Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, but never Cesar Chavez Avenue. The street alone doesn’t get the same “oohs and aahs” as the first two but, what it does receive is homegrown cultural appreciation.
We’re talking about a street that has been oozing Chicano history since the 1970s and continues to pave the way for the new generation of Chicanos in East LA. Between the campus of East Los Angeles College, White Memorial Hospital, and the famous Evergreen Cemetery, East Los Angeles is home to hundreds of Mexican-American families that own small businesses on the avenue. And since I don’t live too far from the avenue, I’m proud to say that I’m a supporter of these small businesses . Here are just a few of my favorite “vendedores” or vendors that give meaning to Cesar Chavez Avenue.
Connie’s Dry Cleaning Etc…
Originally a Sloan’s Dry Cleaners since 1957, new owner Connie Castro changed the name to Dry Cleaning Etc. in 2002 and has been working comfortably in chair fixing her customer’s clothing. Her shop isn’t an ordinary dry cleaner’s. In fact, the inside decor of her shop can make one feel as if they entered the 70’s. However, it’s Connie’s strict motherly personality that keeps her customers always coming back. It’s how fast she can speak Spanglish when telling someone how she’s going to fix their special alteration, how she can have piles of need-to-be-fixed clothes yet still tell you she’ll have it done in a day (if you get on her good side), and remember the item of clothing to who it belongs to. She is the tailor lady of East LA who has been passed around through word of mouth for over 10 years. You wanna make that shirt a crop top? Go see Connie on Cesar Chavez.
Maravilla Meat Market
The meat market with the beautiful mural. On the outside of this business lies the original work of artist John Zender reflecting famous Chicano leaders such as Emilio Zapata, The Brown Berets, and Cesar Chavez himself holding a beacon of light. The inside is equally significant to many local families who continue to buy their fresh produce, meats, and water from the classic Maravilla Market. To this day, I still get sent by my mother to go get a pound of meat “de la Maravilla” and, I always say yes just to get my daily dose of culture.
Los 5 Puntos
That means 5 points in Spanish. I never understood on what scale they graded themselves on, but this family eatery has been in movies such as Blood In, Blood Out and remains a staple of East LA home cooking. Los 5 Puntos is one of those spots where you eat with your hands, no utensils needed. Best believe there will be a line out the door on Sunday afternoons and cars in the parking lot playing oldies. You can’t miss it on the avenue as it’s one of the last classic spots before entering Boyle Heights.
That’s all folks!
All images author’s own