The Santa Ana Sentinel

The Arte Santa Ana Podcast is Now Live

Posted in Artists Village, Arts & Culture, Civics, Conversations, Downtown, Eats, Education, Food, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on July 6, 2013

Oliver Zavala and yours truly present the Arte Santa Ana podcast. In it we go over Latino arts in Santa Ana and beyond, with related issues.

In episode 1 we talk arts in the downtown, business, demographics, folk, pop and high culture, and more.

For more visit

Coming soon to iTunes.

Available through RSS here.

Also available on Google Feedburner.

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The Santa Ana Register Returns as a Weekly, Starting Tomorrow

For a preview of an article that I contributed to the Santa Ana Register that debuts tomorrow, click here.

The Register informs:

The Santa Ana Register is a new weekly newspaper covering the city of Santa Ana. It will be delivered Thursdays to Orange County Register subscribers. To subscribe, call customer service at 1-877-627-7009.

In addition, a limited number of free copies will be placed in racks Thursdays at the following locations:

Senior Center, 424 W. 3rd St., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Carl’s Jr, 3325 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Dino’s Burger, 2217 W. Edinger St. Santa Ana, CA 92704
Rite Aid Pharmacy, 1406 W. Edinger St., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Stater Bros, 2630 W. Edinger St., Santa Ana, CA 92704
IHOP Restaurant, 3001 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, CA 92704
CVS Pharmacy, 3907 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Carrows Restaurant, 3355 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Chase, 1300 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Dantes Café, 600 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, CA 92701
La Chiquita Mexican Food, 906 E. Washington Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Northgate Market, 750 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Martinez Book Store, 216 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Santa Ana Unified School District Headquarters, 1601 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Santa Ana Public Library, 20 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Santa Ana City Hall, 20 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Community Court, 909 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Denny’s, 1258 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA 92701
OCR Building, 625 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Amtrak Station, 1000 E. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Santa Ana Towers, 401 W. 1st St., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Rancho De Mendoza, 100 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, CA 92701
Taco Pronto, 1714 E. McFadden Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705Norris Food Market, 601 E. Andrew Place, Santa Ana, CA 92707
Superior Warehouse, 1710 S. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92707
Delhi Center, 505 E. Central Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92707
Stater Bros., 1230 S. Standard Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92707
KD Donuts, 2102 S. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92707
Yellow Basket restaurant, 1430 E. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Superior Market, 1730 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA 92706
Yellow Basket restaurant, 2860 S. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92707
Santa Ana College, 1631 N. Bristol St., Santa Ana, CA 92706
Stater Bros., 2603 Westminster, Santa Ana, CA 92706
Super Antojitos, 1702 N. Bristol St., Santa Ana, CA 92706
Southwest Senior Center, 2201 W. McFadden Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Polly’s Pies, 2660 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Duke’s restaurant, 2900 W. Warner Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92704
Donut Star, 1430 E. McFadden Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Cowgirls Café, 1720 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Carl’s Jr., 1809 E. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705
CVS Pharmacy, 1750 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Medical Center, 1001 N. Tustin Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Denny’s Restaurant, 2314 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Knowlwood Restaurant, 2107 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA 92705
IHOP Restaurant, 945 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA 92705
Norm’s Restaurant, 121 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA 92705
T-2 Market, 2002 S. Flower St., Santa Ana, CA 92707
Bank of America, 2214 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92705

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DTSA: How Are We Doing?

Posted in Business, Downtown, Food, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on May 13, 2013

It must be asked. How is Downtown Santa Ana doing? How does it compare to other downtowns? The answer is obvious, (not so well) but let’s take a look at some of the downtown’s strengths and weaknesses.


What’s good about Downtown Santa Ana? Original brands. This is one area where the downtown sets itself apart from others. First of a kind restaurants and store brands make the area unique and that is a strength. Some city dwellers don’t want the downtown to lose that uniqueness by coupling more recognizable franchised brands with those newer, unique ones.

The Crosby found success marketing to its niche. Their $2 tacos on Tuesdays are one of the best values in the downtown, and are highly recommended.

There’s only one Chapter One, even though you could say that it is an offshoot of the Library Bar in Downtown LA, the similarities seem like more than just coincidence.

There’s the list of other unique brands; Playground, Little Sparrow, Au Naturaw, Lola Gaspar, etc. And there’s the list of upcoming brands that reveal that this is the trend here. But there still isn’t enough cultural variety, which is common in other downtowns in the LA area.


