Twentieth-century Mexican settlement in the Eastside can be traced to the 1910s and 1920s, during a period of rapid industrial development in the area known as Sonoratown within the City of Los Angeles.
Workers living in Sonoratown, the traditional barrio located near El Pueblo downtown, moved just east of the city limits to the newly established community of Belvedere, drawn by the availability of inexpensive housing and new job opportunities.
The 1910 Mexican Revolution also propelled the development of the area, as thousands of Mexicans immigrated to Los Angeles in the wake of the conflict. In the decades following World War II, the Eastside became predominantly Latinx as other communities moved to the city’s expanding suburbs.
Places such as the Boyle Hotel, Our Lady of Solitude, Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, and the Maravilla Handball Court demonstrate the unique character that this longstanding community has brought to the Eastside. Within unincorporated East Los Angeles, several distinct neighborhoods, including Maravilla, Belvedere, and City Terrace, have emerged over time, each with a unique cultural identity.
In addition to significant population shifts, the Eastside was the backdrop for the rise of an important resistance movement in the postwar era.
In the 1960s, activists organized to protest widespread social discrimination against Mexican Americans in what would be called the Chicano Movement. In 1968, students and teachers from East Los Angeles high schools carried out a series of protests known as the East Los Angeles Walkouts or the Chicano Blowouts, which focused largely on educational inequality in local schools, but also aimed to draw attention to other restrictions on residents’ civil rights.
A definitive moment in the Latinx history of the Eastside was the 1970 Chicano Moratorium.
After decades of discrimination, an increase in police brutality, and frustration over the disproportionate number of Mexican American soldiers dying in the Vietnam War, Chicanxs throughout Los Angeles organized the Chicano Moratorium as part of a national movement to protest the war and advocate for social justice at home.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 people participated in the peaceful demonstration that occurred on August 29, 1970 in East Los Angeles. The Chicano Moratorium began at Belvedere Park and followed a route along Atlantic and Whittier Boulevards, ending with a rally at Laguna Park.
Following reports of an incident unrelated to the Moratorium at a nearby liquor store, violence erupted between law enforcement and protestors, ultimately resulting in the death of three people, among them Ruben Salazar. Salazar, a noted Chicano journalist for the Los Angeles Times, was killed in the Silver Dollar Bar and Café by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.
One month after the Moratorium, Laguna Park was renamed “Ruben F. Salazar Park” in honor of the reporter, who was the first in the mainstream American media to write about the social unrest in the Chicanx community. A new plaque with information on Salazar’s life was unveiled on August 29, 2014 at Salazar Park, an effort spearheaded by County Supervisor Gloria Molina's office in collaboration with community activists.
The Eastside has long fostered a vibrant Latinx cultural scene that continues to enliven its historic places today.
Sites such as the Self Help Graphics and Art building, Estrada Courts, and El Mercado embody the artistic movements and rituals that define East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights to this day. For decades, the area has been the epicenter of Chicanx muralism in Los Angeles, with thousands of murals paying tribute to the community’s heritage and empowering locals through stories of both struggle and triumph.
The Chicanx rock scene brought the experiences of barrio life to broad audiences with the rise of Eastside bands such as Cannibal and the Headhunters and Los Lobos. Countless cultural traditions, including the annual procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Soledad Church, continue today.
Learn more about the Conservancy's outreach to Latinx communities >>
Note: The Conservancy uses the terms "Latinx" and "Chicanx" as gender-neutral alternatives to Latina/o, Latin@, etc. Though we recognize that different people and communities self-identify in different ways, "Latinx" and "Chicanx" are gaining ground in our cultural discourse as a way of acknowledging and respecting people who are transgender, queer, or gender fluid or non-conforming.
These terms may not always be appropriate when describing people and events in the past (ex. Chicano Moratorium), but we are incorporating them into our vocabulary as part of our commitment to inclusion. Learn more about this "lingusitic revolution" from the Huffington Post >>
Laguna Park, now Ruben F. Salazar Park, was the terminus of the 1970 Chicano Moratorium march and the site where protesters and law enforcement first clashed.
Originally known as Soledad Church, this church has been a cornerstone in the Latino community in East Los Angeles since it first opened nearly 90 years ago.
Painted at the height of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, the Estrada Courts murals continue to inspire residents and artists alike.