For L.A. Latinos, Whittier Boulevard is still a crossroads of change and hope

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Small shops and restaurants line Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. The affordable shopping district and surrounding neighborhoods were fertile ground for an emerging, immigrant-rich middle class.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Small shops and restaurants line Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. The affordable shopping district and surrounding neighborhoods were fertile ground for an emerging, immigrant-rich middle class.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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Fifty years ago, a coalition of Mexican American activists solidified a landmark East L.A. thoroughfare as the epicenter of the Chicano Movement.

On Aug. 29, 1970, thousands of people, some from as far away as San Francisco and San Diego, gathered to march down the core shopping area of Whittier Boulevard to press for Latino civil rights and denounce the Vietnam War machine, which was being powered with thousands of Black and Mexican American bodies.

For decades, the boulevard had served as a hub of Latino life, commerce and culture. It was an affordable shopping district for an emerging, immigrant-rich middle class that had been redlined out of other neighborhoods. It was a teen hangout where rival Garfield and Roosevelt students gathered after football games to split a soda at A&W Root Beer, snog at drive-in theaters or catch Little Richard shrieking ecstatically at Sebby’s, on the corner of Whittier and Soto.

Some spent the week detailing their classic cars and bicycles. Come Friday night, throngs of lowriders cruised the boulevard, blasting Chicano soul.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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