It was 3pm in the afternoon on Friday. I was driving around Boyle Heights in East LA to take in more sights and scenes of Latino culture and make some friends among the locals. Eventually I came to park my car at Mariachi Plaza. It was an amazing experience to see the colour and vibrancy that has become symbolic of the Latino culture. Even on a lazy afternoon, there was still an atmosphere of festivity despite a lack of bustling crowds.
Mariachi Plaza itself is kinda an open space next to the Metro Station, and there were middle kids skating (or learning to), older adults manning little stalls and push-carts that sold everything from local produce to exquisite jewelery and ornaments. It gave me a gentle, cozy, familial feeling that I wasn't able to find in the shopping districts in Beverly Hills earlier the morning.Lit by the sunset, Mariachi Plaza had a surreal beauty, a quaint charm all by itself that I haven't been able to find elsewhere in America (till I came across Chicana Park in San Diego the following day, at least). It was more than the rainbow of buildings or the wall murals and the friendly people. It was also the little imperfections in the (supposed) hand-crafted ornaments, the lack of urban development, the lack of English speakers too that made it unique in itself.
Interestingly, when I spoke to the boys in the area they were not especially curious where else I was or when I have been. There were instead very proud of and invested in telling me more about their "Latino culture" and asking me to blog and youtube my experiences and understanding of the culture that is their everyday lives.To me Mariachi Plaza seemed like a village set inside the bustling city that is Los Angeles. Yet the slice of life that I've managed to capture and take home told me that the people living there weren't particularly concerned with the world outside their cultural borders. Yes, they probably chose to live in LA because of the abundance of professional opportunities; yes, they came to the US because they wanted to pursue better economic opportunities, but I think most importantly they have formed this community to preserve and protect their traditions, language and ways of life and to inculcate the value of this preservations to their future generations. I concur.