Best of OC 2004: Part 5

CAROLINA SARMIENTO'S 6 REASONS WHY SHE LOVES LIVING IN SANTA ANA

Okay, so maybe Sarmiento—the 25-year-old president of Santa Ana's wonderful community space, el-Centro Cultural de México—isn't living in Santa Ana on a day-to-day basis anymore (attending UCLA's graduate program in urban planning kinda necessitates you dorm in Westwood, you know?). But Sarmiento still spends weekends and most weekdays in SanTana (pronounce it like the natives, por favor), her lifelong home and where she plans to remain forever. While the rest of the country might crap on her city—biggest dump was a September report by the State University of New York's Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government deeming Santa Ana the United States' toughest city in which to live—Sarmiento nevertheless finds more beauty in SanTana than in the rest of la naranja.

1.Paleteros. "Those elderly men who walk around with ice-cream carts selling Mexican popsicles. Smiles, freshness and personal history—all for a buck." 2.That damn Rockefeller report. "So we're the youngest, most-Latino, most-Spanish-speaking, most-crowded big city in the country—good for us! That just gives us more of a challenge in changing this community." 3.The history. "You have people who have been living in Santa Ana for generations. My grandparents still live here, and they moved to Orange County from Texas back in the 1950s. And so does my Tío Arnulfo, a real-life pachuco from back in the days when it was something more than mere fashion trend." 4.Little Mexico. "In Santa Ana, you find small niches of Mexico all over, from D.Fenos (people from Mexico City) selling metal albums to Oaxacan faith healers to loncheras (lunch trucks) that specialize in the cuisine of one state. I know a woman who imports cheese from the southern state of Guerrero. Guerrero! Who knows how she brought it in! From my experience, Santa Ana is more diverse, Mexican-wise, than Los Angeles." 5.Cheap punk shows. "This is a bit self-serving, but where else in Orange County but Santa Ana—and specifically, el-Centro—can you see punk groups from Japan, France, Mexico, Italy and even Finland play for $5 or less?" 6.Incredible stories of making ends meet. "I know a guy who lives in a home with about 15 people. Yet he's one of the happiest people I know. People just live with what's dealt with them and thrive. Only in SanTana . . ." El-Centro Cultural de México, 1522 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 953-9305; www.el-centro.org.
Book 'em: Reuben Martinez
(Photo by Tenaya Hills)

10 BOOKS YOU'LL ONLY FIND AT LIBRERÍA MARTÍNEZ AND NOWHERE ELSE IN OC 1.The Picture of Dorian Gray, Children's Edition (in Spanish) 2.Celebrating a Quinceañera: A Latina's 15th Birthday Celebration by Diana Hoyt-Goldsmith 3.Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World edited by Miguel León-Portilla 4.The War Continues: A Chicano Liberation Struggle for the New Millennium by Sebastian de la O 5.The Murals of Revolutionary Nicaragua, 1979-1992 by David Kunzle 6.Nothing, Nobody: The Voices of the Mexico City Earthquake by Elena Poniatowska 7.Maya T'an: Spoken Mayan by William J. Litzinger and Robert D. Bruce 8.José Alfredo Jimémez: The Complete Songbook (in Spanish) 9.Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luís Valdez 10. Typical Dishes of the Mexican State of Tamaulipas Librería Martínez, 110 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 973-7900.
(Photo by James Bunoan)

THE COUNTY'S MOST INDEPENDENT POLITICIANWayne Baglin. City councils throughout the county are loaded with lazy political hacks who use their office to serve themselves, their friends and contributors—not the public. So it's refreshing to see Laguna Beach City Councilman Baglin in action. He's a pro-business, truly environmental-friendly independent Republican who just might be the best government watchdog in Orange County. Baglin's disciplined, consistent, questioning and, when necessary, cantankerous. You may not like every stance he takes, but you know he's not a fake. (Hello, Paul Freeman!) These characteristics have not ingratiated Baglin with scheming bureaucrats who like to decide key issues behind closed doors. (Hello, Ken Franks!) We wish every city in OC had a Wayne Baglin.

SIX GREAT JUNKYARDS 1. Pick Your Part. They've got your old-car jones, along with newfangled things like a paved yard (bring the family!), and in the parking lot, they can probably sell you the tool you need. 1235 S. Beach Blvd., Anaheim, (714)385-1301. 2. Placentia Truck Van & 4 Wheel Drive. Not all the junkyards in Placentia went away. This one specializes in parts for newer models of the vehicles mentioned in its title—but we still fantasize about finding some sweet '70s van with faded murals on the outside and those diamond-shaped plastic windows and captain's chairs on the inside. 461 S. Van Buren St., Placentia, (714) 996-1620. 3. Dave's Auto Wrecking. If you like GM cars, there's just no hope for you because Ford is the true way. Just because they run better and their company didn't get in serious financial trouble and almost close a couple of times. Oh, and if you need parts for your modern GM ride, go here, in what's apparently Placentia's junkyard district. They've got you covered. 443 S. Van Buren St., Placentia, (714) 996-1951. 4. Rocco's Truck Van & Four Wheel. The name makes you think Rocco's a little slow 'cause if all he had to part out was one truck, you'd think he'd have done it by now. Actually, though, there's more than one truck here, mainly domestic older models—when we needed a hood for a '68 C-10 Chevrolet, they actually had it, for about $200. 3125 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 554-9800. 5. A-1 Auto Recycling. Here be newer, mainly domestic-made cars, all presumably in A-1 shape. Start your gear pullers, boyos. 815 N. Batavia, Orange, (714) 288-1920. 6. Lenny's Auto Wrecking. Lenny—or as he's also known, Some Guy Who Answers the Phone—wasn't pleased when we called and asked how far back they went. The oldest vehicle here was made in about 1990—but if you need parts for that newish Chevy Cavalier, give 'em a try. After all, it pays to specialize. 1045 E. Sixth St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-7300.
Irwin Rose: MMMMMM...Einsteinium!
(Photo by Matt Otto)

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