Vote for North Virgil’s Very Own Arasele Torrez

Arasele Torrez, Lockwood Elementary
Arasele Torrez, Lockwood Elementary; Summer 2018

In the throes of Los Angeles, where traffic jams crowd out hopes of a day when the world might move differently, it can be difficult to imagine things actually changing. Yet when one encounters stories of the shakers and movers right in our midst, it’s clear that even if it appears like we’re only slouching in limbo out here, things are actually moving around us each day. Arasele Torrez tells one such cuento.

Age: 28

Where are your parents from? Do you know how they met and/or when they were married? My parents are from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They met when my dad was visiting their town of Rio Verde in 1989. My parents never got married. However, they have been separated for over eight years now.

When did you all arrive to the Virgil Village community? We arrived to the neighborhood in July 1999 when I was nine years old. So we’ve lived in the community here for almost 20 years now.

Were you the first in your family to go to college? And how many people from your graduating class do you know who went to college? I was the first in my family to go to college. I graduated from Marshall High School in 2008 and went on to UC Davis, where I graduated in 2012. I was also the first in my family to get my master’s degree (Cal State Northridge, 2015). I don’t know how many people from my graduating class also went on to college. However, I’m sure there are statistics available somewhere.

What made you decide to return to Virgil Village? And how did you start to become an advocate for people here? Ever since I was very young, I always loved being of service to my family and neighbors, and volunteering at school. I went to Davis with the idea of returning to East Hollywood and giving back to make a difference. Los Angeles is my city and I can’t picture myself leaving again. I learned so much in college. In particular, I loved my Chicano Studies social policy class, in which I was able to focus my research on East Hollywood, its economy, educational makeup, labor and health statistics. When I learned that our statistics showed a low-income and vulnerable community here, it increased my desire to get involved.

Arasele Torrez, 'Virgil Village'
Arasele Torrez, ‘Virgil Village’; Summer 2018

When did you first get involved with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council? I had learned about the council when I researched the different groups making up East Hollywood, and decided to run for a seat on the board not long after college in September 2012 to become the Virgil Village North Representative. But my race was contested with two other candidates. Although I beat the gas station owner, I lost to the incumbent by about 16 votes. However, because I truly cared about my community, unlike other candidates who lose, I chose to stick around. I was then appointed as the Student Representative because I was taking courses at LACC for my paralegal program. Since then, I’ve been a part of the neighborhood council for over six years.

Where do you see yourself and this work going within the next three to five years? I’m not sure where I’ll be in three to five years. Hopefully, I’ll still be living in Virgil Village and making an impact if my landlord doesn’t sell us out like other owners have done to several families in the neighborhood. I hope to stay involved locally, and making a difference for the community, for the low-income and underrepresented, in whatever job I have.

Lockwood and Madison, 'Virgil Village'; Spring 2018
Lockwood and Madison, ‘Virgil Village’; Spring 2018

Would you have any advice for other people looking to become more involved in their neighborhood? If so, what would you say is a good way to start? I would say, if you live within LA City Council districts, first look and see what neighborhood council you belong to. You can start by attending their monthly governing board meetings. Just by attending a meeting and voicing some of your concerns, it’s a start to becoming involved in your community.

Also, see if you’re interested in joining one of the committees of the Neighborhood Council as a community member, or stakeholder. At the same time, find out what local non-profits are in the area. And especially if you’re a first generation college student, get involved with the local public schools. Talk to students, our youth and the parents. If you’re in Virgil Village and need any other suggestions, or help getting started, you can also contact me via email at: araseletorrez@gmail.com.

Arasele Torrez, 28, has served as President of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council since February 2017 and is now running to represent stakeholders as the EHNC’s Virgil Village Representative. To see her Candidate’s Statement, please follow THIS LINK. On the search tab, select “East Hollywood NC.”

GO Arasele!

J.T.

L.A. Metro’s Buses Are for Writers

img_3213
76 Bus to Union Station; Los Angeles, California

I can still remember riding Metro’s 780 bus –from Vermont and Prospect–all the way to Pasadena City College–with my notebooks in hand, as I mused about the world I viewed through the windows. Still a teenager at the time, in true L.A. fashion I’d always take the seat all the way in the back-corner, right next to the windows where I could see nearly everything and everyone in front of me.

I started college in the city of Pasadena in the Fall of 2008, or the same year that Barack Obama would be elected to the office of the President of the United States.

It was a radically different time for me, and all I could wonder about through the days on the bus was just how much of the rest of the world was changing too. Somehow, I felt right at the center of this change, or at least near the center of something monumental, and I valued that feeling. It’s the reason why I wrote.

I never felt excluded, nor unheard, so long as I had the page to hear my voice and the pen to lift my words onto that page. I also didn’t mind very much being rather alone in this, either.

