Downtown SanTana, yesterday and today...
Downtown SanTana, yesterday and today...

For Whom Exactly Was Santa Ana "Great"? And When?

Another person has entered the SanTana mayoral race this year--Charles Hart, a man I've never heard of, but who thinks he can take down Mayor-for-Vida Don Papi Pulido and challenger Alfredo Amezcua. I guess he'll be the candidate for residents who are sick of the Don Papi but don't want an Aztlanista like Amezcua running things in the most-Latino big city in the country--good luck with that!

What struck me most about Hart's announcement to run, though, is his reasoning: "I am running for Mayor to help restore Santa Ana to its greatness." I owe you a Manhattan at Memphis, Charles, because you've given me the perfect excuse to finally write a post blasting the myth that you and others claim, that SanTana was ever "great" to begin with.

"I was born and raised in Santa Ana," Hart writes on his campaign website, "and I remember what Santa Ana was like when the streets were safe enough for kids to play on, our downtown was a fun place for families to visit and shop on the weekend, and the schools were considered a great place to get a good education." families shop anymore in downtown SanTana, Charles? Go to Calacas on Fourth Street right now, and betcha it'll be filled with families. And the city's streets emptied of kiddies running around? When?

What Hart really means is that he remembers when Mexicans weren't around in the numbers that they are today, and thinks those days were the ones when his hometown was "great." He can deny my analysis all he wants, but the fact is Hart is merely repeating the mantra others have maintained for decades, a mantra that upon close study reveals that the eternal aching of city leaders and others for SanTana's supposedly glorious past is actually a yearning for a white-man's town.

Hart was born in 1969, which means he grew up in the 1970s and graduated from high school in the mid-1980s. A dream time for SanTana, in his mind. 1987, the Orange County Register ran a story speaking of how a city in decline was trying to climb back to its supposed glory days. Then-mayor Dan Young told the paper that the city was "undergoing an urban renaissance*. We have gone from a city headed downhill to a city with a future." Another quote was even more illuminating: "When I graduated from high school in 1969, the attitude was: 'Get out of Santa Ana as soon as you can.' The neighborhoods were deteriorating. Crime was increasing. The city didn't seem to have a future."

Secular saint Reuben Martinez (of Librería Martinez fame) was also interviewed for the piece, and he admitted that when he opened a barbershop in downtown SanTana in 1974, "it had a lot of problems...Sometimes I had to call the police to move the bums off the doorstep so my customers could get in."

But wait: Hart said everything was hunky-dory back in his day! And this was when Mexicans only made up a slim majority of the city's population! What glory days?

The article reveals more. Longtime head of the SanTana Chamber of Commerce Mike Metzler told the Register, "My wife grew up in Anaheim in the 1960s. When she and her friends went to the beach, they actually drove around Santa Ana" because of the city's perceived danger. In the 1960s! When gabachos were still the majority of city residents! What glory days?

Another old article: a 1973 Los Angeles Times story about SanTana titled "A City Where Yesterdays and Todays Collide." It's a short piece but interviews "Anglos" who were leaving the city because its "stability is under siege." Hart would've been four at the time. What glory days?

We've now established that SanTana's own residents felt their city was declining, even dangerous, in the 1980s, 1970s, and 1960s. The Register piece mentioned that boosters then felt SanTana had its best days 30 years earlier, which would've been the 1950s. That would've been an era when African-American families had to go to court to move into white neighborhoods, only to see their white neighbors leave within a year. When Mexican families trying to move into the city's exclusive Floral Park neighborhood were greeted with burning crosses on their front lawns. I can't find anyone except whiny minorities bemoan those years--are the days of legal segregation when SanTana was at its finest, boosters? Because it seems y'all have railed that times were better every decade that has since passed.

Is SanTana perfect? No. Can it improve? Of course. But I'd argue the city is already great, Register commentators (and even some pendejos here) notwithstanding, and can only get better. For Hart and others to cling to a revanchist agenda shows that either they don't know their SanTana history and thus have no idea what they wish for, or just don't like living in a city with too many Mexicans, just like the city's bigoted residents of yore.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just from Anacrime...

*Isn't it funny how Don Papi Pulido and his ilk are STILL using this word 25 years later?


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