This summer, kids from Ramona Gardens joined students from Otis College of Design on a tour that explored the art and cultural history of the Boyle Heights community.
The tour is part of a class trip coordinated by Otis instructor and cultural anthropologist Ysamur Peña Flores, who in conjunction with Homeboy Industries has been introducing art students at Otis with history, aesthetics and personal stories of Boyle Heights and its residents.
“The philosophy of this class is to bring together artists and designers with ex-gang members with artistic talent to confront issues that affect the community,” says Peña Flores. “To show the art, the social issues, and the social events that shaped the community and the people who lived in it.”
For the first time, Peña Flores collaborated with youth programs at East Los Angeles College and the Community Safety Partnership programs at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles to host The Boyle Heights Urban Anthropology summer boot camp. Youth from Ramona Gardens toured their own neighborhood, taking photos while learning about the past cultures that once existed where they live today.
“We learned about the history of Boyle Heights and we saw a lot of murals,” said Ramona Gardens resident Ever Barrios,12.
Barrios mentioned he took photos of a dental office he visited on Cesar Chavez Avenue that once housed the very popular Jewish restaurant Canters””now located in West Los Angeles.
Along the tour, Peña Flores brings residents to share their personal stories and also shares his own knowledge about the past, explaining that Boyle Heights wasn’t always predominantly Latino, but was once a mecca for Jewish and Japanese communities as well.
A longtime Boyle Heights resident, Peña Flores says he wants to inform the world of all the history Boyle Heights has to offer, including the youth that live there.
“Most people that live in Boyle Heights don’t know that we have a history, and if you don’t realize that and if you don’t own your history, then there’s nothing to preserve,” says Peña Flores.
Eddie Ruvalcaba contributed to this story.