How the 704 bus line shaped the LA identity of writer Raquel Gutiérrez

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Los Angeles is multicultural, multifaceted, stacked and sprawling at the same time. And everyone who lives here has a unique connection to this place.

Raquel Gutiérrez wrote about how LA shaped its own identity in a recent personal essay for Places Journal. The message was: How do Latinos impact the built environment in Los Angeles?

KCRW asked them to read the first section of their article:

I lived in Silver Lake in the late 1990s, and every once in a while I would walk a few blocks to Sunset and take the 704 bus to Santa Monica to get to work. It was a reprieve from the spiritual emptiness of bumper to bumper.

The 704 took me to a booth where I recorded the inventory during my first and only job of the first dot-com boom. It was in 1999, just before Metallica’s Lars Ulrich sued Napster (in a case that would force the music file-sharing company out of business), and I was in charge of e-commerce for a record company in line located at the corner of the street. of Pico and Cloverfield. I got the job thanks to friends I made seeing live music in the heyday of an art-punk teenager. We grew up in DIY spaces and helped each other find jobs in the music industry, Burbank, and Hollywood. Promotional CDs, limited edition vinyls, and free concert tickets made it look like I had found the gold.

I didn’t need a college degree for this job. So why was I still nervous about never having one? Adulthood has crept up on me. I had failed to get into the elite colleges that my private Catholic high school mates had been training for all their lives. I spent my first year mourning the death of my best friend in a car crash and hitting my snare more than the books. Playing music was my comfort, and college felt as vague as any other recognizable goal in my life. I counted on sensory pleasure to orient myself towards the world of work.


Born and raised in Los Angeles, Raquel Gutiérrez credits the queer and feminist DIY culture of post-punk zine of the 1990s, as well as paid art internships in LA County and Getty, for introducing them to scenes and scenes. vibrant arts communities in Southern California. Photo courtesy of Gutiérrez.

Maybe that same sensory instinct, and an idea that such feelings were related to class, identity, difference, and belonging, shaped my hikes along Route 704. I didn’t wasn’t the only bus commuter at the office, where my co-workers were East Coast and Midwest transplants, still struggling to crack Greater LA transit codes, still dismayed at how the Angeleños go the distance. (They eventually made installments on the first wave of Prius.)

As a native of LA, I took the bus to read Roque Dalton’s poetry and try my own imitations. And as I walked through zip codes and views transformed from murals depicting the Mesoamerican ancestors of many of my neighbors to the architecturally promiscuous porticoes of Beverly Hills, I chatted with middle-aged mothers on their way to manage. other people’s houses and children – a burst of familiarity, since my mother had done it too, as a young woman, just a few years before I was born.

I remember someone a few years older than me asking if my husband would let me work. I wish I could credit the woman who explained what Eightlacoche is – the edible corn mushroom that some people compare to a truffle. But most of the conversations ended with the two awkwardly aware parties in a ditch. I was born in Los Angeles to parents who, due to their own luck (or bad luck) when arriving in the early 1970s, had become United States citizens under the United States Reform and Control Act, 1986. the immigration of Ronald Reagan, who had granted amnesty to those who entered the country illegally before 1982.

My father had come from Mexico, the state capital of Hidalgo, to harvest potatoes in Wisconsin and lettuce in Watsonville, south of Santa Cruz. In 1970, after two years in the Golden State, he was unceremoniously returned – by bus – to El Paso, where he was left to walk on the bridge to Ciudad Juarez. He quickly made a plan to return and this time found relief in the anonymity of Los Angeles. It has had the hardest knocks of moving north to a country that wants your job but not your personality – while my mom flew in and found her own way to a 704 stop near the San Vicente link. , Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, where the Bermuda Triangle of Beverly Hills engulfs its Latinx workforce. Finally, she exceeded the duration of her visa. But both of my parents were given amnesty, and while my father moved back and forth in political affiliations, my mother voted Republican for the next three decades in homage to the life-changing politics of Reagan, despite his interventionism against his country of origin, El Salvador.

I often think of my parents as having been two of thousands of similar erasures, those excluded from the city’s functional successes until they reached middle age. I also think about how the economic security they finally got allowed me to trip over my own politics. My mother had time to take my sister and I to the Huntington Park Library, to practice her English with every verse she read aloud from the worn copy of Children’s Bible Stories she kept. on the bedside table in the pink painted bedroom my sister and I shared. I still persist, 20 years later in this queer half-life, never to have found the opportunity to use the word “Latinx” around her (or around my father, who died last year). This despite the fact that, in other areas, I tamper with the complicated nuances of the term, its representational burden meant to index the story and create security for those whose gender is considered non-conforming.

There was a moment on my bus ride when, of the group of us leaving from the same destination, I was just left. I headed west to Santa Monica, in my own erasures.

You can read the rest of Gutiérrez’s essay in the place diary.

If you have a personal essay on how LA or SoCal shaped your identity, we would love to read and possibly share it. Email it to [email protected]


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