Recalling Memories: Riding Along the LA River

I saw the shadow of my bicycle from tree to tree as I rode atop the Los Angeles Riverbed between the 105 and the 91 freeway going south. I saw the silhouette of a little girl riding her bike on an afternoon sunset after she finished her homework and had dinner, and I remembered. I had not ridden my bike here probably for the past six years. The smell, the river scent, the industrial feel, the dry river, all felt the same.

I rode parallel to Banana Park where I grew up and lived the first twenty years of my life. I lived on the east side of the river, in The Sans, the worst neighborhood in Paramount, so they would say. Parallel to the river, parallel to the 710 freeway, I passed under Somerset Boulevard, to my right, I passed the Compton Golf Course, went past the Home Depot, past the empty lot of land—empty since I could remember—past the horse stables, past the wooden houses underneath Atlantic Boulevard bridge that connects Long Beach and Compton, past the edifices made of cargo containers that probably entered the Port of Long Beach, and then past the graffiti mural walls behind some factory, and into a darkness.

I rode through the underpass of the 91 freeway, a vast dark area the size of a hardware store with a dirt ground. Gang graffiti outlined the walls—it has always been there. Gang members operated there, for they were often underneath the bridge. I remember the feeling riding my pink bike that my dad bought me at Paramount Swap Meet, or at a yard sale when I was around 8 years old. The sight produced a feeling of fear. Anxiety. Paranoia. A gun shot going off. Falling. Dead. I would pedal as fast as my legs could give. It always seemed eternal passing through this underpass. The senses were vibrant and present: the smell of damp earth, white crusty bird poop sprinkled on the bike path underneath the freeway where the birds housed their nests, a chicken fence outlined the bike path, and the sound of the 91 freeway above me echoed loud in this empty dark space. The rush of cars above me made the ground seem to shake. The wind pressed against my face and a hundreds of mosquitoes splattered on my face, holding my breath to not inhale them in; they crashed into my eyes and fluttered for freedom as they stuck to my eyelashes. I pedaled faster than any other place. I did not care that my legs burned. This was about life. I felt an immeasurable fear as a little girl, but I refused to not go through it. It wasn’t fair that someone else, something else could keep me from going through, from traversing to the other side. And I did. I sped as I went up the ramp to see the south side of the path leading to Long Beach. And I breathed again as if I had held my breath underwater this whole time. I breathed liberty, fresh air. Blood rushed through me, an adrenaline to my feet, and I was close to flying.

The river bed does not look the same as before, as it did 10 or 15 years ago. A wall four feet high, now outlines the bike path on the side of the river. I remember the days as a little girl, living right by Banana Park, my sister, my cousins and I would go over to the riverbed and go down to the river, only a few inches of a dense brownish composite, that could not be water.

Our cousins, Rocky and Abraham sometimes brought dead animals up from the river, poking at them with sticks. We’d crowd over it and observe. We must have been fascinated at some aspect of this act, wonderstruck at our keen observing. I wonder what joy we obtained from this, or why was it that we did it.

Other times, as we were older, Laura, my sister and I would leave the house after disputes with our family, tensions, or before tears could burst out of our eyes in front of each other. We’d go outside and walk up to the riverbed. We’d sit at the edge of the bike path atop the riverbed and stare at the setting sun. Sometimes we’d talk about the situation, other times we’d sit in silence. Perhaps to remind ourselves that there was something larger than our present reality.

When I bought my own bike at the age of 18, after any strong sentiment, I’d get on my bike and ride up to the bike path and race as fast as my legs could give, as fast as the strong emotion–mostly anger, frustration, stress, anxiety–would last. It was liberating. I felt like I could run forever sometimes. I always loved the feeling of feeling like I could run away. In that time, I’d listen to “Learning to Breathe” by Switchfoot, one of my theme songs during that time, during my bike rides.

LA Riverbed ©RosaAngelicaCastaneda
LA Riverbed ©RosaAngelicaCastaneda

These moments in time bend dimensions and 10, 15 years later, I’m able to grasp the notions of my past and my present as I feel the wind again, feel the adrenaline in my veins, see the artful sunset, always a testimony of what it means to live. Now, I don’t bike for those reasons necessarily, or perhaps I do. The experience allows me to reflect on how much I’ve grown. The absence of being here for the past six years, is only a reflection and a testimony that I did leave, I did follow my dreams. I did choose to be fearless and follow my gut, follow what I most desired always: to be free, free to express, free to live, free to want to soar in these “abundant skies.”


