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Michelle Lopez: Guatemalan-Mexican, Born in Chinatown, L.A.

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KCET Departures asks, "What's your or your family's Los Angeles arrival story?" Today, we hear from Michelle Lopez, a college student:

"My mom's Guatemalan. My dad's Mexican.

"I was actually born in Chinatown, a few blocks from where I'm telling you my story, at the little pink hospital, Pacific Alliance.

"My parents each came to the U.S. around 1980. My dad came here because of the farmers - Cesar Chavez and all that. Some farmer resold his I.D. to my dad and I think that's how he got here - legally, but with another identity.

"My mom came across the border. She got caught in Texas, so yeah, we had problems. But now she's a resident and my dad's an American citizen.

"I grew up in L.A. - in Lincoln Heights and El Sereno. I don't remember too much because we moved when I was in sixth grade. Now we live in Alhambra, which is a really quiet place.

"I do remember how in Lincoln Heights, we lived a block from Lincoln Park. I wanted to go to that park all the time! On the right-hand side of the park there are statues. They had festivals around those statues. I also remember a couple of Fourth of July's we had there.

"I don't remember much besides that - my parents didn't really want me going out much. Lincoln Heights was a really sad neighborhood, growing up - lots of homeless people and gunshots. I saw it getting worse and worse as we moved to El Sereno.

"Last summer, I worked at the Studio for Southern California History**, on Hill Street in Chinatown. I hadn't come to this side of town a lot.

"The day I started, I noticed I was a few blocks from where I'd been born! So eighteen years after, I finally came to step in front again of the hospital. I took a picture and I texted it to my mom. She was like, "D--n!" - but in Spanish, "!Orale!"

"I also last summer attended a town meeting in Lincoln Heights. It was about a political proposal to help the neighborhood get better affordable housing and space and parks and environmental justice. They wanted that, and they should get it."

-- Michelle Lopez (as told to Jeremy Rosenberg)

**Jeremy Rosenberg has written for the Studio

Photo courtesy Michelle Lopez; photo by Sharon Sekhon

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