This Central Los area quickly became inhabited by both Mexicans and other ethnic groups, such as Filipinos, Jews, Russian Molokans, Chinese, Italians, Blacks and others. But within a very short time span between 1900 and the 1940’s, the Mexican population became predominant above all the others and turned the Greater East Side --which in old white-Anglo terms, included everything east of Broadway/3Rd Street and Elysian Park Hills—into one continuous Mexican/Chicano Barrio per say.
The white-Anglo ruling elite basically relegated all the non-white ethnic population into the most undesirable lands and crowded them into the poorest sectors of the ever growing metropolis. To the Mexican/Chicano population, the ruling elite’s self-serving urban development programs and reclusive residential laws became known as “Barrionization”. The young Mexicans in these Barrios and Colonias faced with a hostile environment of discrimination and living in contested grounds, soon bonded together and formed tightly-knit groups for mutual assistance and cultural survival. They cliqued up for self-preservation if you would. It suffice to refer you, the reader, to the much documented historical data which sheds much insight as to the reasons which not only forced these young Chicanos into such a stance, but also as to the cultural pride that demanded no less from them. Out of this Barrionization process emerged many of the Varrio Gangs which adopted and carry the particular name of their original neighborhoods. These Varrio Boys went on to structure themselves with codes of conduct and rules of warfare, together with a style an attitude that survives even onto this present day.
In the world of Chicano Varrio Gangs, much value is given by many, as to the age and generational lineage of their respective Varrios. Those Gangs that can trace their origin to the earliest of times, pre-dating their neighbors, their rivals, other ethnic groups or even their allies, “proudly boast” of their olden history and hold it close to their heart as a badge of honor. These olden Varrio Gangs have endured with the test of times many trials and tribulations. They have suffered dear loses, but they have also grown strong and hard by enduring such hardship and pains. They have come together and forged a “family” of Homeboys and Homegirls, young and old, happy and mean, independent but dedicated to one another, surrounded by friends and relations, raza from all walks-of-life which serves them well as a social support group. This camaraderie of the extended family fills them up with ever good times and beautiful nostalgia.
But which are some of those Barrios that go back to them early times? Which are the Gangs that trace back their roots to those early urban villages? It is extremely hard to be able to pin down all of them in a chronological timeline order, and that is due because when dealing with Chicano Varrio Gangs, most have not and do not leave a written record of their events and happenings on account of the underground aspect involved in their history which for obvious reasons “must fly under the radar”. Most Varrio Gangs do however have a decent record of their history which is passed down by word of mouth amongst the gang membership, and shared with associates and those trusted faces from the Barrio. Other than that, one is hard pressed to learn-up about the individual Gangs origins. Therefore, keeping in mind the aforementioned, I don’t assert to be 100% correct with the following information, for it is merely an attempt to reconstruct a path of evolution of some of those early Barrios. Hopefully it will stir up some memories from those who have first hand knowledge and serve to encourage them to share some firme story, so that it can be placed down for the ages “in letras”. Maybe then, all we who have come up in them streets of Aztlan can join up in minds and be all together proud of our common Varrio heritage, so that we may never become “a dyeing breed” nor forgotten by the generations to come, que no?
Previously we left off with Sonora Town as the first Barrio in Central Los.
Sonora Town in turn gave rise to the Barrio Palo Verde located around the area of present time China Town on the southwest part of the Elysian Park Hills. Here in these hills emerged the Chavez Ravine (Lomas) community which was born out of the many displaced residents of Palo Verde and an older Mexican Village called Las Animas. This Chavez Ravine A.k.a. Lomas Barrio was in essence “3” separate Barrios that grew out in different sections of Chavez Ravine. The first was around the old Palo Verde Las Virgenes Road and became known as Varrio Alpine. The second was located over by present day Cathedral H.S. around Bishops Road and became known as Varrio Bishops. The third one was centered in the Solano Canyon area next to Elysian Park off of Broadway; this last one became known as Varrio La Loma. The main Chavez Ravine community was displaced in 1953 by the shysty evil-minded city urban redevelopment scheme which turned over the land for the then Brooklyn Dodgers to build their stadium, as enticement to move to Los Angeles. The older Las Animas west side ravine hillside was turned into mostly parkland. South of Solano Canyon before crossing the river was the Barrio Buena Vista. This Barrio is now all Elysian Park off of Broadway.
Over to the west of Palo Verde/Varrio Alpine, the Bunker Hill Barrio stretched all the way to meet with the Market Barrio on 3Rd and Broadway. Bunker Hill together with the adjacent Temple-Beaudry area emerged the Varrio Diamond. Bunker Hill survived until the late 50’s when the area was targeted for urban renewal. The build up of the Civic Center and the subsequent construction of the 110 Freeway, destroyed not only Bunker Hill but a large section of Varrio Diamond as well. Further west of the Temple-Beaudry area arose the mixed Filipino and Mexican Gang of Varrio Temple, born in an area previously known as Lindero and Triunfo Canyon’s. Due northeast of Varrio Temple and Varrio Diamond, the Echo Park community grew to become largely Mexican and from it the Varrio Echo Park emerged. On the riverside of Echo Park, in-between Elysian Hills and the wandering L.A. River, the Varrio Frog Town was born in the Elysian Valley A.k.a. Little River Valley extending all along from Figueroa Street, north up to present day Atwater Village.
Northeast of La Plazita was “The Cornfield”, covering an area that stretched almost all the way to the Buena Vista Barrio next to the L.A. River by North Broadway. This Cornfield in time gave way to the ever growing rail yards of Mission and Naud Junctions. South of the Cornfield was the community called Dog Hell A.k.a. Dog Town, which gave birth to the Varrio Dog Town that stretched all along the riverside from Buena Vista to the Macy Street Varrio. Due east of La Plazita, the Varrio Macy Street grew extensively in the immediate area until it too was hit with urban redevelopment and it’s residents relocated far east across the river to the newly emerging Belvedere community. Both Varrio Macy Street and Varrio Dog Town (except the DT projects off of North Main) were torn down to make way for the new Union Station, the Department of Water & Power plant, the growing rail yards and warehouses, the many industrial plants and the L.A. County jail over by the Clara Street neighborhood.
South of the Varrio Macy Street lay the First Street and Eight Street neighborhoods in-between The Flats and Alameda Street. These neighborhoods too were forced to relocate to the east side by the ever growing industry and rail yards. Both the First and Eight Street neighborhoods lay due west of The Flats A.k.a. Russian Flats, along the wandering riverside areas which were prone to flooding until the L.A. River concrete levee was built. When that happened, The Flats Barrio was relegated solely to the east side of the river, west of El Paredon Blanco (the hillside facing west off Boyle Heights). It is here that the Aliso Village, Pico Aliso and Pico Gardens Housing Projects were built to accommodate the displaced residents from The Flatlands, and it is here that the Varrios Primera and Cuatro Flats arised. From all those Varrios of Macy Street, Dog Town, First Street, Eight Street, Clara Street and Russian Flats, people moved eastward up to Brooklyn Heights, Boyle Heights and Belvedere (Wonder City). The displaced families numbered in the thousands.
To be continued . . .