(click headline for photo)
I was recently leading a sunrise tour and made a stop at El Tiradito, the Wishing Shrine in Barrio Viejo. After I was giving my spiel, I heard a sharp, "Hey!" I looked over and saw a guy on the other side of the fence in the El Minuto restaurant parking lot. He looked pretty tough. He was a big latino guy with long hair and plenty of muscles. I said hi back rather meekly.
"Hey," he repeated, "where did you learn all the stuff you talk about?" I said that I read stuff on the internet, actually read real books, and even talked to local residents, like Anna Laos. He paused. I waited for his reaction. Did I get something wrong? Did he not like a white outsider like myself leading tours about Barrio Viejo? I could see his point if he did.
"Aw man," he spoke, "I think it's great you are telling people about my old neighborhood." I took a deep breath and was relieved. "I see you out here all the time and I like that you are talking about the history of Barrio Viejo."
After chitchatting a bit and exchanging names, I learned that he had worked at El Minuto since he was a teenager. I even got a little extra neighborhood feel from him. "You see that building across the street?" he said, "it used to be an tortilla factory." I replied that I was recently told that while out on a night tour. The new owner of the building was out on the street and said that he cashed out his earnings from selling drugs in LA. TMI perhaps, but interesting . . . not your everyday street conversation. My new amigo had a bit more innocent take. "Yeah, as kids we used to swim at the public pool around the corner, then run as fast as we could in our bare feet to get up here before they closed. They used to give us free tortillas. Man, we had to run fast because the pavement was so hot!"
Sadly the tortillas factory is no more. Even if it was, the kids wouldn't be able to run fast enough this weekend. It's going to hit 111 degrees!