City Provides Safe Place to Close Online Deals

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

BELL GARDENS – With more people flocking to the Internet to buy or sell their things to strangers, the city of Bell Gardens is now offering a safe location to close the deal on those online transactions.

Over the last few years, some transactions have ended in theft and even murder. Two years ago in nearby Montebello, a man selling a $2,000 necklace on the site OfferUp, was fatally shot by a potential buyer who ended up trying to steal the piece of jewelry.

A safe meetup spot for internet purchase exchanges is now located outside the Bell Gardens Police Department lobby. (City of Bell Gardens)

A safe meetup spot for internet purchase exchanges is now located outside the Bell Gardens Police Department lobby. (City of Bell Gardens)

Bell Gardens Police Chief Robert E. Barnes said the department wanted to provide a safe place for the exchange of cash and goods and noted that crime tends to decrease in the presence of law enforcement. The Internet purchase exchange location, is now located outside the Bell Gardens Police Department lobby and will be well lit and feature security cameras that record 24-hours daily.

“It is my hope that by providing this service to our community, residents will utilize it and feel safe performing their legal Internet transactions outside our lobby,” the chief said in press release announcing the secure zone.

The department has partnered with OfferUp, which now encourages its buyers and sellers to use safe locations like the Bell Gardens site.

“Our ability to partner with the Bell Gardens Police Department allows us to bring a collective and focused effort and investment to the well-being of this community by improving the security of in-person transactions,” said Natalie Angelillo, VP of Community at OfferUp.

The Bell Gardens Police Department is located at 7100 Garfield Ave. Residents can also conduct transactions inside the lobby during regular business hours.


Las Posadas: The Mexican Tradition Continues in Bell Gardens

December 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

While growing up in Mexico, Gloria Casillas could hardly contain her excitement as she counted down the days until Christmas. It wasn’t the presents she was looking forward to, but the annual Mexican tradition known as las posadas, which begin Dec. 16 and continue for 9 consecutive nights, ending on Christmas Eve.

Celebrated throughout Mexico and in many Latino neighborhoods in the United States, las posadas are a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a posada, the Spanish word for “inn” or “shelter,” where they can spend the night.

Now, with three children of her own, Casillas is continuing the religious ritual in her new hometown of Bell Gardens, hoping her children will carry on the tradition and come to understand the deeper meaning of Christmas.

“We want to remind our children Christmas is not just about getting presents, it’s about love, family and the celebration of the birth of Jesus,” Casillas told EGP in Spanish.

Over 200 people, most of them neighbors, attended the community posada Dec. 16 at Bell Gardens Intermediate School (BGI). Most of the organizers are parents who want a safe and neutral location to celebrate the religious/cultural tradition while getting to know one another.

Past posadas were held at local homes, but many parents were uncomfortable allowing their children to take part in the caminatas or walks that are part of the annual observance.

“For some time, people didn’t feel safe because of the gang activity” in the area, said Martha Cabral, one of the event organizers.

With their children close by, a group of mothers sing traditional songs during las posadas festivities Dec. 16 in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

With their children close by, a group of mothers sing traditional songs during las posadas festivities Dec. 16 in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“In an effort to create a bridge between the school and the community, we [decided] to hold the event in a healthy family environment where parents felt at ease and comfortable,” explained BGI Principal Jose Cuevas, who has for the last eight years played a role in organizing the event.

Each posada kicks off with a candlelight procession and the singing of Christmas carols in Spanish. The procession winds its way from ”inn” to “inn,” where two people dressed as Mary and Joseph ask for lodging only to be turned away. Finally, one of the neighbors agrees to open their doors to the group, symbolically providing shelter and the birthplace for the baby Jesus.

The festivities continue with a piñata full of treats for the children, traditional Mexican food and more singing.

Because BGI is a public school, the religious aspects of the Christmas tradition have been tuned down by eliminating many of the prayers usually recited, while keeping intact the festive cultural elements of the pageantry.

Prayers usually recited during traditional las posadas were left out of the Bell Gardens’ caminata/walk in order to be respectful of all religions, and to maintain a “separation of church and state” given the involvement of the public school, according to organizers. The rest of the festivities were held at the school site.

Carla Dominguez — holding a cup of hot chocolate in one hand and waiting for a bowl of pozole — told EGP she attends the posada every year to make sure the tradition is not lost in her family.

“Many of our children did not know what a posada was,” chimes in Conrada Marquez.

“Now they can’t wait for it and ask when the next one will be held,” adds Dioselina Chavez.

The mothers vividly recalled the posadas they attended as children in Mexico. They spoke of the sparklers they were allowed to hold, reciting the rosary and the people dressed up to recreate the nativity scene. The festivities traditionally last for nine nights, with a different neighbor serving as host each night. Attendees enjoy tamales, champurrado (a hot chocolate type drink), and receive a small gift bag or bolo filled with peanuts, fruit, and candy.

“Over there [in Mexico] we all sang and knew the songs by heart at a very young age,” Carla Dominguez recalled with a smile. “You just can’t compare” the two.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Casillas’ son Derick Froilan, 9, told EGP he has learned some of the songs and looks forward every year to the posadas.

“I like walking around and singing … making friends,” he said enthusiastically. “I like that it reminds me of God.”

After a turn at hitting the piñata, Chavez’s 9-year-old daughter Brisa Figueroa told EGP she plans to continue the Mexican tradition when she grows up.

“I learned a lot about Mary and Jesus,” she said. “It taught me it’s important to be nice to our neighbors.”

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