Part #6: Homegirl Cafe, Homeboy Industries and Mariachi Plaza

West under the freeway on First Street is Site #7 on the left hand side. Site #7, the Homegirl Cafe, 1818 E. First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033, (323) 268 9353, is open 8 AM to 4 PM for breakfast and lunch. Offering both vegetarian and Mexican meat dishes, one of the best restaurants in Boyle Heights, Homegirl Cafe is an off-shoot of Father Gregory Boyle’s Homeboy Industries whose offices are located a block east at 1916 E. First Street.

From 1986 – 1992, Jesuit priest Father Gregory Boyle was pastor of Dolores Mission Church, the poorest in L.A.’s Catholic Archdiocese, officiating at funerals of hundreds of gang members. In an attempt to educate youth before they became gang members and to provide alternatives for current gang members, Father Boyle founded Jobs for a Future in 1988 and Homeboy Industries in 1992. The largest “anti-gang” project in Los Angeles, the project attempts to provide thousands of at-risk youth and gang members with social services (including tattoo removal) and jobs as a way out of gangs and as an alternative to gang violence. Homeboy Industries includes Homeboy Bakeries, Homeboy Maintenance and Homegirl Merchandising. The offices are bustling during regular office hours, so maybe it’s not the best idea to traipse by and gawk through the large plate glass windows, though the building does have an interesting self-explanatory mural on one side. A better idea would be to stop by for breakfast or lunch at the nearby Homegirl Cafe, which offers excellent soups, terrific moles, sandwiches and salads, as well as expressos, lattes, capuccinos and cold fruit refrescos. One of my favorites, chicken in green pepian (pumpkin seed sauce) includes vegetables, salad and tortillas for $6.75, but there’s a lot of other choices on the menu (sandwiches are $3.75), if you can find seating. Get there early, that’s my advice.

Across the street, behind the construction scaffolding for the subway station at E. First and Boyle Street, is Peoples’ History Tour Site #8. After your brunch at the Homegirl Cafe, perhaps with a fresh “Sarah’s Drink” in hand (raspberry and mango iced drink with a squeeze of lime), walk across the street to the final site on this tour, #8. Site #8, Mariachi Plaza at the corner of E. First and Boyle, is the main meeting place and hiring site for mariachi musicians from Boyle Heights and the Eastside. The old Boyle Hotel across the street from the plaza is home to many musicians (some of whom complained about recent renovations and a raise in the rent, forcing them to leave), and groups are hired from the plaza each afternoon. The site also hosts the annual Los Angeles Mariachi Festival, though it is currently partly obstructed by construction of the new subway station underneath it.

Then, if you must take mariachis home with you, collect twenty bucks a head at your next dinner party to reimburse yourself for mariachi brass for the evening, which you can hire for maybe $300 for a group of six. Just the thing for the next time you get married! #8’s the last site of the Peoples’ History Tour (if you have more time, you can extend it with the following nearby side trips).

Guitarras Candelas

Caracol Marketplace & Community Garden

former Instituto del Pueblo

former Aztlan newspaper offices

Breed Street Schul

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