Things Have Changed, Indeed

This would have never happened in the old days

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: June 15, 2003

Things Have Changed, Indeed

Living in Latino L.A. is one of the biggest priviliges in my life. Having traveled half way around the world while in the military as a young man, and after having grown up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley, I've learned to appreciate my country, the L.A. area, and mi Gente in so many ways. That appreciation endures today, in cultural ways that are unique. Having survived the civil rights era and some tough times, I see the changes in our Gente y cultura , in so many subtle ways.

Everybody has an adverse reaction to being pulled over by police. To Veteranos like myself, I sometimes expect the harrassment that was common in the old days. You know, being asked to step out of the car, being told to sit on the curb while traffic passed by, being asked "Are you on parole?', "Do you have any warrants?", "Do you speak English?" and "Who's car is this?" among others.

Most white people and people under 30 don't know this type of treatment, but a lot of us do, and are usually loathe to discuss it, let alone admit it. I grew up hating cops, especially white ones. Recently, while riding with a friend in a classic car (un ranfla mas de aquellas), we were pulled over by L.A.'s finest. My friend and I were approached by two of the most muscular and handsome young Latino cops we ever saw. They were polite, called us "Sir", treated us with respect and dignity, and informed us a tail light was out. After checking my friends' license and proof of insurance, they bid us well, and drove off.

My friend and I sat in shock for two minutes. We both smiled to each other, and he couldn't help but say "This would have never happened in the old days." I felt proud of those two young men, who have one of the toughest jobs the world. I remember when a Latino cop was a rarity in L.A.

A friend of mine came from out of state last month for a brief visit. He had been living in Washington state for the past six years, and missed "La Cultura Chicana." In one week-end, we hit salsa clubs, Chicano comedy shows, Oldies and old school clubs, a Chicano art show, the Azteca dancers on Olvera Street, at least five different Mexican restaurants, and spent hours browsing the many different Latino websites.

Lots of beautiful Brown Gente openly doing their thing with freedom and pride in L.A.

We both remember when the only things we had were Radio KALI, Channel 34, Marano Beach and Cantiflas reruns at the drive-in on Saturday nites. Things have indeed changed in L.A., mi Gente.

There is musica for every trip and taste.

As a professional person in the working world, I am impressed with the large number of young professional Latinos and Latinas in the workforce, and in public service. I remember when most Latinos in the public sector were the ones fixing the sprinklers, emptying the trash, or mopping the floors. I also am saddened by some, for their arrogance, sense of entitlement and avoidance of identification with the rest of "us", as if their education and professional standing has elevated them beyond their people. Petty jealousies, unneccessary rivalries, hidden insecurities, and a disrespectful disdain of the struggles of those who came before them are diluting Chicanismo into irrelevance. Some of these people definitely need a good old fashioned street ass whupping to remind them of the meaning and need for respect of others. Can't hide behind that degree forever, and you don't live in this world alone!

Yes, L.A. has changed, Mi Gente. Some good, some bad, but it's still my home. Can't think of anywhere else I'd rather live, or any other Gente I like being around on a regular basis, and I've been around.

For those of you who understand, no further words are neccessary. For those of you who don't, no amount of words will ever suffice.

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme was born in L.A. ,and grew up in the San Gabriel Valley neighborhood of Bassett. He spins the finest Oldies but Goodies every Thursday at 6:oo pm, only on www.KCLAFM.com Website; http://www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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