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This article was created as part of a writing workshop organized by Boyle Heights Beat and ELACC.
By Aldo Medina
The hand-made tortilla, a simple yet beautiful food, reminds me of Cuatla, Morelos in México, my native land. The tortilla, warmed over in the comal, reminds me of the food made by my dear jefita (mom).
My name is Aldo Medina and for over two years I have been working with the community businesses along 1st Street, and I continue working day by day because the business owners are my inspiration. The business owners I have met during my time with the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC), as part of the 1st Street Corridor project, have been my motivation because they remind me of my parents. They are hard working people who want to do the best for their children and family.
Let me tell you that having a business is no easy task, there are very long and heavy days. Some of the business people I know work 10-14 hours a day, six days a week. The perception some of us have about owning a business is not always just: when you think of a business, we may think of large corporations that make lots of money, but here in Boyle Heights, there are businesses who had the opportunity and sometimes luck to open their own place to sell a product. These businesses have to keep long hours and long days to keep their lights on, to pay their employees. The little that is left is what they take home to their families.
ELACC’s vision is simple: to create a community where all people, no matter their income, have a quality, dignified home and are able to work and live a healthy lifestyle. That is why I feel so fortunate to work with an organization that has given me opportunity to give the small business community the importance they deserve.
The 1st Street Corridor project is very important because it creates a space where the businesses on that street can have a space to share ideas and resources so they are able to remain in their community. In times of gentrification and displacement, we have to find a way to support the businesses that have helped the community during its most difficult times. The business owners with which I work are proud and passionate about keeping their roots in the community. That’s why a group of businesses, small but powerful, has decided to create a business association so that they can have leadership and a voice in their community.
This December you will be able to see that business community’s leadership, because it will be the third year of our Posadas along First Street. I invite all residents to always remember the small businesses in your community, because when you spend in your own neighborhood, your money circulates several times over before it leaves the community. This helps businesses survive and continue supporting community events.
City resources dedicated to helping small businesses are not enough when you compare them to those of the larger corporations that avoid paying their share of their taxes. Small businesses pay proportionately higher taxes, while the big corporations get away with not paying taxes under the guise of creating jobs.
Let me tell you that these community businesses are the ones creating jobs for the neighborhood, they are the ones that sell the food that reminds us of mom, at a price that’s affordable for you and me. I ask that the next time you go shopping, do it in the small businesses, because they are the economic foundation of our beautiful community.
Aldo Medina is the 1st Street Commercial Corridor Associate for ELACC.