Maravilla: Its Past, Present And Future

By Katie Chen

Supervisor for the County of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation at Obregon Park, Mac Rodriguez recalls his days as a teenager at Garfield High School, going to the East L.A. Classic and playing pick-up basketball games at Obregon Park. Mac Rodriguez has grown up in East L.A. since 1972, and according to him, the ethnic differences and the gang violence looked different.

Back then, he grew up in a clique that was a part of a larger cluster of ethnically diverse community; a large Jewish community, a number of Japanese kids at his alma mater high school (Garfield high school) and Vietnamese and Black families in the Maravilla projects colored his upbringing. Now, the area surrounding the Maravilla Gold Line station is predominantly Latino, and Rodriguez is not surprised.

"The demographic of this area changes every 30 to 40 years. At first, it was Mexican and Japanese and Jewish, and now, it’s mostly Latino with like one Black family that moved in down over there,” said Rodriguez, pointing Southwest of Obregon Park.

However, since Mexicans immigrated in the 1930s, the ethnic makeup of Hispanics and Latinos has varied. When Rodriguez was growing up in East Los Angeles in the 80s, the area involved a much more diverse community. Now, the area is over 90% Latino, according to a 2000 census report.

East L.A.’s ethnic origins can be traced back to its farmland origins. Fleeing civil revolutions and poverty of their own country, many Mexicans immigrated to California in the late 1800s working as farm laborers and settling in the Belvedere and Maravilla neighborhood area, according to a 1970 community analysis program report by the Department of Urban Affairs.

Throughout its history, East L.A.’s continuously strong, Latino population can be attributed to its multi-generational family demographic. Rodriguez is the third generation of his family to live in this area, and he is not the only family to have done so.

“Almost all of the families on my street have been the same families for years now,” said Rodriguez.

Events Affecting the Ethnic Makeup of the Maravilla area on Dipity.

In the 80s, Rodriguez’s alma mater was the only one in the area alongside their rival, Roosevelt High School. Now, there are a multiple new schools opening up according to Rodriguez, which is indicative of the growing multi-generational family demographic that’s growing.

Rodriguez says that he sees the area constantly evolving demographically and in another couple decades, it’s going to evolve even more.

Rodriguez's generation initially got an education and moved out of East L.A. further East into the San Bernardino Valley, but recently, there has been an increase in the younger demographic. Rodriguez points the cause to the revitalization of Downtown L.A., a revamped program to East Los Angeles College, and the expansion of the Metro Gold Line through the East L.A. area. Downtown L.A. has expanded its workforce and job market to over 500,000 jobs, according to the Downtown L.A. Business Improvement District.

“With more jobs in Downtown and the Metro Gold Line just down the street, I’m seeing some younger people move back to this area.”

Additionally, gang violence has gone down dramatically since the 80s.

“There’s a mutual respect between us and them. If they cause a problem, we let them [gang members] know, and they back off,” said Erica Rascon, long-term resident and employee of the Maravilla area. Not to say that the area doesn’t have its issues still.

“I remember when I was a kid, someone shot a kid in the head because he was trying to steal his laptop, and five years ago someone shot a guy because another guy was dancing with his girlfriend,” Rodriguez remembers. “The violence is still around, and this area’s always been safe. It’s all about who you hang around.”

From ethnicities to crime rates, the historical trends of the demographics of the Maravilla area are proof of the ever-changing, dynamic landscape that Los Angeles is, and revitalization efforts and fiscal installations are proof that this trend will only continue.