I woke up today with a craving for the city. In its name the Spaniards once called the small pueblo something related to the angels. As divine intervention would have it, the pueblo grew into a city of mestizos and Americans and its origins boomed into one of the greatest places for cultural diversity. Then when the second World War hit, a young Mexican man served his duty defending civil rights and left to a world unknown. He came back to the United States with his indigenous wife and the two planted the Salas family tree in Los Angeles.
I developed my relationship with this city in the womb. I was born in Garfield Medical Center but was stripped from the urban jungle and taken to the suburbs in the nineties. My father, a baby boomer spawn of the fifties, always took my siblings and I back to where he came from, showing us every different house he lived in and every different memory that came with it. I remember never understanding how large the city was because my father always knew every street corner, every exit and every short cut of the municipality. Los Angeles was etched into the map of his internal system, like every boulevard and avenue were the routes directing his veins throughout his body and every landmark was a functioning organ. I am convinced he can navigate Los Angeles better than he can navigate his iPhone.
Somewhere in between East L.A. and El Monte I first heard the word Chicano. Then I heard it again when I saw Selena for the first time. I was confused, unaware of the differences what it means to be Mexican and what it means to be Chicano. Before I knew what an identity crisis was, I was already in it. But the city had so much to tell about both ways of living. Through Los Angeles I discovered cultural roots in Olvera Street and was struck by the burst of colors of ornaments and crafts that brought back faint memories of a trip to Guadalajara in my youth. I learned empathy for immigrants who refresh our definition of diversity and enjoy the fruits of their street vending, literally. Just like my father, I became a sports fanatic of the purple and gold and the boys in blue and just like him I verbally abuse my tv when they play. We became accustomed to carne asada on Saturdays and menudo on Sundays, también always finding time for a chelada on the weekends. I found a happy medium being Chicana-Latina-Hispanic-Mexican-American and an Angeleno in the mix.
Something about Los Angeles’s mysticism calls me; never knowing what it feels to be a true inhabitant of its county lines but always wondering what it has to offer. Once I started working near the city I reached half a goal I set for myself- to work and live in L.A. The commute is just as bad as you imagine but at least my heart has found where ‘X’ marks the spot. When I leave the city parameters and see downtown disappear from a magnificent set of skyscrapers to a object of nothingness in my rearview mirror, I feel dejected and again, I’m sitting alone in traffic.
I’ll admit it, it even upsets me when I meet out of staters that live in the city that I should be living in. Maybe now is not my time, but one day I’ll be there.
Los Angeles, I love you.