Protest by supporters of mariachi tenants in Boyle Heights. Photo by Ernesto Orozco
This is a script from a story by a Boyle Heights Beat journalist that’s part of KCRW’s Boyle Heights youth radio project. You can listen to the story here:
By Rosario Bonilla
Ambient 1: Eviction scene 0:53-1:23
“This property is being sold through investors….”
“They’re getting rid of the house?”…..
Esteban just found out he and his pregnant wife are getting evicted from their home In Boyle Heights, an East LA neighborhood.
Act 1: “We can still stay here right? We can still rent?”
The converted garage where Esteban’s been living is getting sold. Boyle Heights is a hot real estate market, and the new owner wants to build an apartment complex.
Act 2: “The way the market is right now especially in Boyle heights, I see that happening. This is the hottest neighborhood in the city.” 1:15
This sounds pretty real…it’s happening all over L.A..
But evictions and the rise of rent in Boyle Heights has become so popular a topic, that people are even making plays about it.
Act 3: “I just wanted to write a play that captured the community. Our stories are not being told. We are such a large group of people and our stories are being wiped away, they’re not being told.”
That’s 44 year-old Oscar Arguello. He wrote Sideways Fences, a play about gentrification a few years ago. It focuses on a young couple getting displaced.
The play ran at a Boyle Heights theater, Casa 0101.
It’s partly Oscar Arguello’s own story. Years ago, he got evicted from his apartment and left Boyle Heights.
Act 4: “I received a letter from my landlord saying i had thirty days to move out.”
Arguello says back then he didn’t know enough about housing rights to fix the situation.
Act 5: “When i was writing the play i decided to put that scene basically word for word, exactly how it happened.”
Act 6: I have some very good news for you though, we will be placing 2,000 dollars in an escrow account for you…..
As the stage manager for Sideways Fences, Angel Lizarraga has probably seen the play more than anyone. When he watches, he sees art imitating real life.
Act 7: I’ve seen people around me, a lot of my childhood friends have already moved on to different places like south central or they’re living in east la, different parts like that because they couldn’t afford to live here.
Staying in a gentrifying neighborhood is particularly difficult for artists. Playwrights, poets, and musicians don’t make a lot of money, so keeping rent reason able is essential.
Act 8: Estaba pagando 1,020 dolares y me subio a 1,825. Lo puede creer?
Late on a Friday night Luis Valdivia is up on a downtown L.A. stage with his band. They’re dressed in charros, the traditional mariachi suit, black with a red bow tie. Next to them is a Trump piñata with the face of Valdivia’s new landlord, BJ Turner. He says he tried to negotiate a reasonable rent increase, but the owner didn’t bite.
Act 9: Ahorita estamos luchando negociar con el dueño. Llegar a un acuerdo que nosotros estamos en acuerdo que nos suba la renta pero algo más razonable.
Luis Valdivia’s rent in Boyle Heights recently went up 800 dollars. So much that it’s turned into a movement. The crowd at the renters rights fundraiser is totally with him.
Ambient Sound 2: Violencia es la solución
Ambient Sound 3: Mariachi Music
Ambient sound 4: Mariachi Plaza
In Boyle Height’s Mariachi Plaza, a group of musicians sit on benches with trumpets, violins, and guitars. They’re waiting for passerby’s to hire them for weddings, quinceaneras and birthdays.
It’s early evening when Mariachi Luis Valdivia stops by. Right now he lives just a few blocks away.
Act 10: “Porque aqui esta la plaza de mariachis, nuestro trabajo.”
He says this plaza is his workplace. And he’s willing to fight to stay nearby.
Act 11: “Nosotros estamos optimistas de ganar, pero si perdemos vamos a tratar de no salirnos aquí de Boyle Heights”
Valdivia says he’s optimistic he can negotiate a more reasonable rent increase. But just in case, he and other Boyle Heights activists are planning to protest in his landlord’s West-side neighborhood.
Reporting in Boyle Heights, this is Rosario Bonilla.
Rosario Bonilla is a senior at Óscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School. She enjoys art and reading. She hopes to attend a four-year college after high school.
Photo above by Ernesto Orozco.