Part #3: Ruben Salazar Park and Herbs of Mexico

If the Tacos Oaxaca truck is parked across the street, I can recommend that, too. For Site #3, continue west on Whittier Boulevard. Site #3, Ruben Salazar Park, 3864 Whittier Boulevard, is on the south (left hand) side of the street. It has grass with winos sleeping, municipal pool full of kids having a great time in the summer, and a senior center I never see open. Perhaps the marchers of the Chicano moratorium would have made it to this park for a rally if they had not been attacked by the sheriffs department. The main thing you may find of interest here is the big David Botello mural on the side of the community building, visible from the sidewalk

Paul Botello is the most prolific of the East Los muralists. Los Tigres del Norte commissioned this large mural, I was told, which is why their portrait in the left hand side of the mural is larger in it than everything else. Botello has an aesthetic that operates in similar ways as Bill London’s, in that his murals are always full of arcane and esoteric symbols, crowded geometries and ornate ideas. In the center of the mural there is a column of the marching people who will not be detained by the much smaller cadre of sheriffs (one with a death’s head) to the right of them. The very small blue portrait---as if shining in some distant TV tube---that one of the sheriff’s officers points his rifle at (if you can find it) is Ruben Salazar.

Kitty-corner from the park on the north side of the street at 3903 Whittier Boulevard is a yerba shop, Herbs of Mexico. Where but here can you get your deer tongue, balm of Gilead, ojos de venado, valerian, several kinds of henna, bee pollen, sheep sorrel, nopal, unas de gato, secular and sacred medicinal and practical herbs combining Western traditions with Mexican wisdom going back 500 years? You should at least go in and smell the smells and oggle the little black ojos de venado in the glass jar.

Part #3 1/2: Whittier to First Street via Indiana and Lorena
At Indiana or Lorena take a right to First Street. If you take Indiana, at Indiana and First is the 3 story Mercado, where you can buy sneakers or hiking boots of calf-skin with the spotted fur side out, epazote for your Oaxacan dishes in the grocery store downstairs, peruse the cowboy clothes for your Norteno outfit, or try out the endless mercado-style eateries. Then continue west on First Street past Evergreen Cemetery along the north side of First.
If you take Lorena right, it ends at Fourth, where you go left on the Fourth Street bridge which gives you an overview of a 1920s neighborhood down in the ravine. Like a few old neighborhoods in Los Angeles, it still contains houses on the hillside that can only be reached by flights of stairs, a pedestrian ideal that has long since fallen out of fashion. They don’t build them like that anymore. Continue to Evergreen, making a right on Evergreen to First Street and make a left on First, continuing west.
Kitty corner on the left side of the street from Evergreen cemetery is the first of several Buddhist churches, Konko Church at 2924 E. First Street. (It is small and white and a bit gray and overshadowed by the new bright orange Rinconcitos del Mar restaurant next door.) At First and Saratoga a block west are the Tenrikyo Church and the Rissho Kosei-Kai Buddhist Church. These Buddhist churches are remnants of a time when there was a much larger Japanese American community in Boyle Heights. These churches all still offer martial arts and taiko drumming classes to all neighborhood residents, along with other events and activities. If you haven’t had a thing all day and are hungry, eat at the last Japanese American family restaurant left in the area, Otomisan at 2506 E. First Street, on the left, just before Soto. It’s cheap and good.

 

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