Speaking For L.A. – Notes on a Latinx Rebel City – by Irina Contreras

14 03 2018

Irina Contreras is an artist and educator living in Los Angeles. She helped in research for the forthcoming Rebel City Los Angeles guide.

There are several Los Angeles’, there’s a Los Angeles where one is served, and the other providing for those who serve. I can’t speak directly for an immigrant Los Angeles but I can speak for a Latinx Los Angeles. One that’s both documented and undocumented, generationally poor, and has a semblance of roots via time spent, or indigeneity. The hustles, struggles and gigs of people in my generation and younger often overlap in a mysterious grid, like transvisible highways of labor all throughout Los Angeles. These world(s) exists in and often the same way we’ve listened to the words “Another world exists, another world is possible”. I’m left to wonder now does it matter? Unfortunately, at times, these worlds exist without acknowledging that as we’re building one, another world is collapsing. How has the world shifted now with less physical space available? How has the virtual become more important?

For many years there have been tons of collective and cooperative spaces to choose from, to eat, have a meeting, buy a book, attend an event, get a job at, use a computer, learn how to do something new. I’d like to think that queers, people of color and poor people are creative because our lives depend on the need of the barter, the hustle, and the sharing/gift economy. As the landscape of Los Angeles has forcibly changed there’s an understandable absence of these spaces. Places like Conxa exist, though it is one of very few that’s dedicated to fueling resistance in Boyle Heights. There will be other cooperative spaces or ways to create them, but there’s a truism in many BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) communities I’ve been around; when colonialism or gentrification strikes it’s because they want to steal our magic. I’d like to think no can steal our magic, but I suppose if they steal your home and then you have to leave the city you call home, it may be half-true.

So many of these people, including queer identified latinx and women of color, have forged virtual and physical spaces touching upon ancestral knowledge. People like La Loba Loca; a person living in Echo Park and working as a sometime doula (and abortion companion trainer), potion maker, and yerbetera. Loba travels throughout the States and the Americas to give workshops on preserving knowledge on herbs and plants. They also do this online. Alegria de la Luz/Xocolatl creates and considers herself a student of cacao, herbs, and essential oils. Trained in museum and curatorial studies, she turned towards herbs and medicine when she was unable to find a steady job in museums. Her turn to incorporate her art and healing practice was born out of the current, and likely lasting, situation in Los Angeles. Cat Uribe opened a space called The Here And Now next to the Eastside Café, in El Sereno. Cat needed to give up The Here And Now due to the complications of running a physical space in Los Angeles’ economy. Daisy of Yerberia Mayahuel recently rented a physical studio space for her essential oil and herb based practice.

For so many of us our families have made a living selling tortillas, frutas, fixing cars, any kind of rasquache of a job to make ends meet. I find it difficult to say if any of the current abundance of latinx and/or indigenous healers and makers is a “return”, when herbal medicine and healing is how people have been living and making ends meet for centuries. Many people especially those looking to build alliances with their own independent practices and businesses will do so online for the time being. Recently the LAPD and the Sheriffs have increased ticketing people selling outside; so using online space, that to is a form of rasquache. I’m about 80 percent of the way done reading Adrienne Maree Brown’s book Emergent Strategy. One of the things I’ve gotten so far is the need and presence of interdependence in our movements. Brown speaks of the need to be intentional and that nothing should be disposable. I think it’s possible to see each one of these people as part (an arm, leg, antenna) of an insurgent being in Los Angeles.






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