Growing up in East Los Angeles one learns immediately that the main artery of the unincorporated town remains and always has been Whittier Boulevard.
It’s a busy street that was first paved as part of the El Camino Real when the Spaniards first visited California in 1769. Now it’s still a main road in East L.A.
On Saturday morning, three blocks down from Whittier Boulevard, hundreds of families gathered around Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High waiting patiently in a line around the building to receive Thanksgiving turkey and food packages. It’s an annual event that the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation has done the past 21 years.
While the line stretched outside and around the school on Lorena Avenue, inside were many of Golden Boy Promotions young prospects helping pass out the bags of groceries and gifts. Many of the fighters return to the event each year.
Among those fighters helping with the event Abraham Lopez, Alexis Rocha, Joet Gonzalez, Jousce Gonzalez, Tenochtitlan Nava, Cesar Diaz, Chimpa Gonzalez, Aaron McKenna and Edgar Valerio. Even Valerio’s manager Joel De La Hoya was in attendance.
De La Hoya has found memories of East L.A. every time he returns. It’s a town that can’t be duplicated in any way or form. It’s unique.
“I come to East L.A. a lot,” said Joel De La Hoya. “Not just for this. I’m here almost every week.”
The older brother of Oscar De La Hoya recounted days in the past when the neighborhood kids would gather to play football or baseball on the streets. Parks existed but the closest was a mile away.
“We still come here to eat regularly,” said Joel De La Hoya. “We have our favorite spots that cook our favorite food. It doesn’t matter where you go it’s impossible to find Mexican food cooked like they do here. It’s the way your mother and tias cooked. You can’t find that anywhere else.”
Mothers, aunts, sisters and others gathered to collect bags of groceries and items to help cook food for Thanksgiving Day. The procession took hours but the foundation had plenty of food to pass on.
During the giveaways Oscar De La Hoya joined in and was occasionally asked various questions by the many media members in attendance. The favorite topic was his recent announcement that he wants to fight UFC champion Conor McGregor.
It’s been a long time since the De La Hoya brothers ran in the streets with their buddies like Eric Gomez near Whittier Boulevard. Times change and circumstances change but the cultural tastes developed as a youth seldom change.
Here they are 30 years later and returning to East L.A. still brings a charge.
“I’ll never stop coming here,” said Joel De La Hoya. “We have our secret spots that we’re always going to have.”
Nothing seems to change in East L.A. a few buildings have come and gone but mostly it’s the same as it’s been for the past 50 years.
Whittier Boulevard remains crowded during the day and people mill around looking for deals or just passing the time.
Saturday was a chance not only for families to receive gifts, but for those who grew up in East L.A. to return to their roots. It’s always a special feeling.
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