Being Latina in L.A.

Traditional and cultural, a different kind of mixed creation

By Georgina Castro Castillo
Published on LatinoLA: June 13, 2003

Being Latina in L.A.

I often tell people I am the epitome of a Chicana who grew up in L.A. My father's family were migrant farmworkers who migrated only in California. My faterh and all my tios and tias were born in different farming communities in California. By the 1920's, there were all well situated in Lincoln Heights. My father attended Lincoln High Schol when it was just built. I remember being a child listening to my father complain that they still hadn?t replaced the basketball court.

My mom came to L.A. in the 1930?s after leaving the reservation in Arizona. Except for the short time she lived in Mexico as a result of ?Operation Wetback?, she lived mostly in L.A., attending Roosevelt High School and living in Boyle Heights. She hung out with zootsuiters (and married one) in her early twenties.

My parents met in a bar in East L.A. in 1952 after their first marriages didn?t work out. They were together for 20 years until my dad died in our Highland Park home in 1972. We lived there since 1949, when I was two. The neighbors initially petitioned against Mexicans moving into what was predominately a white neighborhood.

Guess who won?

My parents always instilled a sense of pride in being Mexican. We all also realized that we were different from other Mexicans, like our neighbors who had just come from Mexico. We talked different. We acted different. I felt we were traditional and cultural, but a different, kind of mixed creation.

In the sixties, my parents became strong supporters of the Chicano movement. I began going to demonstrations, walking precincts and wearing political slogan buttons when I was twelve. It was a great time in my life. My father and I got very close. We spent every weekend looking for political activities to be a part of. He was in total support when I joined the Brown Berets at fourteen. Of course, when I hung out, I cruised the Boulevard and went to parties with my friends from Lincoln and Franklin.

Highland Park changed, obviously. We traveled all over L.A. all the time with relatives in El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, La Puente. One set of my grandparents is buried at the San Gabriel Mission, the other at Calvary in East L.A. just as my parents are now. I loved visiting all the other neighborhoods, meeting people and going out to eat!

Being Latina in L.A. is all I know.

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