So what’s missing here? Much is. We don’t have Italian (remember Trattoria Ciao?), Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Mediterranean, Indian, Thai or other cultural eating choices. These varieties are common in other historic downtowns like Long Beach, Pasadena, even Fullerton. We do have these eating choices scattered around town, but it would be great to have them centered in the downtown.

Also, can you imagine having something comparable to Baja Fish Tacos, located at MacArthur and Bristol streets in Santa Ana, in the downtown? They are always packed and have been in business for over fifteen years. How about something like the Kicking Crab across the street? What about upscale Mexican like La Huasteca in Lynwood, or Rosa Mexicano at L.A. Live?

There’s this great Spanish deli, Ole, near MacArthur and Main streets in Santa Ana. Imagine that in the center of town. Why aren’t these great choices around town found in or closer to the downtown? Who is dropping the ball here?

If I represented the downtown (Ward 2) in city government, I’d go after businesses like that and try to attract them there. I live in Ward 5 so worry not.

I’ve only touched on eating in the downtown. Retail has a long, long way to go here.

Food for thought

The Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area is defined as Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana. Now, I read somewhere that it’s now being called Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, but it has always been the former, and, Santa Ana is still the county’s seat of government. The area is called it the latter because Anaheim’s population is supposedly higher (not hard to fathom), but, the Census Bureau’s numbers on Santa Ana are likely not precise. Can every single head in Santa Ana truly be counted? That’s impractical especially when we’re one of the densest cities of its size in the country. I read somewhere that our numbers shrunk when I’ve seen nothing but the opposite in the last decade, just look at all of the added classrooms at just about every elementary school, and more and more cars parked overnight.

Isn’t it time that Downtown Santa Ana look and act more like those more cosmopolitan areas? Surely those newly arrived “Santa Anans” that tout the downtown so much want this area to be spoken highly of outside of here. Yes it has some strengths but it’s a must that those weaknesses be worked on.

Let Long Beach and Pasadena be the bar against which this downtown is measured. It’s as historic as those places, and (fact) it was built with the same bricks (Simons bricks*)! Oh, go to Original Mike’s and you’ll see that stamp on those bricks.

*If you’re a history buff and you want to know more about how the LA region was built, read Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of its Mexican Past, by USC Professor William Deverell.

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How to Capitalize on Culture, Part II

Posted in Arts & Culture, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on May 7, 2013

About a year and a half ago I observed that Día de los muertos was starting to become more and more commercialized, particularly in Santa Ana, where the event has grown into enormity. This is an event where streets are closed down, a stage is setup and newer, non-traditional vendors are setting up shop.

Guess who has come knocking? Disney. The Disney corporation now wants to trademark Día de los muertos for a movie that they want to make. But it gets worse. They want to apply this trademark for merchandise, “educational purposes” and more.

Now that el Día de los muertos has been amplified and Disney sees a market for it, who is to blame? Who is to blame for packaging the product and projecting it on such a large scale that Disney wants to cash in, and potentially take your rights to use that name??

Any vendor should ask him or herself what the meaning of Día de los muertos is. Is it truly an excuse to bank on the memory of deceased ones? That’s downright insulting to the memory of lost ones in my book.

On one hand, an animated movie using Día de los muertos iconography makes sense. It’s a very colorful cultural practice that adapts naturally to animation, at least in concept. It’s a subject that’s been fused into movies, for better or worse, like in The Crow: City of Angels. In concept, fusing the cult of death with a goth figure like The Crow, fits naturally but the end result was poor.

Characters based on calacas, or entire scenes influenced by Día de los muertos are nothing new in movie making. There’s El muerto, a movie who’s main character is painted in calaca throughout, and there’s a scene in Once Upon a Time in Mexico where skulls abound, and people paint themselves in calaca in a shootout with Mexican troops.

But Disney trying to co-opt the name goes too far, and it is the fault of those that began capitalizing on the event with pseudo art, fashion and artifacts.

The Mexican government should demand a stop to this because el día de los muertos is Mexican Cultural Patrimony. The Mexican government should have protected this name not only from Disney, but from those marketers cashing in on the subject, especially on this side of the border. They should have protected it like they protect tequila, which can’t be reproduced outside of a specific Mexican region.

To those of you who do, who have capitalized on the name, pat yourselves on the back for sweetening the package for Disney.

