Exploring the Latino Metropolis: A Brief Urban Cultural History of US Latinos

Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights is a highly concentrated area for Latino people in Los Angeles. In 2011 with a population of nearly 100,000 as many as 95% of the Boyle Heights residents were Latino. The LA times once stated that the diversity in Boyle Heights is “exclusively Latino.”  With such a large Latino impact in Boyle Heights lots of Latino culture can be seen around the area. Similarly to the Latino people in Chicago, there is a lot of art in Boyle Heights and much of it is public, on the streets and on the walls. The street art became very popular in the 1970s as the Chicano political movement became very prominent in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. The art from this time period often displayed brown-pride messages and told stories of the struggles many Latinos went through and faced at the time.
The people of Boyle Heights view this art as a way to remember their past struggles and how they continue to strive for more rights. Eric Avila wrote in his article “L.A.’s Invisible Freeway Revolt: The Cultural Politics of Fighting Freeways” in the Journal of Urban History about a lot of the art in Boyle Heights. Avila references some of the amazing work such as the Great Wall of Los Angeles, which is a half-mile long mural painted on the wall of the flood control channel that used to be the Los Angeles River. Avila delves into the deeper meaning of these murals as he states that Judith Baca, the artist who painted the Great Wall of Los Angeles, “goes after urban renewal.” Avila is declaring that Baca was expressing the opinion of the rest of the people of Boyle Heights that they were upset with the changes occurring to the city.  Art has been and is a very powerful way for people in Boyle Heights to express themselves and their ideals.
Boyle Heights does have its struggles. Education rates are not very good for residents, for example as recently as 2000 only 5% of people 25 or older in Boyle Heights had earned a four-year college degree. The low levels of education are a major reason for the poverty and crime in Boyle Heights. The poverty rate in Boyle Heights is 33% which makes it difficult for development and commerce in the Boyle Heights as there is not a large influx of money. The crime rates in the Boyle Heights area is very high.  With the high poverty rate many residents turn to theft and robbery to obtain goods and money. Boyle Heights also suffers from gangs and gang violence. The LA times has an updated map and description of all the crimes occurring in Boyle Heights in the past week which can be found here: http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/neighborhood/boyle-heights/crime/

Works cited:
Avila, Eric. "L.A.'s Invisible Freeway Revolt: The Cultural Politics of Fighting Freeways." Journal of Urban History 40.5 (2014): 831-42. Web.
Tobar, Hector. "A look back at the Boyle Heights melting pot." Los Angeles Times. December 9, 2011. Retrieved on December 10, 2011.


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