From Our Readers: First Street Murals

By EGP Readers

Re: Art and Development On Collision Path In East LA (pub. April 26, 2012)
Having read your article about our plans for a new school on 1st Street, I wanted to clarify some key points:

1) We are preserving the murals. The article seemed to cast some doubt on this, and I want to be clear with the community that that the murals will be carefully removed before construction starts, preserved during construction, and reinstalled once construction is complete.

2) Keeping the building as is cannot work for a school. The state has strict construction guidelines, and reusing a building like this will not meet State requirements.
The Alliance Media Arts and Technology Academy is a great school serving kids in this community, currently in an inadequate facility that is far too small. This location is ideal for our students, and a great way to revitalize this corner.

We believe this is a win-win-win: the kids get a great school; the community gets revitalized with new life; and these beautiful murals get preserved. We look forward to providing a great education in a great building for our community’s students. We, too, value the beauty and history of these murals, as do our parents and students.

Judy I. Burton
President & CEO
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

Re: First Street Store Murals (pub. April 26, 2012)
East Los Angeles is once again forced to accept a losing proposition with the issue regarding the disposition of the historical First Street Store.

Similar to the debate that surrounded the Golden Gate Theater, the County of Los Angeles must again pit East Los Angeles history against economic development. Regardless of the outcome, there is no way to create a win-win situation.

As a First Street merchant and as a product of East Los Angeles, I have memories of the First Street Store as well as the people it brought to this part of town. But I don’t remember the First Street Store because of its name nor because of the products it sold. I mostly remember the First Street Store because of the murals. While I did not fully understand the meaning of the murals as a kid, I do remember looking at them and using my imagination to create their meaning. I imagined myself in the scenes.

As an adult I traveled extensively across the country. In conversations with others across the country I constantly described East Los Angeles not as depicted by the media, but as a place with beautiful art, each time picturing the murals in my mind.

While I understand the importance of these murals, I also see my neighboring merchants struggling every day to keep their doors open. I see many of them dipping into their savings accounts to keep their business operating. And in some cases I see them close their doors altogether. This economy has brought a lot of suffering to our merchants. And while the development of Cesar Chavez and Whittier Boulevard has brought some hope to merchants on those streets, our business community on First Street has seen little about which to be hopeful. And as East Los Angeles’ only community bank, our success is dependent upon our business community’s success.

As a result I am stuck having to support a position that is less than ideal. I want to see the appropriate resources spent to ensure the safe and secure removal of the murals so that the First Street business community has something to be hopeful about. But I then wish to see those murals returned to their rightful place and used to adorn a new construction. It is essential that these murals be returned and displayed for the entire community to view and future generations to appreciate.

East Los Angeles is a community that has changed very little since the time those murals were created. We are still a young and activist community.

And this is a good thing. These murals are essential to not only link the residents of East Los Angeles to their ancestors, but also to link today’s youth to yesterday’s youth. Through these murals we tell not only of our struggles as indios and Mexicans, but also as Mexican-American residents of East Los Angeles.

Jesse Torres
President & CEO Pan American Bank
East Los Angeles

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May 3, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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