Origin Stories: Los Cuentos

It was the 1980s, and hailing from the steep trails of San Pedro Cajonos, mom’s hometown atop mountains in Oaxaca, Mexico, it took her over 2,000 miles to find work in downtown Los Angeles’s garment factories.

Shortly afterwards, she met my pops. He had just missed the height of a civil war in El Salvador, leaving home in his teens, and was working as a handyman for a local landlord in the Hollywood area. Mom and dad were both in their mid-twenties when they met. Soon thereafter, they married and give birth to yours truly in the winter of 1990.

Ten years later, things would change irreversibly for our family; my dad had a different calling, and suddenly mom became a single mother to my brother and I. But the fact is that it wasn’t the first time the world just fell on her shoulders.

Before mom reached her teen years, her dad—a local and respected tradesman of San Pedro Cajonos—was shot and killed by a jealous ex-business partner; my abuelito’s sudden death forced mom to leave the one thing besides her papa that she loved: a budding education at her school through reading and writing; as the first daughter, and oldest of nine, mom left school in the middle of her sixth grade year to care for her brothers and sisters alongside her mom—abuelita—for the next ten years.

In 2001, after nearly twenty years, mom left garments in downtown L.A. to start her own business: a newsstand on the streets of East Hollywood. I was just on the cusp of reaching my teen years when she set out on this path, but still couldn’t understand why she chose to start selling newspapers and magazines for a change.

I would realize just a short life-time later that while mom’s experience in school was short-lived, she loved learning too much to let it go completely. Her newsstand was a place where she could finally reconnect with her childhood dream of being surrounded by words, fellow literary lovers, and the Cuentos they all told together.

Over twenty years since mom’s unlikeliest of dreams came to stand, Los Cuentos by J.T. now emerges. On the one hand, each Cuento carries these ‘old’ legends and trails, and on the other, an emergent new dream: a world rising fiercely from the city’s schools, buses, subways, garment shops, and more.

But more is right. More Cuentos are on the way again in no time, Los Angeles