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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring The Byzantine-Latino Quarter

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 12, 2013 10:57pm | Post a Comment
WE ARE EACH OF US ANGELS WITH ONE WING 

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of The Byzantine-Latino Quater
Los Angeles's Byzantine-Latino Quarter is neighborhood and commercial corridor that straddles the larger neighborhoods of Harvard Heights and Pico-Union as well as the larger Midtown districts of Wilshire Center to the north and Mid-City to the south. The Quarter is centered along Pico Boulevard between South Hobart Boulevard to the west and South Alvarado Boulevard to the east.



EARLY HISTORY

The westernmost border of Los Angeles, as established by the Spanish in 1781, was along what's now Hoover Boulevard. The land to the west, through the Spanish and subsequent Mexican period were public lands. The land remained a mixture of pastures and farmland for decades after California became part of the US in 1848.


PICO HEIGHTS


Craftsman bungalows


One of the first neighborhoods to develop west of Hoover was the 280 acre Pico Heights Tract. In 1887, at the height of a land boom, the Electric Railway Homestead Association divided the land between Pico and 9th Street, and west of Vermont into 1,210 lots. Most of the lots along Pico were purchased by J.R. Millard and it quickly developed into a fashionable suburb characterized by stately Craftsman homes and a wealthy, white, Protestant population. Many of the new inhabitants were Downtown business owners and the short distance between work and home was a short ride on the newly-established Pico Heights Electric Railway, which also opened in 1887.

The growing community, sometimes referred to as Pico Heights Village with a bit of dreamy embellishment, was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in 1896. Along with Arlington Heights and The University District, it became a Southwest Los Angeles neighborhood (a region that vanished as the city expanded).

As Pico Heights aged, more and more of the wealthy residents moved further west and their void was largely filled by working class whites. By 1919 it was home to about 100 Japanese-American families, who though often wealthier and more educated than their white counterparts, were subject to racist, sometimes violent hostility. The Los Angeles County Anti-Asiatic Society formed the Electric Home Protective Association, a discriminatory group largely comprised of Germans and Austrians (under increased scrutiny and suspicion after World War I) and Catholics who were united by anti-Japanese racism.


VICTORIA THEATER


Victoria Theatre today (2012)


Around 1914, the 700-seat Victoria Theatre opened on Pico Boulevard. At some point around the 1960s it was gutted and converted into a dance hall. The theater appeared in the 1977 Rudy Ray Moore vehicle Petey Wheatstraw. In 1981, punk band Circle One and others played a concert there.


A mixed-use, multiple unit residency built in 1924


The discriminatory second California Alien Land Law passed in 1920, specifically to target ongoing Japanese immigration. Property in Pico Heights nonetheless (or because of anti-Japanese discrimination) continued to decline in monetary values. Eastern Europeans, Mexicans, and Japanese increasingly inhabited newly-constructed multiple family residences.


Bishop Conaty, Our Lady of Loretto High School


In 1922, a Japanese Methodist congregation attempted to build a new church in the area and crashed against white hostility. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Catholic Girls' High School opened in 1923 (later re-named Bishop Conaty, Our Lady of Loretto High School). One of the pleasing ironies is that Los Angeles was sold to WASPs as "The white spot of America" but is now quite possibly the most diverse city in the galaxy. Though I couldn't find statistics just for the B-LQ, the population of Pico-Union was, as of the 2010 census, roughly 85% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 8% Asian (mostly Korean), 3% black, and only 3% white.



Sunnyside Presbyterian Church


The diversity can not only be seen in the storefronts, signage and restaurants but the neighborhood's churches as well. In 1930, a church opened that is now The Sunnyside Presbyterian Church, a Korean-American church (as are Korean Evangelical Nah Sung, Korean Southern Presbyterian, and The Korean Sae Han Presbyterian Church). Another church in the neighborhood caters to Samoans (the Samoan Community Christian Church). Spanish speakers are served by Rios de Agua Via,  Iglesia Pentecostes El Ultimo, and Ministerios de Restauracion.


St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church

The oldest, and one of the prettiest church in the neighborhood is St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, built in 1905, and also known as Iglesia Santo Tomás Apóstol. Most well-known, probably, is Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral


GREEK TOWN

Along with Little Italy and largely Jewish Brooklyn Heights, or Little Mexico (Chavez Ravine); Greek Town is one of the now vanished ethnic enclaves of Los Angeles. In the early 20th century, Los Angeles's Greek population was focused around what's now the Fashion District (in Downtown) and Boyle Heights (in the Eastside). Around the mid-20th century, much of the Greek population was centered around the intersection of Pico and Normandie, an area still home to several Greek institutions.


C & K IMPORTING AND PAPA CRISTO'S




Papa Cristo's


Sam Chrys opened C & K Importing opened in 1948 with the focus on Greek imports. In 1968 (I believe) the business expanded into a restaurant by Sam's son, Cristo, with Papa Cristo's. I still haven't eaten there although I've picked up falafel mix, baklava, and restina from the market. Papa Cristo's Catering & Greek Taverna was established in 1990.


