COVID SPRING: Maria, Mexican American Los Angeles Resident
Excerpt from "COVIDsteria: An Oral History of America's Great Reset" - see https://covidsteria.substack.com/p/covidsteria-table-of-contents
Los Angeles’ demographics changed dramatically during the COVIDsteria years. The traditionally wealthier and whiter Westside, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills regions plus the more African American South Central Los Angeles area lost most of their populations during the Great Die-Off or the chaos of COVID Spring. However, much more inland working-class White, Hispanic, or Asian neighborhoods were largely unaffected. The result was an equally dramatic westward shift of population closer to the beaches and areas of the LA basin nestled below the Santa Monica Mountains.
Maria was part of this westward population movement and demographic shift. I met her at her new Westside home under the watchful gaze of one of her many statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgin Mary. As with many Latinos I have met through the years, she automatically assumed (without ever asking) that I spoke and understood Spanish - making my interview somewhat difficult...
I was born in a ciudad en norte de méxico. I was an ama de casa who could stay en casa con mis hijos because mi esposo had a successful pequeñas empresas. We were una gran familia feliz as we were better off than most otras familias mexicanas.
But then one day, los cárteles de la droga came to our barrio. They demanded dinero de protección from todos las pequeño empresario like mi esposo. And if you did not pay them, they would kidnap and kill you. We could not go to la policía for protección because they all worked for los cárteles de la droga and would also demand dinero from us. And if you did not pay them, they would kidnap and kill you too. We did not know what to do…
So I did what I have always done when confronted by un gran problema. I went to mi iglesia to dar confesión and receive La Santa Comunión. And I prayed to and asked Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María… [She makes the sign of the cross.] What mi esposo and I should do…
It was while praying that I received a revelación from Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María… [She again makes the sign of the cross.]
“Maria,” Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María, had told me. “Just go norte to the Estados Unidos. It will be la tierra de oportunidades para ti and your esposo. And you will all be safer. Be sure to inmigrar legalmente and become full gringos. Then the other gringos can never send you back to Mexico!” [She makes the sign of the cross one more time…]
And that is what we did. It took years, but we were all able to inmigrar legalmente and settle en un barrio de clase trabajadora.
But life for us en los Estados Unidos was not what Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María... [She makes another sign of the cross.] Had promised me... [She sighs]
In what ways?
Well señor, mi esposo started a pequeño landscaping empresa contratante while I started a pequeño servicio de limpieza for ricos gringos de Westside. We often had to work 18-days and seven days a week.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María… [She makes the sign of the cross.] Had forgotten to tell us how complicado it was to open and operate un pequeño negocio in California. Unlike en Mexico where we just had to worry about cárteles de la droga y la policía, there were so many reglas burocráticas, regulaciones, y restricción we needed to follow en California. Otherwise, we would get into problemas serios. [She shakes her head.]
Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María… [She again makes the sign of the cross.] Also forgot to warn us about vivir en los barrios of East LA. There were so many pandillas callejeras violentas, drogadictos sin hogar, y enfermos mentales on all las calle. We were not much safer because Los Angeles had become just like Mexico - una mierda. Even on la Westside where todos los ricos gringos blancos lived and who we did trabajo for was also becoming una mierda…
Lo siento señor! It roughly means “shit hole!” There were now many drogadictos sin hogar y enfermos mentales living on todos las Westside calles y en todos sus parques. The only diferencia was how los gringos blancos de Westside never noticed any of it! Their grandes haciendas were like all las grandes haciendas en Mexico. They were surrounded by walls or inside walled and comunidades cerradas with seguridad privada. When los gringos blancos left their grandes haciendas y comunidades cerradas, it was as if they all wore anteojeras… [She sighs.]
Lo siento señor! “Anteojeras” is something you put on horses to limit what they can see.
Oh, you mean blinders…
Sí señor! It was as if todos los gringos blancos wore blinders to cover most of their eyes from seeing all the filth and suffering all around them.
However, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Virgen María… [She makes the sign of the cross.] Had told me that we needed to go to los Estados Unidos and become gringos. And that is what mi familia and I did. But it was not always easy for us to become gringos… [She frowns.]