The answer may appear to be simple for some. But in reality, many people, including the residents of Eastside, struggle to give a correct and straight answer. Besides, a debate continues to rage as to where East L.A. starts because everyone has an opinion.
While some long-time residents mention a particular place, most new residents say they don’t know. Others are hesitant to say anything because they feel the question is a political one.
For instance, actor Leonardo Di Caprio, who grew up in East Hollywood and Echo Park, said he lived in East L.A during his younger days. However, most residents disagreed with that statement, and someone corrected him.
The reason why a white guy with blue eyes described the areas where he lived as East L.A. is because he couldn’t venture further east beyond there. Why?
It may not be well-known to many new residents and youngsters, but Downtown L.A. was like a ghost town at night during the 1980s. On the other hand, people felt intimidated by areas such as Boyle Heights and Highland Park because they supposedly were filled with various gang members.
But there is one point to be noted, and that is Los Angeles didn’t come into existence in the 1980s or even the 1880s but in the 1780s. Black, white, brown, and Native Americans all had a hand in establishing Los Angeles.
This new settlement was called “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles.” When translated, it reads “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels,” it comprises present-day Downtown L.A.
So, for all those residents and curious people who regard the history of L.A. more than geography, designate Eastside L.A. in connection to Olvera Street, often considered the location where Los Angeles was born.
But with the scenery of L.A. changing rapidly, people make weird assumptions, too. Just recently, Sera Gamble, when talking about shooting locations for the Netflix series “You,” mentioned something along the lines of Leo Di Caprio.
She said that if anyone truly wished to capture the essence of Los Angeles, they should begin in the east. However, by that, she meant the areas Leo Di Caprio also mentioned, namely the east of Silver Lake and Echo Park, and not the real Eastside.
With so many varied opinions from various individuals, it’s hard to come to a conclusion. That’s why it became necessary to do a ground report and find out what new and old residents had to say to the question, “Where does Eastside L.A begin?”
Eddie Spaghetti, a homeless person for 22 years, earns his livelihood by selling things that he finds or that people give to him for five dollars. That’s why residents in the area also call him the $5 Guy.
On this day in January, he has a big smile on his face, and when asked where Eastside starts, he is quick to reply, “East L.A.” Next, I asked when he went there last, and he replied, “Yesterday, eating tacos at King Taco on Soto Street and Cesar Chavez.”
Next are two UPS drivers, Victor and Louis, parked near a former Silver Lake vegan and juice shop. When asked where Eastside starts, both had different opinions.
Victor said to go to Main Street in Downtown L.A. and head east, and that’s the beginning of Eastside. But Louis had another answer. According to him, it starts at “1st Street in East L.A.”
Archena, who originally hails from South Pasadena, was entertaining visitors from Oakland on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. She was standing in line at Konbi, and when asked where Eastside began, she hesitated and didn’t provide a straightforward answer.
According to her, it was a “political conversation,” and she wasn’t the right person to answer. However, she said she knows which part isn’t Eastside and mentioned two areas, Beverly Hills and Brentwood.
She was chatty and lively but didn’t mention many names besides the two. She owned that she was playing safe, and maybe that was a clever move.
A group of young men were skateboarding near Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, also called “VAPA” by its students.
The school is near Chinatown, and when questioned regarding Eastside, Alex, one of the young men, said, “L.A. Trade Technical College.” It was probably a joke, and he said that because he, along with his friend Nick, studied there.
Nick, on the other hand, said, “East L.A.” All the young men said “Spence” and pointed to another youngster when asked who was the best skater among them.
Strange, but this Spence also had another answer to where Eastside begins because he said “Eagle Rock” and skated off. Another young man named James (he had great hair) said “Las Feliz” in a weird way, which made everyone laugh.
The neighborhood had a huge Jewish population in the past, but not so much now. It’s predominantly inhabited by Hispanics and Latinos and some white, black, Asian, and Jewish residents.
Moni’s Party World is a shop for various party items. Eva, who graduated from Felicitas & Gonzalo Mendez High School, has been employed in the shop for around five years.
When queried regarding Eastside L.A., at first, she wondered if it was between Boyle Heights and Commerce. But then she mentioned it’s “more east than Boyle Heights.”
El Norteño De Savy is a store that has been dealing in menswear for more than forty years. The store has also converted a considerable portion of its area for a card game known as Yu-Gi-Oh.
Two young men engrossed in the game had quick replies related to the game. But when asked regarding Eastside L.A., they said they didn’t know.
But since I wanted to know their thoughts, I asked what they think when someone says a party is on the Eastside. Their reply was somewhat hilarious.
Andreas, one of the two boys, said they were introverts and stayed in the same spot. Jonas, his friend, agreed with that statement, and both confessed that they never wondered where Boyle Heights fits in L.A. regarding directions.
But it was way different with Maria, who works as a cashier at the original Guisados. According to her, Eastside starts at Lorena St. She was firm regarding her point and said Boyle Heights wasn’t connected to Eastside.
Another long-time resident, Eduardo Garcia, who has lived in the area for more than 45 years, said that Eastside used to start at Boyle Heights, but now it begins at Lorena St.
He explains it by mentioning a few things about the neighborhood but doesn’t exactly arrive at the point. But from his explanation, I did learn several things, like the lively older man was in the theater business and that he came from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Luis Vega, the City of Angels Tattoo shop owner, said Boyle Heights was where Eastside began in the past, but not anymore. But he ponders a bit and explains if you look in the west, there’s L.A., and when you look towards this side, it’s the Eastside.
A customer called Fatima had a different opinion. She said that Eastside starts at Indiana St.
Luis Vega’s two teenage sons were also in the shop, and when I asked them, Luis Jr. replied, “Whittier,” but his brother wasn’t sure what to answer as he never considered it.
Javier smoking a cigarette in the Lorena Drive-In parking lot has a separate view. He disagrees that Lorena Street is the beginning of Eastside. He says that the east of L.A. River is where the Eastside starts, and the river is the divider.
According to him, he judges things by what Mother Nature provides and not by what people say. He also says that Boyle Heights ends in Indiana Street, and East L.A. begins from there. But he disagrees that Eastside starts there.
Johnny’s Shrimp Boat
I headed towards the west and went inside Johnny’s Shrimp Boat, a restaurant a few blocks away. If you watched “Rampart (2011)”, which starred Woody Harrelson and Ice Cube, you must have noticed this restaurant.
Two people were in the restaurant: Victor, who was working the Grill, and George, a customer. When I questioned them regarding the beginning of Eastside, they both replied differently.
The customer, George, said it started in El Sereno. But Victor disagreed and said it began after Lorena St. corrected himself and said, “Indiana, my bad.” When asked why, he said, “It is what it is.”
I move back towards Indiana Street again and notice a mini market called Indiana Dairy. A friendly Asian lady in charge of the market chats with me, but when I asked where Eastside begins, she said she couldn’t speak or understand English well.
But I am not deterred by this since I want some answers, so try to obtain opinions from her customers.
I met Raphael, who was scratching a ticket and had just won. As he entered the Indiana Market, I asked the all-important question, and he replied that Eastside began on this street. When asked why, he said, this place is Boyle Heights, and east of here is East L.A.
Another customer, Jose, was also trying his luck on the ticket. He was sitting in his classic car, a 1966 Mustang. When I enquired regarding the beginning of Eastside, he wasn’t sure but said it was Indiana or Lorena. He resides in the area.
When he learns the question is asked because many people consider Silver Lake or Echo Park as the starting point of Eastside, he is amazed or even finds it hilarious.
His exact words are “Silver Lake?”, “I’m lost on that one.”