SAINT SOPHIA GREEK ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL


St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral

The other major remaining vestige of Greek Town is the aforementioned Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The church was built in 1952 by Charles P. Skouras (designed by Kalionzes, Klingerman & Walker), then head of the National Theaters chain. Charles and his brothers, Spyros Skouras and George Skouras were Greek-American Hollywood hopefuls who'd moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis, Missouri. Spyros eventually became president of 20th Century Fox. George became the head of United Artists. Earlier, in 1932, the Skouras brothers jointly took over the management of over 500 Fox-West Coast theaters. Charles repaid God for his intervention by erecting a cathedral to him in Greek Town.


GANGS OF PICO HEIGHTS


Playboys Malos   


 Jesús Malverde (patron saint of drug smugglers)  

     West Side 18th Street Hoover St Locos

Likely the oldest gang in the neighborhood is the Westside Playboy Malos. The gang's roots begin in the 1950s, when Southern Califas Latin Playboys Car Club formed at a home near the intersection of Pico and Fedora. Their tags and tattoos often include representations of the Playboy Magazine logo and they're sometimes referred to as conejos. The other main active gang in the neighborhood is the 18th Street Gang, who were established in Pico Heights around 1965. The local click, Hoover Locos, is one of the oldest.


PILGRIM TOWER


Pilgrim Tower for the Deaf & Elderly

In 1968, the Pilgrim Tower for the Deaf & Elderly opened. I find it worth mentioning because I'm a fan of low-rise architecture and its one of the few buildings in the neighborhood that's more than two stories tall.


PICO-UNION

Pico Heights was seen as having been in a decades-long decline by some and in 1970, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the city of Los Angeles decided to give the neighborhood a fresh start by changing its name to "Pico-Union." The Pico-Union Neighborhood Council (PUNC) was formed the same year.


LITTLE CENTRAL AMERICA





In the 1970s, the US-inflamed Central American Crisis made life for tens of millions of Central Americans. As a result, thousands of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans fled the appalling violence in their homelands and resettled in Pico-Union and nearby Koreatown and Westlake. By 1996, Pico-Union was heavily Salvadoran and the area was often referred to as "Pequeño Centroamérica" or "Nuevo Cuscatlán."


MASSIVE ATTACK'S "UNFINISHED SYMPATHY" VIDEO



In 1991, singer Shara Nelson walked from the intersection of South New Hampshire Avenue and Pico to the intersection of Pico and Dewey Avenue for the filming of Massive Attack's music video for "Unfinished Sympathy." 


BYZANTINE-LATINO QUARTER

Pico-Union was one of the areas hardest hit by 1992 LA Riots outside of South Los Angeles. Increasingly seen as a Central American barrio, in 1995 a coalition of local churches, schools, residents, and merchants from the western portion of the neighborhood met to address their concerns. The product of their efforts was the 1997 creation and designation of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter, a nod to both its Latino majority and Greek period.



Byzantine-Latino Quarter neon sign

The Byzantine-Latino Quarter Business Improvement District installed a large, "Byzantine-Latino Quarter" neon sign atop one of the neighborhood's only other low-rise building (then a public storage facility) in 2001. There are faded banners along Pico and public art advertising its new name. A former Pacific Bell building is now home to Jane B. Eisner Middle School and a Byzantine-Latino Quarter Community Center.


L.A. GREEK FEST


Since 1999, the Byzantine-Latino Quarter has hosted the annual L.A. Greek Fest in September, an event which attracts some 40,000 people.


BLQ EATS AND DRINKS


Dinos' Chicken and Burgers



Guatemalteca Market


There are several places to eat in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter: Acapulco TortilleriaCafe Las MargaritasCanaan Restaurant, El Colmao, Conchitas Restaurant, Dino's Chicken and Burgers, Graciela's, El Grullense Restaurante, Guapo's Market, Guatemalteca MarketHuicho's Bakery, Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars, El Nuevo Picasso, Pan Victoria, the aforementioned Papa Cristo's, Paqueteria King Express, Pollos El Brasero, Restaurante El Mirador, Las 7 Regiones, Texis Restaurant And Entertainment, and El Valle Oaxaqueno. There are a couple of bars too; Mike's Hideout Bar and Pulgarcito Sports Bar.


Inside Tiendas de Mariposa mini mall


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*****

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Higashi Honganji Obon Festival 2012

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 7, 2012 10:44am | Post a Comment


Obon
(お盆) is a Japanese holiday on which observers honor the spirits of their ancestors. Within Japan as well as the Japanese diaspora, Obon has been observed on different dates since Japan’s adoption of the Gregorian Calender in 1872.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Little Tokyo

In LA and Orange County there were also Obon festivities on different dates that took place not only in several Little Tokyo venues but also in Anaheim, Gardena, Little Osaka, Venice, and West Covina. I attended the Obon Festival at Little Tokyo’s Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (ロサンゼルス東本願寺別院).



