The Santa Ana Sentinel

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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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.

This Week at the SAC Black Box Theatre: Necessary Targets

Posted in Arts & Culture, Santa Ana College, Santa Ana Showbiz! by Omar Ian Ávalos on October 29, 2012

The Santa Ana College Theatre Arts Department presents Necessary Targets written by Eve Ensler, and directed by Chris Cannon. This play breaks in SAC’s newest performance venue, the Black Box Theatre, which is located behind Phillips Hall Theatre, next to the Don Express shop.

Show dates are Thursday, Nov. 1 at 2:30 pm, Friday Nov. 2 at 8:00 pm and Saturday Nov. 3 at 8:00 pm.


Necessary Targets is the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war. Necessary Targets is about women and war – about the violence of dark memories and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students, staff and seniors and can be purchased online here:


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Remembering Santa Anita

Posted in In Retrospect, Ward 4, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on July 23, 2012

By Omar Ávalos, Salvador “Sal” Navarrete and Francisco Ávalos Ortiz

Barrio Santa Anita, or “Santa Nita” as some locals have always called it, is one of the oldest Mexican colonias (neighborhoods / colonies) in Santa Ana. It extends from Campesino Park on the north to Santa Anita Park on the south, and from Harbor Blvd on the west, to about Jackson street or a few streets more to the east. It is one of the largest barrios, possibly larger than Barrio Artesia, another historic Santa Ana barrio. One cannot get an appreciation for, or a sense of the scale of the neighborhood until driving through it. A drive through it while talking of the neighborhood’s yesteryear with lifelong Santa Ana resident and DJ Sal Navarrete is even better.

Prior to moving to Santa Anita, Sal and his family lived in the other historic Santa Ana barrios of Logan and Artesia. Sal’s father set roots and moved his family to the Logan area in 1960 where the family lived at Garfield street and Santa Ana Boulevard.

In 1972 the father moved the family to Barrio Artesia where they lived at 3rd and Daisy streets.

In 1978 the family moved to Fifth street and Bewley in Santa Anita, where Sal briefly attended Russell Elementary, which was and still is, oddly, part of the Garden Grove Unified School District.

Sal remembers seeing Barrio Santa Anita with no sidewalks and dirt roads. A number of the main streets we drove through like Bewley, Jackson, Gunther, Figueroa and others were still dirt roads with eucalyptus trees with huge roots in the late 70s and early 80s. He remembers when the reputable Favori Vietnamese restaurant on First and Jackson streets was a Burger King and when the Taquería La Vida a bit further west on First street was a McDonald’s. A portion of a McDonald’s golden arch still remains on the side of that building.

It was on Bewley that Sal met and married his neighborhood sweetheart.

There was a gas station that dated to the 1920s on the corner of 5th and Gunther streets, and there was a dairy that sold freshly squeezed milk from cows that grazed on land near the Santa Ana River and Fifth street, across from Campesino Park. That land is now the site of the Wellington Place and Bentley Park housing developments.

My father, Francisco Ávalos Ortiz, remembers seeing horse stables and trails by Fifth street and the Santa Ana River.

Sal mentioned that the city has always tried to redevelop Willowick Golf Course and the Santa Anita area since the 1980s. There was talk in the early 80s of building a mall there. The amount of land there was enough to whet the appetites of any developer. Sal said that in more recent times some homeowners were sent letters indicating an intent to develop a soccer stadium at Willowick for Chivas USA, and that some homes could be bought and removed for that purpose. His friend “Checo” who lives on Figueroa said his household received a notice about a potential Chivas move.

There was a time when more people in the neighborhood used to know each other but many of the Santa Anita friends and families that he remembers have passed on or moved away and only very few remain.

Santa Anita, on a personal note and how I remember it, has always seemed to be a bit of a sleepy side of town, at least from the outside, and this may be because of its troubled past with crime and the Santa Anita gang. Sal said that there were too many bars near Santa Anita, and that the neighborhood was plagued with drug dealing. Santa Anita was the first Santa Ana neighborhood to have a gang injunction placed on it, and that made the neighborhood even more sleepy, but on a good note.

Nowadays it is very rare if not impossible to see a gang member anywhere in the neighborhood. Instead, ordinary people are seen playing basketball at the courts at Santa Anita Park, and there’s a very well-kept and fenced-off soccer field there. The whole park seems a bit under utilized with more potential. At the road entrance to the park there’s a section of land that is fenced-off and used, infuriatingly, for nothing more than storing tires. In a city that needs park space that land should be incorporated into Santa Anita Park. Additional parking could be added there along with more park space.

The Santa Anita that I as a passerby have known, my sleepy Santa Anita, is like a sleeping giant. It is in the hands of those in Santa Anita to determine the future of their neighborhood by enlivening their local economy with new businesses. It needs an economic shot in the arm and who better to pick up Santa Anita than those that are there or have roots there?

At the same time the city’s elected officials need a wakeup call and they need a visionary there, a fresh set of eyes, to help bring Santa Anita to its maximum potential. The city can start with acquiring the land next to Santa Anita Park to add more park space.

