Postcard from... Los Angeles


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The Independent Online

If you want to know what LA’s Echo Park area was like 20 years ago, there’s a 1993 film called Mi Vida Loca that supposedly captures the mood. Its protagonists are two female gang members, and one of its climactic events is a shooting outside a local convenience store called El Batey No 2. Until not too long ago the neighbourhood was almost entirely Latino. Today many former residents have been priced out, and most of the new ones are white and wealthy.

Yet El Batey remained in the same spot for 48 years. Run by the friendly Evelia, 74, it’s said to be the last Latino-owned shop of its kind in Echo Park. This week, though, it will close. The building was recently bought for more than $9m (£5.3m), and its new landlords are reportedly planning to raise the rent by 300 per cent.

Locals are up in arms, including those at the upmarket grocer and the cool coffee place nearby. Many complain El Batey’s fate is  the fault of developers catering to hipster out-of-towners.  (Full disclosure: I’m from London, about as out-of-town as you can get).

Which is not to say all the area’s fancy new establishments are thriving. Just down the street, Echo Park’s most expensive restaurant is also about to close – and that was only open a year.