I am a founding member of Santanero Zine and have written many pieces. However, this is my 1st column.
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Language lives on the page. Most times, not always. And almost always on the streets.
As an artist and a writer, I hear what’s going on and what’s happening. No language escapes without consideration as to its meaning. I often think of what people mean when they say what they say about what they think they mean. Context and intent always comes into the equation. The dialogues and arguments that are heard downtown are rarely anything more than one ideology trying to trump the other. The language is rarely anything more than resentment from some perceived injustice, real or imagined. I listen intently.
The loudest argument is usually the worst. One ideology often tries to shout over the other. The belief in their particular truth, real or imagined, often breeds more than simple language. That is, the language I hear regarding “tourists” is often acidic. I often wonder how irony is lost on those who are most imbued in it. In the streets, online, in gatherings, someone will often categorize someone somewhere else as “other.”
In this city, rare is the person who is native. Cats come in from other countries and other cities.
This city has a lot to offer. I understand this. Others understand this as well. I believe that’s why so many cats come in from all over Orange County and Southern California to come and hang out in Santa Ana. I rarely care about someone’s background. When I see different types of people walking around the city, especially downtown, I don’t think, “Tourist.” However, when I hear some cats turning up, the language regarding perceived outsiders turns to “tourists,” “hipsters,” “yuppies,” “trust-fund babies,” “imperialists,” “cock suckers,” “pinche gueros,” and the list goes on.
Rarely do I believe anything of what I hear, but when the language gets turned up repeatedly by the same abrasive voices, it feels more like a groundswell of ignorance rather than a poignant argument grounded in reason. And that’s the thing, rarely is reason king. It often feels like so many are fighting into the void, peering back only to say something corrosive masquerading as something revolutionary.
I believe the art scene is paramount and is the bridge to greater possibilities in this city. This is not a blanket approval of every downtown restaurant or venue. Further, it is not a blanket approval of everything that happens in the art scene. However, there has to be at least some acknowledgement of reality. There are often voices that never allow the past to remain the past and try only to relive what has already been. And that’s the thing, it often feels that cats miss a glorified past that never was. Too many often talk about “the good old days” while railing against almost everything new. Cats talk about Neutral Grounds, Koo’s Cafe, and the drinking fests at the Spurgeon building with unbridled glee while ignoring almost every serious issue that was and still affects the city. They praise the past while they diminish the present and castigate perceived outsiders, which makes them sound like nostalgic, xenophobic dinosaurs. The irony, of course, is some of these fellows that reminisce are not even from Santa Ana to begin with.
Santa Ana, in my eyes, bears unlimited potential. Yes, there have been changes, but they are not catastrophically negative as professed by some. New restaurants, new venues, new shops, and an influx of people seem like the antithesis of a cultural apocalypse. Some talk about displacement and dislocation. Most of everyone that I know still lives here. I can think of no business that I used to frequent that has been displaced. That is not to say no one has. Still, to take out one’s frustrations on anyone perceived not to be a “true” Santanero seems more than counterproductive. I can only imagine if art buyers, filmmakers, and artists from New York or Paris came by, would they be chastised and “other-ized” by those claiming to be true to the “real” community? Oftentimes, the only distinctive noise seems to be the ego of those that complain the loudest.