Tag Archives: east los angeles

A Gringo’s Guide to Mexican-American Murals

Here in East Los Angeles, around every corner there are beautiful murals depicting the history of Mexico and the history of Mexicans here in the United States. While anyone can appreciate their beauty, the California public school curriculum is notably light on Latin American history so the events, people and symbols they reference may not be readily familiar to the casual observer.
The ultimate place to view murals is Chicano Park, located under the I-5 overpass in San Diego.
Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo
The park itself has a rich history and every mural tells a story. After visiting last year, I created this slideshow to give an intro to interpreting the images so everyone can enjoy these murals more deeply. I hope they will pique your curiosity to learn even more about the history of the Americas.

A couple of ways to view:

Go here and click on the photos one by one to see the captions.
Click here to see a slideshow – Click Show Info in the top right-hand corner to see the captions.

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Filed under California history, Los Angeles, Mexico, politics

Hands down, the best item ever left on my car windshield

I’m all for targeted advertising. Google, please allow me to give you all my personal information so I won’t be bothered by advertisements for diapers, treatments for balding or Justin Bieber’s latest CD, all of which are clearly not intended for me. Google clearly cares, but the people who leave flyers on my car seem to do so with little concern for who I am as a person and the sorts of products I might be interested in purchasing. Adriana’s Insurance, I’m talking to you. I am also not interested in borderline-illegal weight loss products, the junky house for sale down the street nor selling my gold (if I had any!).
So imagine my surprise when I walked out to my car and discovered this:
“The golden lamb” restaurant offering me the opportunity to purchase an entire lamb cooked in a hole. Now we’re talking. Borrego de Oro, you better believe you’ll be hearing from me as soon as I have 20 friends in Los Angeles “una ocacion especial.” You can leave a flyer on my car anytime!


Filed under I heart Cali, Los Angeles, Mexico

Look Ma, I’m on television!

Back in college, I remember reading a study on how rural communities were affected by the introduction of television. If you asked them, clearly they were delighted, but the anthropologist who wrote the study was, of course, troubled, observing that where the rural communities originally saw their town as the center of their world, when they started watching television programs taking place in New York, LA and London, their internal map shifted and they suddenly perceived themselves as living on the periphery of the action.
As someone who grew up in a small town, going on to college in Portland, OR, which is a city that is basically a small town, I’ve always merrily lived on the peripheries of the western world. It’s a nice place. A little secret I’ll let the New Yorkers in on: people have a lot of fun in places besides New York. Like Oregon and Nevada, which by the way are pronounced, Or-uh-gun and Ne-vaaaa-duh, NOT Or-uh-gone and Ne-vah-duh.
I’ll always enjoy tuning in to CSI Miami, 30 Rock and America’s Next Top model, but I’ve never minded walking out the door into a world I’ve never seen reflected on prime time television.
Since moving to Los Angeles, watching television and the movies isn’t quite the same. First of all, even if it doesn’t take place here, it’s probably filmed here. A casual drive through downtown will usually take you past some film shoot or another and my boyfriend is always pointing out popular shoot locations. Heck, I went downstairs from my office to get some Juan Pollo for lunch and the sign was covered up and there was a guy in a chicken suit parading before the cameras. The snarky hipster crew said the project was “confidential.” Brats.

Click here for an endless list of films set in Los Angeles.

The only movies that were filmed in Sonoma were a) a bit of Scream (awesome!) and b) scenes from The Animal. With Rob Schneider. They showed it during Sonoma Valley High School senior week and it brought together jocks, nerds and theater kids – we all agreed it was AWFUL.
Two days ago, I was watching CSI New York. They had found the potential killer and, gasp!, he was headed to the New York City music conservatory with toxic gas! Cut to well-heeled guests listening to chamber music…in the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. Busted!
It can be fun to have that flicker of recognition. 500 Days of Summer? I recognized almost EVERY scene, thanks in no small part to my several walking tours of downtown with the LA Conservancy (LA Times: Downtown L.A. architecture stars in ‘(500) Days of Summer’) The movie, 2012, was greatly enhanced for me as I think 1/3 of the film was dedicated to the detailed destruction of various neighborhoods of Los Angeles. I was a bit annoyed they left out East LA – what? No obligatory shot of a taco truck or paletero man falling into the abyss, no toppling King Taco sign? Typical westsider bias.

So, in the spirit of living in a place that has been interpreted ad nauseam in TV and the movies, my boyfriend, the USC film grad, is currently curating an East Los Angeles Film Festival, which is taking place in my living room. Maybe in a few years, we’ll make it to the rest of the Los Angeles neighborhoods, but we’ll start in my backyard. Recommendations welcome!

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Filed under Los Angeles, Uncategorized

El Tepeyac: Take 2

My neighbor recently read my blog post on El Tepeyac (Bigger is better, except if it’s not authentic) and asked me why I was so tough on El Tepeyac. In all fairness, I did give El Tepeyac another shot and found it better on the second and third go-rounds. We ordered a burrito drenched in enchilada sauce and it worked out pretty well, so officially, my three stars review still holds, but it’s not like I won’t go to eat there on a Friday night when the meal budget is $5 each.
I decided to take a more positive spin on the restaurant reviewing however and actively support some of my favorite restaurants here in East LA. Soooo…if you’re looking for something BESIDES El Tepeyac (which is NEVER hard up for business), here are a few of my picks!

