The City of Lynwood: In Remembrance During Quarantine
By: Armando Cepeda
We start ourselves in my place of birth, the place I live, the place I stay
City of Lynwood. Never remembered unless you say
It’s right next to Compton or mention Plaza Mexico
Previously known as the Marketplace and then renovated a decade ago
My city full of different types of Hispanics: Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadorian,
Honduran, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Peruvian, Nicaraguan and many more
Plaza Mexico with its palaterias, barbershops, school uniform stores and places to get
Your sombreros and quinceanera dresses, Hometown Buffet replaced by AYCE KBBQ
The place where everyone gathers to watch free concerts by popular Spanish acts
City of Lynwood: home to a bunch of third wave businesses that redefine a Latin generation.
Tierra Mia Coffee selling third wave coffee and BALAM Mexican Kitchen selling fusion tacos, burritos and bowls that have various cultural fusions and traditional Mexican ingredients
Not the Tex-Mex stuff peddled as authentic Mexican food in every “authentic” Mexican restaurant
Tacos el Gavilan: The only taco place nearby with quality food that’s open until 3 in the morning for your late night fixes.
The City of Lynwood: How everyone debates whether or not they go to El Superior Groceries or Food 4 Less or El Super for their groceries.
I’ve been to all three.
How our city houses almost every fast food junk spot in town: McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, KFC, Church’s Chicken, Panda Express, Winchell’s Donuts, Wingstop, El Pollo Loco, Carl’s Jr, Subway, and Wienerschnitzel competing against smaller businesses like Hercules, Tam’s Burgers, Tom’s Burgers, Teriburger, Lucy’s, Bobo’s, and the various mariscos and tamalerias.
How our city is the one place I know where to get pozole on Sundays and the freshest pan dulce y café para la pinche cruda.
How our city wakes up on sporadic mornings to the neighborhood person selling and yelling “Tamales”, the random honks from carts selling elotes con chile y mayonesa y tambien los chicharrones, and don’t forget how hyped you were to get your favorite flavor of raspado all in the same cart
On a hot day, you’re greeted by what you swear is your lord and savior palatero man or the ice cream truck playing that same song over and over with the girl saying “Hello” after every pause that signals the repeat of the song.
Of how excited you were to get those Looney Tunes and Ninja Turtles popsicles with the gumdrop eyes but decidedly disappointed how stale the gum tasted after you were done with the popsicle.
Or maybe you weren’t in the mood for all of that stuff and your friends swear they knew the best pupuserias and they were right.
Or how every taqueria has its assortment of tacos, nachos, tortas, burritos, bowls, sopes, quesadillas, mulitas with carne asada, lengua, al pastor, carnitas, chorizo, cabeza, carnitas y pollo.
And don’t forget the arroz, frijoles, y aguacate con un chingo de chile, limon, y crema with your choice drink.
Que queres? Horchata, champurado, tamarindo, y Jamaica.
I could really use a mangonada right now with chamoy and tajin to cool me down during these hot days indoors.
The City of Lynwood with its religious pillars of support. St. Emydius being the one that comes closest to mind.
St. Francis Medical Center’s big blue hospital building looming over the entirety of the city at what seems like its center with that big cross standing ominously over the often clear blue skies drawing bringing vivid religious imagery to mind.
Situated right next to Lynwood Park where at the right hours you can jog, play soccer and basketball with your friends and have family birthdays and watch the kids on the decades old playgrounds.
Directly connected to the Park is Natatorium. Wanna go for a swim?
Directly connected to the Park is a Skate Park. Wanna skate?
Directly connected to the Park is City Hall. Wanna vote?
Directly across the Park is the Library. Wanna read?
Directly across the Park the CVS. Wanna grab some chips and a Gatorade?
Directly across the Park is Bateman Hall, Wanna vote?
The City of Lynwood: where there are so many modes of transportation. Don’t believe me? We have the Metro Green Line station, various bus lines and a trolley whose services are still being strangely used. Almost feels like we came out of a classic movie.
The City of Lynwood: where so many celebrities were from: Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, Kevin Costner, Leslie Jones, “Sugar” Shane Moseley, former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Big Van Vader, Venus Williams and yes, even “Weird Al” Yankovic
The City of Lynwood which is constantly expanding with reconstruction projects revitalizing and plazas become the shopping centers for the population.
The City of Lynwood that decided one park wasn’t enough and opened up the Yvonne Burke-John D. Ham Park in 2017 with its impeccable green grass and space for community gatherings and soccer matches with kids.
The City of Lynwood with all of its schools held together by a school district that has overcome so much
Lincoln Elementary, my elementary school
Lynwood Middle, my middle school
Lynwood High School, my high school
We started with identities of famous dead people. None of which we ever really much knew about. Yeah, we had Lincoln and Washington but no one ever told us about Abbott, or Lindbergh, or Will Rogers.
It wasn’t until middle school that I got transferred out of Lynwood Middle did these institutions get figures
These figures were people of diversity, people of color
Soon, we had Helen Keller Elementary, an accomplished blind and deaf activist
Then, we had Thurgood Marshall Elementary, the Supreme Court’s first African-American justice
Followed by the middle school I graduated from: Cesar Chavez Middle School, a Latin-American revolutionary loved by all in my city
And lastly, the high school I briefly attended: Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School, who was a Democratic member of the California State Assembly from Tijuana, Mexico and raised in South Gate, a city away from Lynwood
I vaguely remember that obelisk clock tower in the middle of Lynwood High School
Standing in the center of the lunch quad
Right across there was a mound of grass and stone benches
The trees by which our friends would chat and joke and laugh while eating
Our hamburgers, salads, chicken sandwiches, chocolate milks and carrots clutched in small cardboard trays
The innocent laughter that would occur a little past noon
And I’m reminded of those times as I look at the painting that
Neptali Toribio painted
He was from Mexico
He graduated as valedictorian in 2011 during my sister’s year
And he painted that and she somehow won that in a raffle
And when I knew that a hardworking student from Mexico came to the U.S. in the last 4 years of high school and graduated valedictorian
With the most humble attitude
With the most hard working ethic
I knew that maybe that’s when my city was onto something
And I’ve only just realized that as I look back at the painting.
Has come such a long way.
City of Lynwood.