Above: A friend of Beto’s and his son in a very clean, root-beer-brown 1957 Chevy Bel Air on an autumn day on Bonnie Beach Place.
I lived in Montebello, Boyle Heights, and then El Sereno until 1997. The year I moved away, I began coming back to take pictures of the friends I’d made in East Los Angeles. One of my frequent subjects was Miguel Acosta. I’ve known him since I was ten. We played Little League in Monterey Park, and after high school graduation in the early nineties he moved to his grandparents’ house on Fifth Street in Little Valley.
Little Valley is roughly one square mile in East L.A. between Rowan Avenue and Downey Road. Its northern border is the 60 Freeway and its southern border is Whittier Boulevard.
I had another friend, Roy Garcia, who brought me to Little Valley, too. Roy moved next door to ELA fixture Beto, or “Stomper,” on South Brannick Avenue. We would see each other at parties and at Cypress Hill and Psycho Realm shows, and we started hanging at Miguel’s on Fifth Street to watch football games and drink beer and joke around.
Above: Three generations of a Little Valley family stand beside Yoly’s Market on Father’s Day. The little girl, who is the granddaughter, daughter, and little sister of the three males, stares at Chino (RIP) in his wheelchair.
A lot of the social life in Little Valley revolves around the dead ends created by the freeway, and also its markets. Ramirez Market, on Princeton Street and South Record, has been in Little Valley for decades. The market’s facade and pay phone are riddled with bullet holes from gang-related conflicts, but the neighborhood kids continue to hang out there.
Yoly’s Market, at Sixth and Bonnie Beach, has a vibrant mural that used to include the inscription “Barrio Lil Valley.” The Sheriff’s Department made the owners remove the phrase because of its association with the gang named after Little Valley. But generations of blue-collar workers have grown up in Little Valley, too.
Though these pictures from Little Valley, taken between 1997 and 2001, are just part of a larger project I call Eastsiders, comprising hundreds of photos, they are a good example of everyday life in an East Los Angeles neighborhood whose residents usually go unnoticed.
Consider a guy like Felix, who I photographed with his bike in front of Ana’s market. Felix is a mentally disabled man whose family moved to Palmdale years ago. I was told he walked all the way back to Little Valley from Palmdale. When Felix showed up, the people in the neighborhood took care of him. Felix would hang out with the guys, and one of them, Bob, let Felix live in his garage. Felix got shot in the leg by someone from a rival neighborhood. I wonder if people in an upper-middle-class neighborhood would take care of a person like Felix the way those in Little Valley did.
Above: Enorio (RIP) was walking his pit bull terrier on Fifth Street when I snapped this photo. Not long after, Enorio, a father of two, was found dead of an apparent suicide, hanging from a tree in the backyard of a house he lived in on Fifth Street.
The Edge and Back
Oct 25, 05:27 PMPurchase or Subscribe to Slake: Los Angeles
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