Best places to eat Mexican food in East LA besides El Tepeyac

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Filed under Los Angeles, Uncategorized

Bigger is better, except if it’s not authentic

This weekend, I finally decided to walk a couple blocks from my house and eat at the fabled El Tepeyac Cafe on Evergreen. It had been recommended to me by an LA-native before I even left the wine country and the guy who turned on my gas also gave it the thumbs up. Two sources plus my independent reconnaissance which revealed an almost constant line in front = Worth trying at least once.
I’m sorry to say I probably won’t go back. Not because it wasn’t tasty – it just simply wasn’t tasty enough nor was the ambience so compelling that I’ll shell out $9 for a burrito (even if it did weigh about 4 lbs).
The experience did get me thinking about authenticity however – especially after I scrolled through some of the online reviews on Yelp.
The amateur food reviewers split into one of two categories: enthusiastic eaters wowed by the biggest burritos this side of the Mississippi and haters who complain that the place is no good because it’s not “authentic.” A representative sampling of the tenor of the conversation:

Richard D.

Manny’s Special, that is all you need to know…I never seen this in my life.  I couldn’t finish it on my own; so I split it with a friend.  If you plan to take on this beast alone, make sure to fast two days in advance.  Got to love Mexican food.

Saul S.

Let me get this straight: “HUGE portions” merit the authenticity-stamp for Mexican joints?? *sigh*This place is as “authentic” as Knott’s Berry Farm’s Montezuma’s Revenge snack-bar. Maybe I’m spoiled by the regional Piasa joints that don’t cater to LA nostalgia but I don’t trust any Mexican restaurant that doesn’t serve Carne Asada or Pastor meat. 
After all the hype from my newly extended East-Los familia and fellow die-hard Dodger fans, Its safe to say I was disappointed by TepeWac’s condensed, portion-friendly menu. 
I agree, not ALL “authentic” Mexican joints serve the same type of food, but they DO serve a protein other than thawed-out chicken strips and Shredded beef(Machaca) 
No trolling. Soon after I ate here, I discovered this place is a joke among un chingo de Mexicanos besides this serote from Long Beach.

Then we have Robert A. who passes on the posturing:

I know that you could either hate it or love it but if you come with the mentality of eating REAL MEXICAN food, you might as well go to Mexico as I have never found any of those places here in L.A. Even in Mexico. We all have different taste and preference so what’s Mexican?

True that, Robert. Saul. I hear you, but you’re too cool for school and it’s bastante obnoxious.
Authenticity is for coins and stamps if you ask me. It implies that there is a single gold standard, a single correct way of preparing any given cuisine and that any divergence from the norm immediately merits the use of either “fusion” or “nouveau.”
I grew up on “authentic” California cuisine. My homecooking repertoire includes recipes from my mom’s Oklahoma family like fried okra, Fantastic (a layered pudding and cool whip extravaganza) and blackberry wine cake (which includes both Jello mix and blackberry flavored Manischewitz wine). My other specialties include Vietnamese salad rolls, pad thai, spaghetti, stir fry, tortilla soup and tamales. Garnished with a smattering of recipes from Sunset magazine like snickerdoodle cookies and chili egg puff. Buen provecho.
Robert hits another nail on the head – I’ve never had “REAL” Mexican food in Los Angeles or anywhere in California. The tacos al pastor on the streets of DF were genuinely otherworldly, the slice of pineapple lopped off the top of the spit sending them into another realm entirely. Besides being tasty, they’re also a perfect example of the dubious nature of authenticity. Like mariachi music, they’re a relatively new thing. Furthermore, they were introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, not born from the country’s Aztec or Mayan soul. King Taco just doesn’t cut it. Not to mention that an “authentic” quesadilla in Mexico City doesn’t have any cheese which everyone but the chilangos and the lactose-intolerant agrees is completely stupid.
While we’re whining, horchata made from the mix is simply nowhere near as good as the stuff with condensed milk, there is not enough mole up here and please send along recommendations for good places with comida yucateca, pozole and tortas.
However, the point of this blog post is: Who cares? There is only one measure that counts and that is delicious-ness. My boyfriend introduced me to sprinkling Kraft parmesan on his mom’s tostadas. Authentic? No. Delicioso? You bet!
The quality of Mexican food generally drops off with each mile you travel from the border, mainly because the competition decreases. However, the move away from the mythical homeland can also be liberating and I’ve had lots of good American-Mexican-Latino, etc. food from throughout California. I’ll be honest – i like it just as much as the incredible traditional dishes concocted from more exotic ingredients like pumpkin seeds, squash flowers and goat meat that I loved eating in Mexico.
In fact, the singular dish that I have found unchanged by its migration from the southland across the border doesn’t usually get mentioned in the Mexican culinary pantheon. However, it is a point of pride that it was indeed invented in Mexico. That dish would be none other than the Caesar salad.

Here’s some food photos from my personal collection, just for fun.

If they aren’t authentic enough for ya, take a walk with me through Mercado San Juan.

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Filed under DF AKA Mexico City, Los Angeles