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East LA Interchange

2015
Distributed by Bluewater Media, 8936 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232; 323-650-0370
Produced by Betsy Kalin, Eric Waterman
Directed by Betsy Kalin
DVD , color, 57 min. + 30 min. (Bonus Features), English with Spanish subtitles
High School - General Adult
United States, History, California, Latin Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Urban and Regional Planning,


Reviewed by Sharadha Natraj, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, School of Architecture and Urban Planning

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 4/6/2017

In 1945, the East LA Interchange, part of the largest freeway system in the country, was completed after displacing residents, destroying dwellings and tearing apart one of Los Angeles’ most thriving, multicultural, working-class neighborhoods: Boyle Heights. Through the memories of people who grew up in the area, the film weaves a history of the place and the community. We learn about the different cultures that lived together as neighbors, the social changes in the country that affected their futures, and the political and planning decisions that were made which transformed the area, both geographically and culturally.

Boyle Heights is representative of so many urban communities in the country, which have experienced similar issues in their history---neighborhoods with working-class families, which enjoyed an environment of inclusivity and integration from the 1920s to the 1940s, but saw great changes during and after World War II. The film traces these changes and the growth of Boyle Heights into a community of Hispanics and African-Americans. With the barriers that racial, planning, and political policies placed in their way, citizens of Boyle Heights were slowly hemmed in, and the East LA Interchange exacerbated the problems the neighborhood faced economically and culturally.

While recovering from a period of extreme gang violence, Boyle Heights has been going through gentrification. However, unlike many cases where gentrification means renewal at the expense of the local community, in Boyle Heights, long-term residents are part of a change that aims to improve their quality of life while preserving their neighborhood. Their efforts exemplify a model that other communities can follow to avoid the pitfalls that gentrification has brought elsewhere.

Recommended for high school and university audiences.