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Hello World – Leanna Lugo

Every morning, I choose to drive through several different Los Angeles neighborhoods just so that I can avoid the horror that is the Southbound 110 freeway. My commute starts in Highland Park, a neighborhood located in Northeast Los Angeles, but most of you probably have no indication of where “Northeast Los Angeles” is. Think of a halfway point between the Rosebowl and USC, that’s where Highland Park is.

If you would have asked me a few years ago if I thought that Highland Park would become “a hub of hip”, I probably would have laughed directly in your face. Back in the ’90s and throughout my childhood, the neighborhood was infested with gang violence and crime rather than the coffee shops and vegan eateries that I now drive past every day. Many often tell me that the process of gentrification is an “upgrade from what used to be”, but that statement confuses me because just last week, a gang-related shooting killed and wounded multiple people up the street from my home. But I don’t think the white hipsters in HLP are ready to have a conversation about that quite yet.

Anyway, back to my commute. After HLP, my commute takes me into Chinatown where I first begin to hit some traffic, but it’s not as bad as being on the 110. Chinatown has always been the home of many East Asian immigrants who have opened up small convenience stores that line Broadway. However, more recently, it has become the home of Nashville Hot Chicken shop, Howlin’ Rays inside of the Far East Plaza. The chicken spot is famous for its 3-hour long lines (and its chicken of course), but you will never see the elderly citizens of Chinatown waiting in that line. I’ve tried Howlin’ Rays. Do I think it’s worth the hype? Definitely not, but I do believe their choice of location was highly intentional. There are hardly any other “hip” places to eat in Chinatown, and with over 160,000 followers on Instagram, they obviously attract a crowd.

Now that we’ve passed Chinatown, I’m in the hellhole that is Downtown Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, DTLA has become my go-to bar hopping location, but driving through it at 8 am is my worst nightmare. Again, like HLP and Chinatown, DTLA has not always been full of bars, photo-ops, and art galleries. My grandma actually told me that when she first came to the US, she saw downtown and she thought she was back in Mexico because of the homelessness, its lack of solid infrastructure, and the trash everywhere. I tell her it’s not much different now, they’ve just put makeup on a pig

After 45 minutes of traffic in DTLA, I’ve made it to USC, the University of South Central, I mean, Southern California. The school where I pay $500 a semester for a parking permit, but where I still have to fight for a parking spot. This place isn’t what it used to be before either. I grab my backpack, and I rush to class. All in the life of a commuter student.

It seems as though I’m complaining about the fact that things in Los Angeles have changed drastically since my childhood, but that’s not what this blog is going to be about. It’s about the process of gentrification, which I’ve only mentioned briefly, but eventually, I guarantee, you’ll get tired of the word.

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