back in Boyle Heights to a modest house with a yard. We always managed to stay together as family no matter how cramped up we were.
Out of all the different communities and parts of this city I’ve lived in, to me there’s no place like Boyle Heights. Spending the last couple of years reporting/blogging on all the amazing artist and community members that make up this great neighborhood, I’ve been writing about the changes that are happening and challenging the ignorant stereotypes that outsiders continue to have about us in person and online. I’ve gotten to meet residents that have lived in BH since the `20s and some who are newer, but have just as much love and passion for the barrio. And while I won’t be settling down any time soon, Boyle Heights will still be waiting for me when I’m ready.