silikon sueños, vol. 4: eastside(s) konnection

[This posting was originally intended for the great new LA Eastside group blog, and was written in response to its recent string of posts about the meaning of the “Eastside,” and having a history/connection to it, etc. Unfortunately, my poor non-programmer brain found the software used for that blog exceedingly difficult to understand and navigate, and grew really frustrated really fast. So, instead of wasting any more time and energy trying to decipher it, I decided to post this here instead.]

I did not grow up in East LA.

I didn’t grow up in LA at all (although I’ve been here 18 years now—half my life—and it seems like the most important “growing up” I’ve done has been, and continues to be, during my “adult” life here in LA).

However, as those who have read The Sickly Season zine, and this blog, might know, during the 1980s, I did grow up in East San José, California, which we too call the Eastside.

It’s something that I talk about a lot in my work, because the experiences and memories that I have from that time and space are central to my life. Any insight that I am able to gain about who/what I am finds much of its source in a process of untangling my understanding and experience of the world from how that understanding and experience are shaped by the intersections of Story & King, Tully & McLaughlin, Alum Rock & White, trips to Eastridge and La Pulga, and hours playing pool and waiting around for my dad in the multitude of Eastside Mexicano bars he would take me to with him after work.

I also write about East Sanjo because during the time that I have been in LA, like all major cities in the United States, San José has been massively gentrified in the ugliest of ways, including much of the Eastside.

As a little esquincle, I was there to see when this process really started, in the 1980s, when the psychogeographical site of “Silicon Valley” was born in a feverdream of random access memory and floppy logic—with San José as its officially designated digital “Heart.” But the “heart” that I remember in San José, however raggedly and chuecked out it beat and bled, was on the Eastside, and in other scattered pockets of community throughout the city.

I write about East Sanjo because part of the process of successful gentrification and imperialist take-over and colonization involves the creation and dissemination of documents and other media that erase “undesirable” memories, (hi)stories, and experiences (that might narrate another reality, another meaning), in order to replace them with vapid, empty, nihilistic decontextualizations and understandings that are shaped by, and that support, the dominant paradigm. As my experience growing up in both the “real” reality, and the digital, virtual “reality” of Silicon Valley, taught me, the spaces of gentrification and colonization are never just physical—but neither are the spaces of resistance (just listen to any corrido by Los Tigres del Norte, who also came out of East Sanjo).

In fact, a large part of my initial interest in participating in the LA Eastside blog arose from the common perception that just as physical spaces are being invaded and shaped according to the dominant paradigm, this virtual space of the “blogosphere” is also being fashioned in a similar way, as dull, bland conceptualizations of Los Angeles and the Eastside proliferate and crowd out others through the viral replication of an insidious decontextualization and the imposed requirement of specialized knowledge and references.

While there are obvious problems of sexism and stereotyping with media like Lowrider Magazine and the Homies dolls, I nevertheless relate to them with a certain sense of pride not just because, like Los Tigres del Norte, they also came out of East San José, but more importantly, because they help to pop the dot.com bubble of silly-con reality that has been so carefully constructed and propagated through official channels. These pop culture artifacts reference and foreground those who suffer most the real, non-virtual toxicity of this city—the environmental pollution that undergirds the production of silicon and computer hardware products; the mental pollution of consumer society, spectacle, and narcotráfico; the spiritual pollution of reactionary, provincial, rightwing conservatism and white supremacy that manipulates the media and the state to maintain repressive violence toward immigrants, the working class, the working poor, and people of color in general.

This is the reality that gives the lie to the nice, shiny bubble-reality of the yuppie and hipster richie riches who go to the Whole Foods grocery store where my younger sister works, for example, in a “nice” neighborhood of San José (nowhere near the Eastside, of course). These parasites shopping for their organic and “natural” fare are disgusting in their behavior, in their modes of interaction and communication, and in their infantile expectations to be coddled and pampered by the army of service employees that helps to maintain the glossy façade of San José as a slick silicontopia. And just in case any of those workers might try to step out of line, the rich can count on systematic repression and harassment of the working class and working poor—especially immigrants—from extensive surveillance, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, and from a fascistic, racist, ultra-classist SJPD police force that works extra hard to make this “America’s Safest City” (for them, of course).

I write here on this blog, then, in part to re-member the Eastside—my Eastside, our Eastside—even as they try to vanish it.

I write to re-member myself.

But most of all, I write here, online, to help pop the silly-con blogo-globo bubble of empty, parasitical non-sense, thoughtless ranting, and reactionary, pre-programmed response, that passes itself off as insight and context elsewhere in the virtual realm.