By Amayram Corona

After living in Boyle Heights for almost 50 years, it’s no doubt that a lot of things have changed for Ernestina López Muñoz. The Mexican immigrant, from the state of Zacatecas, says that when she first arrived in 1972, Boyle Heights was pretty and calm. Now, she believes it’s corrupt. However, she has hopes for the next generations and wishes that they be sociable, and that everyone studies. 

At 81, Ernestina —or “Tina” as people call her for short— is still an active woman, very social, and funny too. She has many stories to tell and has experienced a lot. She is a strong woman thriving independently, not needing a man by her side.

This interview from March, 2021 was translated and edited for length and clarity. Watch the full interview here:

YouTube video

Boyle Heights Beat: ¿How long have you been living here in Boyle Heights?

Ernestina López Muñoz: In Boyle Heights I’ve been 55 years.

BHB: ¿What inspired you to move to Boyle Heights?

ELM: Because at that time it was very beautiful. Very peaceful, that was in 1972.

BHB: ¿And what is something that you love about Boyle Heights?

ELM: Ah… [inaudible]

BHB: What do you mean by ‘with everything’?

ELM: With all the bustle. The noise. And everything else. The current society in Boyle Heights, that’s what’s killing me. The smell and all the homeless people.

When I got here… there were no problems like we have now in 2021. For me, Boyle Heights has been corrupted.

BHB: Tell me about how Boyle Heights was when you arrived and how it is now.

ELM: When I got here it was especially super pretty. There were no gangs, there was nothing that could bother you, no robbers. There were no problems like we have now in 2021. For me, Boyle Heights has been corrupted.

BHB: Where have you worked?

ELM:  In the garment industry. 

BHB: Tell me about your family, you have a son, right?

ELM: Of course, I have a gorgeous 52-year-old son.  

BHB: Where does he work?

ELM: In a print shop.

BHB: You have grandchildren, right?

ELM: Three beautiful ones. Two young women and a man.

BHB: You have nieces and nephews, right?

ELM: Many, they live outside of East LA, because they don’t like to live here in the Eastside.

BHB: Why don’t they like living here?

ELM: Because they’re not used to… they’re so young and don’t want to see gangs and live among them.

BHB: What’s something that you learned during the pandemic?

ELM: Oh, too much! Much sadness, much depression. I often thought I was going crazy.

BHB: Something positive that you learned?

ELM: Positive, I’ve only learned how to get over it, to be well. What else can you do?

BHB: If it wasn’t for the pandemic, where would you like to travel?

ELM: I’d like to travel to Spain. Of course, outside of Los Angeles, of California, in other words, outside of the United States.

BHB: And why Spain?

ELM: Because I’d like to get to know.

BHB: To explore?

ELM: Right. 

BHB: From all the years that’s you’ve lived here, what is something about Boyle Heights that you will never forget?

ELM: The gangs. In ‘89.

BHB: What can you tell me about the gangs?

ELM: Around 1987 there were four killings, all children, all by gangs here on Wabash and City Terrace.  Around Fickett and Soto, all that had gangs. It’s what I remember. Thank god my son never got into that.

BHB: What advice would you share with the community?

ELM: What advise would I give? Oh! I would say that people should study and be very sociable, because society is the greatest thing in the world. Being sociable and that all boys and girls study. I would die happy and in peace knowing that all the girls became sports figures, teachers, nurses especially. I would like that.

BHB: Well thanks. It was a pleasure to interview you… 

ELM: At your orders.

BHB: I learned a lot.

ELM: Ok.

This is an abridged version of an interview recorded as part of “Voices/Voces,” a storytelling project that aims to connect youth reporters with Boyle Heights and East LA elders.  Voices/Voces was a 2020 finalist in (and partially funded by) the LA2050 Grants Challenge. It is also partially funded by the Snap Foundation.

Read other ‘Voices/Voces’ stories:

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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