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A Hip Hazard Morning: An Interview with Local Photographer Marcos Huerta

Posted in Conversations, The Inkblot by samtheinkblot on January 26, 2012

A Hip Hazard Morning:

An Interview with Local Photographer Marcos Huerta


Samuel Muñoz

Marcos Huerta

I first met Marcos Huerta a bit over a year ago. It was at an Inkblots show held in a tiny place called Mars Bar in Buena Park. Marcos was kind enough to take a few photos of us in action. He gave me his card and I was so impressed with the photos he took of us that I decided to book him for a photo shoot of the band. That photo shoot took place on the streets of Downtown Santa Ana. The product of which became the majority of the photography that adorned our website and our Trap Doors EP that was released in June of last year.

From the Inkblots photo shoot

Marcos has since then continued to practice his photography under the brand name of HipHazard Photography. A fellow music lover himself, he has lend his artistic eye to fellow Southern California bands such as The Vespertines, Colombian Necktie, and Santa Ana’s very own Electro City. A self proclaimed loner, Marcos’ work exhibits a kind of maturity uncommon for a man who seems uncomfortable calling himself a professional. He considers much of his work the product of improvisation (the tag line for his brand currently reads: “Where accidents happen”). However, one cannot help but wonder if there may be an underlying calculated approach. He has a gifted ability to capture and communicate through his images the passion and raw atmosphere of the live shows and musicians he chooses as his subjects. Something that seems to have been lost in many of the images of the mainstream musicians one sees in the music magazines of today.

Marcos was kind enough to meet with me on a Saturday morning in Downtown Santa Ana to talk about himself and his work.

Samuel Muñoz (SM)

So tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up and go to school?

Marcos Huerta:

I was born in Los Angeles and I moved here (Santa Ana) when I was two. I went to school at Taft elementary, then Greenville and Macarthur. I went to high school at Saddleback (graduated in 2006) and then moved on to OCC (Orange Coast College) where I unfortunately dropped out [laughs nervously].


When did you get interested in photography?

Marcos in action

Marcos Huerta:

I didn’t actually get interested in photography until my sophomore year of college. I took one class and then I thought I could do it on my own so I dropped out [laughs nervously again]. I’ve always been interested in the arts. However, I sucked at painting. I mean it was really bad. I can’t draw. The camera, on the other hand, came easy. I just look at something and take a picture.


So it was in 2008 that you took up photography. And at first it was more of hobby I guess, right?

Marcos Huerta:

Yeah pretty much. It still is. I mean, it’s hard to make a profit out of something that you enjoy. It’s kind of weird to sell that kind stuff and make a business.

Edgar Espino of Electro City


Tell me about HipHazard Photography. How did that come about?

Marcos Huerta

Originally, HipHazard was intended to be a magazine. It was going to be the magazine title. And well, I needed a group of devoted people to really get this going which at the time I did not have. Maybe I would be able to that now, but back then I didn’t. I wanted it to be something of a locals only thing. It’s still something that I want to do. It’s a work in progress; I’m still trying to network. Anyway, that is how that idea originally started, but when I knew I was not really going to be able to get that done, I wanted to at least use the name to make a statement about my photos. I figured that I needed to brand myself and so I used that name.


How long ago did you start HipHazard?

Marcos Huerta:

To be honest, it’s only been about a year. In fact, you guys were really my first official job. Thank you for that.


No, actually thank you. Who else have you shot for? I saw some great photos of Electro City and there’s this one photo of a girl with a trumpet that I really like. Who was that?

Marcos Huerta:

Well that’s this band called The Vespertines. For my 22nd birthday I went to see them at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach. They’re really good; they are kind of like that psychedelic, jazz fusion type band. I took some good pictures of them. Mostly, I like to take shots of live shows. With Electro City, I took some shots of them when they played at the Mars Bar, the same place that you guys played. I’ve also done some great shots of this LA metal band called Colombian Necktie. I’ve been helping them out a bit with promotion.

Vanessa Acosta of The Vespertines


So do you have any kind of concept or technique to how you approach your photography?

Marcos Huerta:

There is a reason why I chose HipHazard. It’s a play on the word, haphazard. Most of my work happens by accident. I try not to stage everything because I want my pictures to look more natural. I really like high contrast images and something about shapes, like squares and triangles, they interest me. If I can get something with an angle of a line, I really like that. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain your work and not sound like a douche [he laughs].


I completely understand.


Marcos continues to work with bands around Southern California. In addition to working with musicians, Marcos is quite the gifted photographer with inanimate objects as well. Take a look at the photos below.

Spheres of Light and Shadow

Spheres of Light and Shadow

Frozen Gravity

If you would like to book a photo shoot with Marcos please email him at You can learn more about Marcos and view more of his photos on his facebook pages!/profile.php?id=604536621&sk=info and!/pages/HipHazard-Photography/100924936644647?sk=info

Hip Hazard Photo

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