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Santa Ana: In Need of a Real Renaissance

Posted in Arts & Culture, Business, Civics, Editorial, Education, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on April 11, 2013

In a city that is overwhelmingly Latino (upwards of over 80 percent) it becomes necessary for the majority to be reflected in the city’s decision making. Santa Ana is in need of a true organic growth from within, and not from unmeasured transplantation from without.

One area where Latinos are grossly under-represented is in business. We Latinos in Santa Ana have the numbers. We are a numeric and political majority, but we are not an economic majority.

Let me rephrase that. We are not the economic engine. We provide dollars and consumers, but we generally don’t generate the jobs, much less own commercial real estate.

In a city where we’ve faced controversy and battles over gentrification, it is up to those of us that care for this city, and who want to see our majority reflected in all aspects of city life, to become the business class.

We’ve faced problems with what some of us interpret as a transgressive landlord in the downtown at the newly christened “East End.” Well the way to counteract landlords like that is to become one yourself. We need more Latino commercial landlords for every type like the “East Enders.”

Why? Why is it important for us to have our majority reflected in commercial real estate? Because then we decide what gets programmed and housed. We decide what cultural activities and events are appropriate. We decide what businesses get leases.

The way things are setup now, The Yost Theater is not a space reflective of the Santa Ana community, and it is a shame. A former city council facilitated privatizing this historic theater and in doing so took what should have been a historic resource and cultural outlet away from the community.

Arts & Letters

Santa Ana is in need of a real rebirth and it must show in the Arts & Letters. Who is our Langston Hughes? Where is our real literary movement? What can we learn from the Harlem Renaissance?

Why is there talk of building a modern museum of Asian art on Harbor Blvd when it is more than obvious that a Latino-specific museum is in order here?

We need to raise the bar of what is expected of ourselves. A publication like Santanero or the sensationalism of Gustavo Arellano is only a start. We can do better.

It is heartening to learn that Latino high school graduation rates are on the rise, as the Department of Education reports. This should translate in the future to more Latino business and commercial real estate owners.

Sandra Wood, Professor of Sociology at Santa Ana College taught that Latinos would become a numeric and political majority first, prior to becoming an economic majority. We’re 2/3rds of the way there.

That day when we’re an economic majority cannot come fast enough.

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Santa Ana: Identity, Meaning and Purpose

Posted in Downtown, Education, Midtown, Opinion, Santa Ana College, SAUSD, South Coast Metro, The Sentinel Asks, Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on January 9, 2013

Here are some questions addressed citywide.

What is Santa Ana to you?

If you reside here, do you have a sense of purpose, a sense of thinking outside of yourself or whatever comforts you may have? Would you act towards bettering the community as a whole?

What are the needs of the majority?

What do Santa Ana kids need from the education system?

Are you newly arrived to the downtown? If so, what brought you here?

What do you want to see happen in the downtown?

What do you as a newcomer want to see for the rest of the city, beyond the downtown?

It’s said that a city is defined by its downtown, and so I ask longtime Santa Ana homeowners, citywide, what do you want YOUR downtown to be?

Why did William Spurgeon keep the name Santa Ana? Where did he get the name from?

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Bring Back the CenterLine

Posted in Opinion, Transit by Omar Ian Ávalos on January 8, 2013

The CenterLine light rail was a project ahead of its time when it was first proposed about ten years ago. That light rail route would have traversed Bristol street in Santa Ana and ultimately reached its two termini in Fullerton and Irvine. It would have served UC Irvine, Santa Ana Airport, Santa Ana College, Cal State Fullerton, and many points in between.

A shortened proposal of the CenterLine

A shortened proposal of the CenterLine. The first plan extended into Fullerton.

The project was not started back then, in part, because of Costa Mesa’s reluctance to have a light rail car running at-grade on Bristol. They wanted it to go underground upon reaching South Coast Plaza and this brought the cost of the project too high.

Now that Santa Ana is close to getting light rail along Santa Ana Blvd to serve the downtown and the train station, and now that the Bristol street widening is near completion, the city can think about putting the CenterLine back on the burner.

Ideally, most if not all of the CenterLine would run as a subway, but that would cost too much. Sadly, in Orange County there is no leader as progressive and aggressive about getting Federal transit money for light rail projects, no one like Antonio Villaraigosa, who’s lobbied much to get LA Metro federal funds.

A project like the CenterLine would need federal capital and enough boosters on board from all interested Orange County cities.

