I’d like to dedicate today’s writing to any human being out there besides myself who’s had a difficult time of late due to the health crisis. Although I’ve frequently written about this moment in our nation’s history as something of a collective experience, it’s still true that there are many out there who don’t have the privilege to reflect on time in this way.
In the world before the shutdown, some of my favorite pastimes included boarding the Metro 704 bus across Santa Monica boulevard, or the Metro 754 bus south of Vermont avenue. There was also the Red Line, which I sometimes loathed and sometimes loved, but which was crucial for connecting to Koreatown and Union Station, transporting my footsteps to these and so many other different swaths of L.A. Now, the only time I’ve come together with any of these services has been through the photographs I’ve taken of them while walking along the intersections.
I can still walk, another privilege not everyone has, which makes it more accessible for me to keep up with a new routine despite the challenges. I stroll to places like Villalobos Market, as well as Jons for tortillas and jamón. When time permits, I like to scour the nearby Pacific French Bakery or Guatemalteca Bakery for the conchas I continue holding so dearly.
Nowadays, each of these places are transformed as grocery stores and bakeries all over the world might be, but they are still what they’ve always been: tiny places still storing a world of goods for a people to continue living, for a culture to continue surviving.
When a friend and I spoke for my podcast recently, she mentioned that on seeing the liquor stores and the neon lights illuminating the storefronts, she knew she was in my vicinity. Until she made that comment, I hadn’t stopped to realize just how much I actually reflect these humble establishments. I wonder for a moment exactly when each of these places first came to be, and just how many people’s lives they’ve touched over the years, how magnified that process is now. I see them with renewed eyes, and it’s a privilege to be able to recognize them as stalwart pillars in the community clothed in humble dress; as old and new pueblos in Los Angeles for the way people make them, and for the way they make people.
In Los Angeles, where people daily crush engines rushing past such pueblos in a scramble for their freeways, and where they rush past the silhouettes whose steps extend the life of these pueblos, like photosynthesis, pumping fresh air into the entirety of the land, I hope they can see it all just a little more clearly now; this is our home, our vecindario, overseen by flocks of angels in fluttering strides at every corner.
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