KCET Departures asks, "What's your or your family's Los Angeles arrival story?"
Today, we hear from filmmaker and playwright Aldo Velasco. He's worked throughout the city and resides in Echo Park.
"I arrived in Los Angeles, with my sister and mother, just as I was about to turn six. We were coming from Mexico, where I was born. My mother was fleeing the abuses of my father.
"I wasn't part of the planning process; one day after my father had gone to work my mother said simply that we were leaving, we were going on a 'fun trip.' She packed us into the VW Van, along with another abused wife fleeing her husband, and we crossed the border into the States. L.A. was our destination.
"We stayed with my grandmother in Alhambra for a couple months. I struggled to adjust to my new life and learn English. I turned six years old, and was given a Jaws-themed game for my birthday. But my mother decided that Oregon was a better place to raise children and off we went north.
"I didn't come back to Los Angeles for years. I had become a true-blue Oregonian who looked down on L.A., for no reason other than the stereotype that Angelenos are shallow and narcissistic.
"I moved to Brentwood in the nineties for graduate film school at UCLA. I kept telling myself I'd go to school, get my degree, and get back to the Northwest as soon as I could. I hated Los Angeles, but not because of the people, who for the most part I found to be smart and spirited, not self-absorbed.
"I hated the architecture and layout of the town. I felt that the very sprawl of this city was keeping its wonderful residents from cohering into a great community. All my films at UCLA were inspired by my feelings of isolation and dehumanization in Car City.
"I told myself to be careful. I could become like the spiders I used to capture in jars as a kid. The spiders hated being confined and I'd have to screw the lid on to keep them inside, but after a couple days I could leave the jar open, because the spider had built its web in there and considered it home.
"I knew that could happen to me in L.A. I might stay even though I hated it, because I might build my web of friends, relationships, favorite restaurants, secret hideouts, and longings. I might even convince myself that I actually liked Los Angeles, I might move to Echo Park and become part my own community, I might decide that couldn't live anywhere else in the world.
"And that's exactly what happened."
-- Aldo Velasco
(as emailed to Jeremy Rosenberg)
- Departures References:
- Departures Home Page
- Arrival Stories -- View the Complete Archive
Photo: Aldo and Mara Velasco, courtesy of Aldo Velasco