If I were in city business somewhere at City Hall I’d consider hiring Villaraigosa, now that he’ll no longer be LA Mayor, as a consultant to benefit from his network in Washington. He has experience lobbying specifically for these types of projects.

For more about the CenterLine click on the following links:

The Daily Pilot

LA Times

Light Rail Now

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Santa Ana 101

Posted in Education, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on January 2, 2013

School is in, and to reiterate, Santa Ana is not “the OC.”

It is much less “SanTana.”

This argument corrects, deconstructs, dismisses and reeducates people away from the mob mentality, fad and bandwagon, that of those that defile the Santa Ana name with a willfully invented misnomer.

Let’s review:

No, it’s not a typo. Many people think Santa Ana’s history begins in 1869, which is when Kentuckian William Spurgeon plotted some acres and called it the town of Santa Ana, but his plot was only a tiny fraction of what Santa Ana was prior.

Friar Junípero Serra set out of Baja California, Mexico and accompanied soldier Gaspar de Portolá to Alta California, then part of New Spain, in 1768. After settling San Diego they continued north until they arrived at a great valley they named in honor of Saint Anne. They called their finding el Valle de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Valley). It was within this valley that they established Misión San Juan Capistrano, which was built in 1776.

With Serra and Portolá came other soldiers and the higher-ranking of these received land grants called ranchos. One was granted to Manuel Nieto, which was called Rancho Los Nietos (part of modern-day Los Angeles and Orange Counties). His grant was further north but still expanded into the Santa Ana valley.

The other ranch was granted to sergeant José Antonio Yorba in 1810 and his grant covered the extent of what later on was called central “Orange County.” Yorba’s grant was called Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.

With the arrival of squatters and the land rush, the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana gradually was chipped away at until only the core, the heart of the valley next to the Santa Ana River remained, which is what Spurgeon very honorably named Santa Ana.

Prior to the Mexican-American War (1846-48), the Mexican government partitioned the ranchos of Alta California to the descendants of the first grantees. The Nietos enjoyed grants as did the Yorbas.

As far as “Orange County” is concerned, many if not all cities once had a name association with Santa Ana. Anaheim, Fullerton and Placentia were called Rancho San Juan Cajón de Santa Ana. Irvine was formerly Rancho Lomas de Santiago (Santiago Hills), in reference to Santiago de Santa Ana.

What many modern-day South Orange County dwellers largely ignore is that most of their cities were named by the Mexican government in the nineteenth century. Some of these are Trabuco, Niguel, Misión Vieja (NOT “Mission Viejo”), and so on.

The Santa Ana name that those outside of here detest has a great history. It is one that is nearly one hundred years older than the gold rush, the massive land grab with its squatters, and one hundred years older than what the “official record” says: 1869.

Editor’s note: The Wikipedia articles mentioned in this article (except Los Nietos), in addition to all others related to Orange County as well as an article on the Ranchos of Orange County, were started by me and later added to by others.

– From “Santa Ana: Established 1769,” by Omar Ávalos Gallegos, originally published on the Santa Ana Sentinel on June 23, 2012.

That anyone would defile the Santa Ana name and brand and use “SanTana” in its place is whimsical and seriously maniacal. Instead of building a respect and appreciation for this name and brand, one would make up a misnomer and cause a runoff of misnomer-writing mediocrities. Copies. What’s worse is that this misnomer is written intentionally.

To all publications, no matter how “indie” or “hip” they think they are, and in acting in that way justify writing misnomers, doing that is just as worse as the many hate-spewing trolls that attack this city’s name and reputation found at the Register and elsewhere.

This is Santa Ana, Not “the OC”

Posted in Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on November 21, 2012

This is Santa Ana, not “the OC.”

Not knowing your place when in Santa Ana, and referring to this place as “the OC” is an affront. Some people still think it’s taboo to mention the name Santa Ana but this is a disservice to the city’s name and brand.

I overheard someone over a cellphone conversation at the Starbucks on 17th & Grand say, “I’m in the OC right now.” I know, because you still think its taboo to mention the Santa Ana name.

Most probably don’t know that “the OC” term was created by Angeleno television producers. Yup. But wait, isn’t it an “OC” mantra to disassociate with anything LA? “We are not LA!,” said an angry “the OC” dweller. The creator of the series, Josh Schwartz, is not even a native of Orange County, or of California.