Higashi Hongan-ji (or, 'the eastern temple of the original vow') is one of two dominant sub-sects of Shin Buddhism. LA’s congregation is the oldest Buddhist congregation in the city, founded as Rafu Bukkyokai in 1904 by Reverend Junjyo Izumida at 229 1/2 East Fourth Street.

 

The congregation moved around Little Tokyo and the Eastside several times over the decades that followed. In 1907 they relocated to a nearby location on San Julian Street. In 1911, the temple moved to a building on Savannah Street in Boyle Heights, which historically had a large Japanese-American population. In 1921, it became a Higashi Honganji branch temple. In 1926, staying within Boyle Heights, it relocated to 118 North Mott.


The temple with Little Tokyo Towers in the background


It remained there until 1976, when it moved back to Little Toyko in the shadow of newly-built Little Tokyo Towers, erected in 1975.


all-day bingo


somen-eating contest


taiko drummers


more taiko drumming


happyfunsmile


Local Mojo

The 2012 Obon Festival included all-day bingo, dance, drink, food, games, music, performances, a somen-eating contest, Obon Hatsubon services and a tea ceremony, among other activities. Performers and performances included Bodhi Tree Band, Bombu Taiko & Kitsune Taiko, Fujima Kansei Odori Kai, Garvey Ranch Park Dojo, Halau Hula ‘a’ ala Anuhea, happyfunsmile, hereandnow, Kinnara Taiko, Live 4 Today, Local Mojo, TAIKOPROJECT, and the Lumbini Kids (the children that attend the temple's daycare). It was free and open to the public.


Bon Odori

I missed the Manto-e lantern lighting ceremony, a tradition begun about 1,200 years ago. I also missed teamaster Matsumura Shachu’s Ogasawara-ryu Sencha-do Tea Ceremony demonstration. However, I did catch the Bon Odori (盆踊り) – literally “Bon dance” – a dance meant to welcome the arrival of spirits.

I also watched a performance by Higashi Zumba Class, which fuses Latin music (including Cumbia Trival!) with dance and exercise.


bake sale


plant sale

the farmers market

The temple also hosts (and hosted on that day) bake sales, plant sales, farmers market, bingo, and child care. Additionally there's a choir and a golf club, although I didn't see any sign of them on that particular day.

 
          Rodney Kageyama and Rex                                           Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple

The festivities were MCed by well-known Nissei actor/director/costume designer/community activist Rodney Kageyama, veteran of San Francisco’s Asian American Theater Company and LA’s East West Players who is probably most recognized for his appearances in The Karate Kid Part II, The Next Karate Kid, Gung Ho (the film and TV series) and numerous guest appearances on TV.

Later in the day a group of friends showed up. As the Obon festivities wound down, we headed to Little Tokyo Shopping Center where, after killing a bit of time at Japan Arcade, we dined at Izakaya Honda Ya. As always, happy holidays… and 乾杯!

*****



California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Arcadia, The San Gabriel Valley's Community of Homes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 4, 2011 11:30am | Post a Comment

ARCADIA

 


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Arcadia

Arcadia is a Los Angeles County community in the northern part of the San Gabriel Valley surrounded by Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Mayflower Village, Irwindale, El Monte, North El Monte, Temple City, East San Gabriel, East Pasadena and Pasadena. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities, vote here.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Monterey Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 23, 2010 07:00pm | Post a Comment

PRIDE IN THE PAST, FAITH IN THE FUTURE -- MONTEREY PARK 


This blog entry is about the Los Angeles County community of Monterey Park. To vote for more Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County communities, click here.

Monterey Park is located on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley at the junction of the Eastside and SELACO. It is surrounded by Alhambra to the north, San Gabriel to the northeast, Rosemead to the east, South San Gabriel to the southeast, Montebello to the south, East L.A. to the southwest, and Lincoln Heights to the west.

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Roommate wanted - an interview with Roommate's Kento-chan Lambert

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 22, 2010 01:00pm | Post a Comment
For this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month I asked Asian-Americans involved in the arts to get at me. The first to do so was Kent Lambert, an experimental pop guy who lives in Chicago and is the front man for Roommate.


Eric: How is your Asian Pacific American Heritage Month going?

Kent Lambert: It's going swimmingly, thank you.

 

Eric: Have you done anything to honor or celebrate APA Month?

KL: I consider this interview the official kick-off to my APA Month festivities. Next week I just might whip up an old-fashioned Japanese meal of miso soup with brown rice and "tofu steaks," and I'll be posting some labels of old Enka 45s I swiped from my mom to Collector Not Completist. Perhaps some bi bim bop and bánh mì before the month is through. Sake and/or sh?ch?.

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