Rojas’ Eastside

James Rojas - Urban Planner & Community Activist

James Rojas – Urban Planner & Community Activist (photo by Lynell George)

GREAT URBAN walkabout on Saturday with James Rojas who led about a dozen of us through Boyle Heights into East L.A. Rojas, an urban planner and community activist, gave us generous samples of Latino Urbanism — a specific refashioning of built landscape.

Writes Rojas:

“Street vendors, plazas, and benches are all part of the Latin American streetscape. Traditional Latin American homes extend to the property line, and the street is often used as a semi-public, semi-private space where residents set up small businesses, socialize, watch children at play, and otherwise engage the community.

To create a similar sense of belonging within an Anglo-American context, Latinos use their bodies to reinvent the street.”

We looked at how people refashion and mark place and make it their own. We wandered by front yards turned into plazas. We explored upon gardens, shrines, murals and garage-adjacent altars. Christmas is still in full bloom; it’s just tucked away off the main drag. I was most taken by the thread of improvisation winding through block by block. Streets that are made for walking with goods and signage at eye-level. Re-purposed gas stations, vacant lots and front porches transformed into impromptu meeting places.

Community in this sense truly feels like community — lives linked together, shaped by one another.

Big thanks to wonderful Victoria for letting me know about it. I’m always re-energized seeing L.A. through a different set of eyes.

So grateful to you to James Rojas!

(mosaic images by Lynell George)


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