Saturday, November 5, 2016

Boyle Heights: Its current tensions and its history

The national and Los Angeles media (see: Here, Here, Here, Here and Here) is filled today with articles about rising tensions around gentrification in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. According to these reports, the Los Angeles Police Department has opened a hate crime investigation after several new Boyle Heights art galleries have been the targets of vandalism amid anti-gentrification protests. These issues have flared on the East Side of Los Angeles over the past few years, including a significant flare up in Boyle Heights this past Summer (see: Here and Here). 

From Los Angeles Times

The recent focus on ethnic tensions in Boyle Heights around displacement, particularly this week, has obscured some historical facts about the neighborhood, once known as Ellis Island of the West Coast. While the community is now nearly all Latino (anywhere between 90%-95%), just 60 years ago the neighborhood 
was home to a diverse population of Jews, Latinos, Russians, Portuguese, and Japanese-Americans. And, perhaps just as relevant given today's news, during the 1950s, the community was a hotbed of radical activism, with socialist, communist and anarchist thinkers and labor organizers living there. 

UCLA Exhibition (above)
Part of the history of Boyle Heights will be on display starting tomorrow (Nov. 6) when the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies celebrates its formal renaming and dedication with a pop-up exhibition devoted to the Jewish community of Boyle Heights from the 1920s to the 1950s. Called From Brooklyn Avenue to Cesar Chavez: Jewish Histories in Multiethnic Boyle Heights," the exhibition will be open at UCLA’s Royce Hall for a short run from Nov. 6-9.

The pop-up exhibition will include a screening of the recent documentary “East LA Interchange” on Nov. 6. This important documentary  follows the evolution of working-class, immigrant Boyle Heights, the oldest neighborhood in East Los Angeles from multi-ethnic to predominately Latino and a center of Mexican-American culture in the U.S. The documentary tells the story of how one this neighborhood managed to survive the construction of the largest and busiest freeway interchange in the nation and explores the shifting face of community in the United States today. You can read reviews (that include good historical overviews of Boyle Heights) of the film here, herehere, and here.  

From EastLA Interchange

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