Last summer six members of the Youth Feed, the Source's high school journalism program, explored their own backyard: Main Street, Alhambra. They investigated how its residents shifted from almost all Anglo to the world mix it is today, and how these residents use the street — starting with themselves. They were awarded an Inter-Ethnic press award last month. To celebrate, we're republishing their stories.
Originally published 8/27/2010
Maia Villa, a rising senior at Mark Keppel high school, writes about how she, like many on Main Street, represents the minority of the minority who look Hispanic but don't speak Spanish. Anthony Perez, a graduating senior from Alhambra High, considers how Main Street shaped him as he leaves for the East Coast. Stephanie Lee, also a graduating senior from Alhambra High, reflects on how the street is not that different from Main Streets across America as a spot for teenagers to congregate. And Libby Gutierrez, a rising junior at Alhambra High, how eating at Panda Express and watching a movie could be a first step toward independence. Watch and read!
Maia Villa on finding her identity as the "minority of the minority" on Main Street
I represent the minority of the minority — the Americans who live in a world of "in-between.” Because of my Americanized culture and accent, I stick out in a group of Hispanics. Yet, because of my brown skin, I stick out in a group of light-skinned Caucasians. I may be of a minority not often discussed, but I am not a minority of one.
There are many like me on Main Street in Alhambra — a city in between the deluxe Pasadena and the simple Monterey Park. I know the Main Street from four years ago that filled with aimless teens itching for freedom as they adorned tight jeans and 80's-rebound hair. I know the Main Street that used to crowd with people during summer jubilees. I know the Main Street my school's lunch lady attends seemingly every Saturday to dance at Rick's (and I've danced with her once too).
And, from four years as an active member of a small performing theater on Main Street, I’ve gained a taste of Alhambra’s community — ranging from a daring stranger who once sat himself on stage to play his guitar before our theater’s own show had started to members of Alhambra’s Rotary Club, a group just as friendly personally as them claim to be publicly.
The city of “in-between” has raised this girl of “in-between.” Main Street has been and continues to be a catalyst of my growth and search for identity. Within five years, the home of my Friday and Saturday nights transitioned from a fun environment of ordinary teen-hood to a professional environment of creative, passion-driven adults. Main Street’s versatility of both business and entertainment introduces worlds for aimless teens to aim toward. I am a teen, a movie-lover, an art-spectator, a thespian, a Johnny Rocket’s chili fries indulger, and a dance partner of my school’s lunch lady all thanks to Main Street.
Anthony Perez on leaving Alhambra
In this transitional phase of my life, I am realizing how Main Street has shaped my perspective. When I was younger my parents would take me to Rick’s Burgers on Saturday nights for dinner. I would eat on the patio as they danced to disco Mexican music in the small stage adjacent to the sitting area. Five years ago it was not a hip place to be. As I grew up, I watched it transform to what it is now: a popular street with theaters and nightclubs that attract people from all over LA.
Stephanie Lee on Alhambra as Main Street, USA
Alhambra's Main Street, like those throughout the country, is the center of the city's small businesses, and teenage-hang outs. The first time I was allowed to go to the movies with my friends by myself, we went to the theater on the corner where Main Street meets Garfield Avenue. The movie theater continued to be the place I frequented most not only to catch new flicks, but to sit around and talk on lazy Sunday afternoons. Eventually, as high school rolled around, I ventured to different parts of Main Street. After school, my friends and I would walk along the stores and restaurants, looking for food. Often, we found ourselves sharing a booth a Rick's, for burgers, and fries, or at Senor Fish for burritos. Although I don't hang around Main St. much anymore, it was the place at which I transitioned from child to teenager before becoming an adult.
Libby Gutierrez on why she loves Super A
My name is Elizabeth Gutierrez, but to my peers, I’m most commonly known as Libby. I’ve lived in Alhambra for practically my whole life, and over the years I’ve become genuinely acquainted with Main Street, and it’s come to be a place where I am almost every day. When I think of Main Street, sometimes I reminisce on the Jubilee, a festival in which, as far as I can remember, business owners would showcase what they have to offer, in a quaint and festive way that can only be described as fun. It seems as though the whole town would come out for these festivities. Then again, it’s hard to resist free musical performances, food, and an all-around good time.
Even though I grew up shopping and dining on Main, what I consider my first real experience came in 2007 when I was in seventh grade. What we did that night was simple: we ate at Panda Express, watched a movie, and then loitered on the corner of Main and Garfield. But that was the first time I had a sense of independence away from my parents. Up until that point, it was a great rarity that my parents would let me go somewhere just to “hang out.” And I distinctly remember feeling really close to being on top of the world, because in those moments, I was truly my own person.
Fast forward to now, the year 2010, where I am an incoming junior in high school, and Main Street is still a place that is very much apart of my daily routine, mainly because I live near it. Now, I enjoy Super A, and strange as that may be to you, in the daily life of an avid tea drinking high schooler, Super A is the perfect place to pick up a can of tea when I get out of school. Further, I enjoy the corner of Main and First Streets, simply because it’s a place that also holds many memories and is of sentimental value to me. Of course, I still thoroughly enjoy the corner of Main and Garfield, even though I don’t feel the original sense of independence that I felt on that night in 2007, Main is still and always will be where I can honestly say I began to feel what is adolescent freedom.