It didn’t strike me very much, if at all, for example, that I’d find myself as the only person on the bus scribbling away at a notebook. I also didn’t find it odd to spend whole evenings on the third floor of Pasadena’s Shatford Library, even if it meant I’d get to the bus stop just before 10:00 PM.

It all came to me very naturally as I made my way between what were two very different cities to me at the time.

In the evenings on the bus the stillness of nights lit up by the stars and streetlights above made for dazzling visions to take into my dreams.

In the daytime on the bus, the bands of pigeons making their way through the clouds as people crisscrossed the crosswalks made it clear that we were all in it together, separated only by whims of time and space.

Construction in the city was something we’d all have to deal with on our respective commutes as well. One way or another, something was always being built.

And I always cared about these particulars of Los Angeles, seated quietly inside its buses, absorbing its landscape through the boulevards, one street after the next on the way back to or from ‘the pueblo’, long before it was the pueblo.

I’ve shared the days and nights with Los Angeles on the bus in sequences like these for nearly ten years now, and still do. But I wonder just how many people my eyes have actually seen through all of the rides I’ve taken, and just where they all might be now. I imagine most of them are still in Los Angeles like myself, as a result of the blink of an eye that time tends to be for most of us, but only the skies know.

As interestingly, while as a seventeen or eighteen year old I didn’t think that to care about L.A and the state of the world meant it’s where my mind would be dedicated going forward, it’s now clear to me that that’s exactly where I am.

I’ve seen more than just Los Angeles and Pasadena, however, in the ten years since I first boarded Metro’s 780 and 180 buses to and fro between the two.

Since 2008, I’ve also been to Seattle, to Washington D.C., to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and New York, as well to Miami and also Chicago.

Through the Golden State, I’ve been to Sacramento and San Francisco more times than I can count, and been to and lived in the wonderful city of Davis, and have been to Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Salinas, Watsonville, Oakland, Berkeley, Half-moon Bay, as well as Pleasanton, Chico, and San Jose.

San Salvador, El Salvador
City Center; San Salvador, El Salvador

Abroad, since 2008 I’ve been to Mexico three times, and seen various other cities and states on the American continent as a result; from Tijuana to Guadalajara, to Mexico City, to the city of Puebla in the state of Puebla, to Zacapoaxtla, to the City of Oaxaca, San Pedro Cajonos, the city of Ayutla, and more.

I’ve also been to El Salvador, to the heart in San Salvador, and to Soyapango, Santa Tecla, San Jose Guayabal, and more.

And I’ve been to Guatemala. To the City of Guatemala, as well as to Tikal, and the adjacent city of Flores in Peten.

In 2017, I even made it to Japan. To the marvelous city of Tokyo and its various mini-cities or Japanese pueblos in Shibuya, Ginza, Harajuku, as well as in the historic Kyoto, the wonderful city of Osaka, and even the great city of Hiroshima too.

I’ve met many wonderful people through each of these trips, and am still in contact with many of them. Together, they form what Los Angeles and the world is to me today.

If some ten years ago on that 780 bus route someone had told me that I’d get to see all of these places and more, I can only imagine how curious I’d find that to be. Now, I’m only more curious about how the next ten years with The City and the world will unfold.

IMG_4154
Atomic Dome; Hiroshima, Japan (2017)

One thing is certain to me, however. The seats of L.A’s Metro buses–whether on the back-corner or elsewhere–are congenial places to write one’s thoughts out, to claim one’s dreams, and to imagine all the other places we can see and be a part of. Just as well, the city of Los Angeles is quite the city to write in. Together, these are the ‘Goldilocks conditions’ that have transported me across the world and which continue to do so.

So let’s keep writing, Los Angeles. That Metro bus is but a great place for it.

J.T.

The Summer is Ours Los Angeles

JMBTMS_March082019_1
Less than a week since my return, and once again I’m in the midst of more devising for the vecindad. I took a few days off to center myself back into L.A., but now I can see my focus sharpening like when the aperture of my DSLR is locking into the focus.

It’s a buoyant return to my movement, except that now I’m equipped with an even greater understanding of the self behind the motions. Like my movement through the microbuses of San Salvador, I’ve now seen just how adaptable I am to forces greater than my own. And like my journeying through the jungles of Peten in Guatemala, I’ve also seen just how far into the wilderness I’m willing to go.

Of course, there is only more from there. On the steep and winding roads through the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca, I saw just how much more terrain I can withstand. And as I learned when I rode the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, and then once again in the opposite direction to find Hiroshima, I also know that I’m not afraid to try and try again until I find just where I need to be.

Once again I need to be in Los Angeles. There are milestones in The City that can only be reached if we keep our eyes on the prize, and well, I’m right there, not going anywhere until I can take home the gold. So, what do you say, L.A? Are we ready to make this Summer something fierce?

J.T.