Does Santa Ana reflect your identity? Is your community changing?
In these interviews, Adrian, Karen, and Anahi respond to these questions.
Interview Transcript and Research
Keywords: Freedom, Identity, and Arts: Taking Advantage of Opportunities for Self-Expression
Adrian: Just driving around Main St, Santa Ana, that fills me with such joy. And even going about my daily things, there’s always music playing, there’s always something artistic just in the veins of this city that you can always tap into. It’s just beautiful, to have it be constantly there and constantly and positively stimulating me as an artist.
Anahi: I started doing Ballet Folklorico at OCSA [Orange County School of the Arts] and that’s the smallest program that’s available at that school; there’s like 50 of us, and those 50 obviously knew that Santa Ana was like, okay, so we started doing performances and getting together with admin to show them there’s good things to this bad Latino culture that you’re trying to say, basically. I think we did make an impact on certain teachers, and people that didn’t otherwise know. At least those that accepted our comments towards them.
Safety, Acceptance, and Resources: The Need for More Safe Spaces / Resources
Karen: Little by little, Santa Ana is being displaced, due to gentrification. Little by little, I see my city changing in that way, like there’s not as many murals here, I see more people coming from different cities investing here. So I do see that shift coming. And I fear that if most of us here in Santa Ana don’t do something about it, it’ll just be completely different.
Adrian: There are places and spaces, at least from what I remember then to now, that queer [LGBTQIA+] youth in Santa Ana have to go to as places of calm. It gets more into a clash of culture that queer youth have to overcome, but strides have been taken and steps have been made towards having more of those areas and spaces in the city.
"...schools nationwide are hostile environments for LGBTQ youth of color, where they experience victimization and discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or all of the above simultaneously.
"In addition, many LGBTQ youth do not have access to in-school resources that may improve school climate and students’ experiences, such as student clubs and supportive educators."
(Erasure and Resilience: The Experiences of LGBTQ Students of Color, Latinx LGBTQ Youth in U.S. Schools. GLSEN Research Institute, in partnership with Hispanic Federation and UnidosUS, 2020.)
Anahi: I think I would like to see more spaces that are youth friendly. That can just mean like a coffee shop, more parks, green areas to hang out at, instead of just restaurants and bars that are like “hip and trendy,” but is that really what young kids can do? No; so we need to have more areas that are open and inclusive, and not just for youth. I think there needs to be areas like that that are open for parents and adults who just want to have safe spaces to hang out in.
Karen: I don’t want the youth to think that they’re not enough, or they can’t achieve greatness. I want a space, I want this city to feel like home for youth as well. I want them to be proud of where they are, where they grew up in, I don’t want them to be ashamed of themselves when they look in the mirror. So having that representation of themselves, whether it be murals, whether it be just spaces where they feel like they belong, and they’re safe and they’re loved, that’s what I would like for this city to feel like and look like.
by Yenni Diaz
Santa Ana, or “SanTana” as pronounced by many in the city where they have been born or raised, has a strong sense of self-expression throughout the city. With 78% of its population of 335,052 being latinx, and being one of the youngest cities of the nation with over 30% of the residents under 18 the culture, pride, and music can be felt throughout the city. A city where you can find a paletero (ice cream cart) or troquita (truck) selling in the neighborhoods, open mics or murals in the downtown and across town. You can truly feel and hear the culture and expression of Santa Ana’s identity.
As youth grow up, they are faced with the harsh realities of gentrification and development that has changed the city their parents knew. The youth of Santa Ana have expressed a two-sided dilemma: the need for more open spaces, and safe spaces. In particular, the downtown of Santa Ana is full of new trendy, hip restaurants and bars that have sprung up over the past decade. They are Instagram ready locations, but not a place where youth younger than 21 years old can hang out with. There is a need for a safe place where they can feel welcomed and able to express themselves. On the other hand, Santa Ana is a hot spot in the county of non-profit and not-for-profit organizations, often youth led, like Resilience OC, Orange County Immigrant Youth United, and CHISPA, among others. These organizations have offered safe spaces and the ability to feel comfortable in the community like the LGBTQ Center OC. There is an increase of welcoming of queer youth of Santa Ana and the intersectionality of LGBTQ and brown/black youth organizing and collaboration.
“SanTana” is a place where the youth can be free to explore their cultural identity and their self-expression. A city filled of Spanish names on stores, a rooted bi-cultural identity, and a city built in art and music that has been here since before the establishment of the city in 1869. The city's expression began and can still be witnessed before it was part of Spanish as Mexico, when these lands were part of the Tongva indigenous people of these lands.