There have been many changes since I last visited Los Angeles. Gentrification has affected many areas and that includes MacArthur Park, Hollywood and Vine, Wilshire, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Compton, and many other places. In this autoethnography, I reflect during my bus ride from North Hollywood the many changes that happened to the city and the ways this has impacted how I interact with the memory of Los Angeles—my childhood home.
As I rode the 162 metro bus towards North Hollywood station, I noticed a small little girl sleeping on her mother's lap. She reminded me of when I was 6 years old. I would ride the bus with my mother to Downtown, Los Angeles every Saturday morning. My uncle had a bodega called, “Joe’s Produce” where I spent most of my childhood at. My mother used to do accounting for him, while I was upstairs by myself either playing with my hot wheels, coloring, listening to music, or sleeping on the floor. I remember being shorter than my mother and not worrying about having to go to school the next day. The little girl wore purple overalls, a white long sleeve, white cuffed socks that had baby pink ruffles on them, and black converse. She had black short hair with bangs, just like I did when I was about her age. I was headed towards Pico Rivera for an appointment. Her mother brushed her hands through her daughter’s hair, kissed her left cheek, and said, “Mi nena preciosa, ¡ay, cuánto te quiero!” As I stepped foot onto 7th street and Metro Center for the first time in 10 years, I noticed how the Macy’s center was not there anymore. The post office was not there anymore either. I felt so disconnected from Downtown, Los Angeles. What I used to encounter when I was small will never appear before my eyes ever again.
Inhale and Exhale
In addition to walking along these tall buildings on 7th street, I was reminiscing about all the times my mother and I went into Rite Aid so that she could buy me gum, and coloring books for the long trip that awaited us near South LA. I will admit that while strolling through those buildings to my destination, I felt pessimistic and drained because I had no one by my side to share the same experiences that I was facing. Moreover, I was waiting for another bus on 7th street and Grand. Across the street from me was Chipotle, then across from that, it was this remarkably chic and luxurious restaurant that was also connected to Rite Aid on 7th street. The blue sky reflected on the skyscrapers’ windows, it was a welcoming cold afternoon that brought me to my senses. I needed to take a deep breath of air and realize that as I grow up, I would do things on my own rather than having my mom by my side. In other words, I had to adjust my mind to become more optimistic about the change in my surroundings. During the time that my bus approached, I considered to take one last look at the tall buildings that surrounded me, and all of the walking pedestrians.
While the bus took off, it was heading towards Olvera street, the infamous street that sold Mexican goodies. I think they are closing down or have already. It is a shame, but that is how the government works. My bus was heading towards Montebello, somewhere I had never been before. I had a feeling of despair because I did not have my mother with me by my side so that I could lay on her shoulder as this long trip awaited me. She had other things to do, and I did want to bring her along, but it would have been pointless. I thought about all of those people who live by Downtown, Los Angeles and how their lives have been affected since living in Los Angeles. What changes would they not want to see? I had so many questions as to why these changes had to be done. So much of my childhood memories had vanished from reality. According to the website City-Data.com, the population in Los Angeles in 2016 was 3,976,324 and since then, it has doubled.
This Is Why They Call It Lost Angeles
Accordingly, there had been many changes since I last visited Los Angeles, one of them being how gentrification has affected many cities throughout the heart of Los Angeles. This includes MacArthur Park, Hollywood and Vine, Wilshire, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Compton, and many other cities that would take over the whole page. The estimated median house or condo value in 2016 was $593,500 (it was $215,600 in 2000) (City-Data.com). Chicanxs, Latinxs, and Hispanics make up most of the population in Los Angeles. According to the article “Gentrification is Falling in Los Angeles,” by Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplanski, since the population keeps growing throughout the years, rent is going up as well. The reason for this is because underserved communities are being evicted from their homes and being offered lots of money so that rich landlords can buy their house, demolish it, and construct a new building structure on what used to be, their property. This process is known as gentrification. They want to create a whole new rich and flourished neighborhood for themselves while the poor suffer. They are either left homeless or deported because they are poor and brown.
If I had the chance to change one thing about Los Angeles, it would be to eliminate all those rich home owners out of rural areas where they do not belong. I am talking about the ghetto. There are a few instances where I do miss part of Los Angeles, and other times where I am afraid of it because of all the dangerous people that there are in the world. As the metro reached part of Montebello, I could not see the Los Angeles world trade center buildings anymore and that made me sad. I was aware of being far away from home, and how fast time has changed. Now I can travel by myself without worrying about getting lost. Although I did get lost for the first 15 minutes of arriving to my destination, I realized that I had put in the incorrect directions to get to Pico Rivera. I wanted to cry and call my mother, which I did a few minutes later. I cried out to her because at that time, it was already 6 pm. She had sent me a screenshot of what buses I should take to get to my appointment and she had told me, “Gali, nadie te está mandando allá. La próxima vez, te voy acompañar.” I explained her how I had felt after stepping foot onto 7th street and Grand. She told me Los Angeles will continue to change as long as no one is doing anything to stop these changes that will later affect our lives when we grow old.
As the metro reached part of Montebello, I could not see the Los Angeles world trade center buildings anymore and that made me sad. I was aware of being far away from home, and how fast time has changed.
One Day She Will Look For Me
Ultimately, getting off the bus meant leaving my past behind and focusing on better and greater things that were to come. I missed some activities my mother and I did together, but I was more somber because she would not be here with me forever or as I would turn older as well. As I approached my destination, a thought in the back of my head was still there, technology had advanced on subway and metro rail systems. That is when I knew I would never relive the moments I had lived when I was younger. I grew into this smart, beautiful womxn who used to have a close relationship with Los Angeles. Now, that has all shattered, and my abilities to wonder have gone out the window because I will forever see Los Angeles like it was from my adolescence memory. The little girl I saw on the bus reminded me so much of myself that I knew, one day, she would be like me, but greater and by her mother’s side, just like I am with my mother. Some changes that occur are for the better, they will advance on their own, while hard work will lie behind them. Other times, they are bad, and no one can do anything about them. Overall, Los Angeles is amazing, and I am forever grateful for my childhood memories, and for exploring Los Angeles by my mother’s side, riding the metro with her every day and everywhere.
Kotkin, Joel, and Marshall, Toplansky. “Gentrification is failing in Los Angeles.” Los Angeles Daily News. 26 Jan. 2019. dailynews.com/2019/01/26/gentrification-is-failing-in-los-angeles/.
“Los Angeles, California.” CIty-Data.com. www.city-data.com/city/Los-Angeles-California.html.