Migration Paths - From Mexico to the USA

A Home Away From Home: Boyle Heights, Los Angeles

By Lizbeth Martinez

Migration has created streams of people, culture and traditions throughout countries in the world. Forming these networks has proved to be impactful on our minds and has positively influenced cultures in numerous ways (some you may not even know about). Impactmania and the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Human Mind and Migration program will investigate and elaborate on these migrations to give a small insight to the world of human migration.

The vibrant city of Los Angeles has established itself as one of the most diverse cities in the United States and has served as the epicenter of cultures and ethnicities. Mexican immigration to the United States first began in 1846 and has not ceased since. As the single largest group of foreign-born residents in country, Mexicans have experienced the benefit of flourishing in various cities and neighborhoods across the country. However, the city of Los Angeles plays a larger role in the spreading of Mexican culture and traditions.  Beginning from its founding as a Spanish colony town to its most recent acknowledgement as a bustling city with a never ending lively environment, Los Angeles has served as a prime location for the flourishing of Mexican culture. With one of the highest percentages of Latino residents, Boyle Heights in East L.A. is the home away from home for many individuals of Mexican descent.

The neighborhood of Boyle Heights features numerous murals located along the streets, the sides of stores and even inside restaurants. However, these murals are more than just pictures on a wall. These murals depict the stories of Mexican culture and its stories from the individuals that continue to keep the culture alive. Using these murals as a tool of storytelling, the residents are able to show the public about their victories and struggles as a community. These stories range from assimilation into American culture to the neighborhood’s current struggle against gentrification.

In recent years, gentrification has creeped its way into the crevices of Boyle Heights. While it is still a current issue, the community members have united themselves against gentrifications. Murals are created and used as a tool to supplement against their fight against gentrification therefore also utilizing art at the forefront of a social fight. Using art as an medium, the movement has become prominently community-oriented through community programs and organizations such as mural making and theater. Organizations, such as Self Help Graphics & Art based in Boyle Heights, have brought their program to the multiple generations of the families in the neighborhood through their Barrio Mobile Art Studio (MSAS). These types of programs have stimulated community engagement with current social issues, like gentrification and has fused them with art to produce unique representations through murals and other artworks.

The social issue of gentrification has not been documented and quantified throughout the Los Angeles area in addition to the lack of media attention. Since this is the reality in underserved communities like Boyle Heights, the increase of real estate properties in the area and the dynamics of the neighborhood must be analyzed in order to depict an accurate representation of gentrification and its effects.

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Gentrification in Boyle Heights





Beginnings of Mexican immigration to the U.S. and its present