Local arts person Don Cribb said at a city council meeting awhile back that there was a time when people flew into Santa Ana (airport code SNA) but refused to even mention the name, instead opting for (cough, cough … ick) Orange County. Guess what? That is still the case today and it is being perpetuated by our own city council. “Downtown Orange County?” Huh? Where else on the planet is there a “Downtown County?”

Interchanging “OC” and Santa Ana harms the Santa Ana name, brand and reputation. But years ago, the city council was in a hurry to jump on “the OC” fad and bandwagon and thought that associating with that brand was somehow going to work wonders. Well guess what, now you have Santa Ana businesses that market precisely to “the OC,” which represents a demographic that Santa Ana is not. Some businesses are still ashamed to use the name Santa Ana.

Let’s see, there’s the Boiling Crab “South Coast Metro,” that initially said it was in Costa Mesa, The Observatory OC, OCCCA, OCHSA etc. I just want to see more businesses and organizations located in Santa Ana not be ashamed to use the Santa Ana name.

Some reporters have gone as far as making up an airport code for our airport, calling it JWA. The airport’s correct code is SNA because it is located in Santa Ana. So to all of you regional reporters, when referring to this place and its airport, please report with factual specificity.

Add to this the embarrassing incidents happening in Yorba Linda, and countywide, and there’s even more reason to disassociate with “the OC” brand. If you read the article I linked to you’ll see that some spokesperson denies that racism happens in what he / she refers to as “the OC.”

Bravo, “the OC” you are truly astounding. Way to keep it classy.

Dystopian Dreams: Part II

Posted in Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on October 1, 2012

For Part I of Dystopian Dreams, written on January 25, 2012, click here.

Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was recently discovered making disturbing comments, essentially writing off an entire mass of people, at an Ayn Rand gathering in 2005.

His comment was similar to Romney’s comment on the 47% of Americans that he says are freeloaders.

But it’s said that Ryan’s comments are worse and they reveal a deeper meaning. I suspected before that Paul Ryan subscribed to Randian ideas but this recent article verified my supposition.

Paul Ryan outright admitted in the past that he thinks of Randian fictional works like “Anthem” or “The Fountainhead” when thinking of monetary policy. He also stated that he requires his staff to read these works, effectively brainwashing them into his beliefs.

It is most troubling and potentially dangerous that high-ranking elected officials are influenced by works of fiction. The author Rand is suggestive of violence in the case of defending the wealthy and their wealth. She oversimplifies and separates people into two categories, creators (businesspersons) and parasites (workers). She is completely detached from the concept of helping others and instead she encourages all to fend for themselves and to not feel guilt for being wealthy.

Sound familiar? “It’s not a crime to be wealthy,” said Mitt Romney. True. But not helping others is.

What is revealed now is the result of this Randian way of thinking. There is a pattern of politicians that cite her works as models for their policy making. There is far right “Libertarian” (extreme right) senator Ron Paul, who luckily, did not advance farther in his presidential campaign. But there is also his own son that he named Rand. It’s just amazing. Rand Paul who I expect to see running for the presidency in the future. It wouldn’t surprise me.

So we see a pattern of right-wing extremism in recent years, a pattern that reveals the state of the Republican party. When the most visible members in the party all subscribe to Randian ideas, there’s a major cultural problem within the party. Verily, comments like Romney’s 47% comment or Ryan’s recently found comments reveal the author Rand’s being out of touch with the rest ideas.

There is this troubling pattern of over consumption of fictional works that have the potential to twist minds. That is exactly what Ayn Rand wanted but she was a product of communist Russia. She saw the negative impacts of her environment and she reacted strongly against that through her writing. We’re talking about works from before the second World War.

It is a danger to isolate oneself in a world of fictional works. It is a danger to be overly individualistic. It is a danger to society for its leaders to not be, at least, cultured or worldly. But not all can be diplomats, some are warmongers and others work to destroy aid like social security and medicare.

We’re seeing too many “individualists,” or loners, that have turned out to be mentally unhealthy and destructive. Why do random acts of nonsensical violence, like the attack on Gabrielle Giffords, happen in this country? It is, in part, because of antisocial behavior. It doesn’t help to push an isolationist or ultra nationalist (Republican) view on the entire country. There is a great world out there to discover. So things like not learning another language or not being open to other cultures contribute to detachment from the rest of humanity.

It can be too much of a challenge to ask some Americans to be open to the rest of the world when some can’t even be open to fellow Americans.

Ultimately, too much isolationism or individuality, the type that Rand pushes in her writing, is destructive.

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