Origin Stories: Los Cuentos

In 2001, after nearly twenty years, my mom left her work at a garment factory in downtown Los Angeles to start her own business, a newsstand on the streets of East Hollywood. I was just on the cusp of reaching my teen years at that time and couldn’t understand why she chose to start selling newspapers and magazines for a change.

But one major change after this was that she was much closer to home, and closer to my brother and I. So over the next few years, I would join her at the stand after-school, meeting–alongside her–a myriad of people from Latin America, and from across L.A. as well. I only knew so much of it then, but each one of these people held their own piece of this community our family would depend on for survival; and every single one of their greetings, tips of the hat, witticisms, and most of all, their smiles in the face of adversity let me know that I could make it in the concrete jungle, too.

It was when I finally got to my college years that I recognized how while my mom’s experience in the classroom back in Oaxaca she loved learning too much to let it go completely. Her newsstand was a place where she could reconnect with her childhood love of words, literary minds, and the Cuentos they told together.

Today, inspired by mom’s unlikeliest of dreams coming to stand, Los Cuentos emerges. On the one hand, each Cuento carries ‘old’ legends and trails; and on the other hand, brand-new dreams and ambitions. It’s a vision born out of grit, and informed by L.A.’s classrooms, buses, garment factories, and the people who make them come alive.

So stay tuned. More Cuentos are on the way in no time. Try to keep up!



In our 80th episode, we sit down with Kasey Ventura, the director of Land and Tenant Justice at the Vermont & Beverly Community Land Trust, a non-profit housing organization serving communities in Koreatown, Little Bangladesh, East Hollywood, and more. Kasey and I discuss the definition of a community land trust, as well as how its very structure, including its board membership, is actually a “democratic engine” seeking to create more participatory and inclusive communities by involving local residents in the creation of affordable housing. We also discuss the connections between today’s movements in housing with the Civil Rights era, and more. A can’t-miss session for listeners, especially housing buffs in Los Angeles.