Las Lineas, Fronteras, Dos Tierras, Como le Llamen

Las lineas:
Lineas que existen. Linease que creamos. Lineas que dividen.
Una tierra.
Ilusión de dos.
Estados Unidos.
Una flor.
Cables de luz.


Por que nací de un lado, cruzo libremente—al fin de todo, una ilusión de division que dejamos existir en la realidad. Crucé a Mexicali el fin de semana pasado y tomé esta foto. La naturaleza sobrepasa todo aquello que el hombre crea. Somos seres que se mueven, que emigran, que se desplazan. ¿Como se puede restringir la fluidez de lo que es nuestra esencia? ¿Como se puede restringir el buscar nuevas tierras? Porque el presente se ha vuelto una amenaza a lo que somos—tormentas, tornados que el hombre mismo crea, que el hombre mismo decide ser. ¿Como se puede restringir que una flor cruze lineas por que quiere tocar el cielo?


Del Norte al Sur pasé libremente una tarde en el ayer. La vida, un poco mas lenta, el aire un poco mas denso, el olor, siempre ese olor a Mexico. El aire empañado de un sentimiento caliente. Calles ruidosas. Calles sin sentido paralelo. Intersecciones, carreteras que cruzan una por encima de la otra; como los cables de luz. La gente, puntos de intersección, esperando. Cambio de dinero en cada otra esquina. El aire es de México. Entramos por las calles de la colonia. El ruido se disminuyó, el aire se diluyó. Sentimiento alegre al encontrarnos con amigos. Pasamos un atardecer en su jardín compartiendo música, compartiendo el arte, compartiendo comida, café y unas buenas carcajadas.


La gente fluye, se mueve, traspasa, busca donde construir, donde existir, donde ser. Buscamos existir juntos.


Esa misma noche un día en el ayer. Del Sur al Norte, una linea que cruzar; densa, de este lado del Sur. Un poco mas lenta, el olor aun presente. Esa linea que el hombre creó. Y nosotros, esa rama que intenta cruzar, es nuestra naturaleza.


Un papel con algo que dice que ese eres tú y por eso tienes razón de ser, tienes permiso de existir tras esas puertas, tras esas lineas. Ilusiones. Ilusiones de lineas. Ilusiones de papel. Realidad de vidas.


Crucé de nuevo.


Al fin de todo, algo dentro de nosotros siempre busca, merece, quiere ser feliz; traspasará. Y no importa de que lado esté, la fuerza de la naturaleza siempre sobre-rayará las lineas.

Puebla: Behind the Wooden Doors

Colorful colonial balconies, busy streets and sidewalks. Downtown Puebla is filled with street food, color, and noise. Buildings are magnificently tall, wide streets; it is a populous city. Some wooden doors still mark the entrance to these building and to my surprise, peeking through a finger size rupture of one of those, I found a different hidden life behind closed doors; an inhabited space quietly enchanted by a cool mystic nature.

#1DMX: La Lucha Persiste, No Hemos Cedido

Las luces de la ciudad empezaban a encenderse junto con las velas que se iban incendiando y el contingente se preparaba para marchar al caer la noche. Diciembre primero marcó dos años de la Presidencia de Enrique Peña Nieto en México. Este día fue otro día histórico de una marcha pacífica por el apoyo a Ayotzinapa en Guadalajara, Jalisco, con otras ciudades en la República, incluyendo Distrito Federal, entre otras internacionales como Los Angeles y Frankfurt. Jalisciences tomaron las calles desde el Parque Revolución (y también desde la Expo Guadalajara, que fue otro punto de partida) para juntarse en la glorieta Niños Héroes.

Continue reading #1DMX: La Lucha Persiste, No Hemos Cedido

Sobre la Tierra Colorada

Caminábamos en la luz del atardecer en las afueras del pueblo. Mis ojos no eran suficiente para contemplar los azules, los verdes y el rojo de la tierra debajo de mi. Los cerros parecían eternos, subían a tocar el cielo. Continue reading Sobre la Tierra Colorada