RIP Santa Ana's Calle Cuatro (a.k.a. Fourth Street), 1916 (?)-2011

A couple of weeks ago, the carousel near the intersection of Fourth and Spurgeon streets in SanTana was unceremoniously dismantled. It had entertained thousands of kiddies over the years, but it didn't fit in with the plans of SanTana's Brave New Urbanists, who have salivated for decades at the thought of turning the area around it, the beating heart of Orange County's Latino cultural and shopping life for decades, into a hipster haven with no need for Mexican immigrants other than dishwashers and line cooks. 

The de-Mexification of Fourth Street continues.


Sometime in the past couple of weeks, the plaza area in front of the historic Yost Theater was razed to begin landscaping improvements for the theater, which has big plans of its own, none involving the actual people who rescued the theater from oblivion. Gone is the gazebo. Gone are the benches where men have shot the breeze for decades, much to the consternation of those who said the preponderance of Mexican shops in the area constituted reverse discrimination. Their solution? Level those memories and look forward–and they're not racist because Latinos are part of the leveling, and pochos can patronize the new businesses that are coming! Like a coffee shop! And a sushi joint! And a barbershop where you can drink beer! Yeah!

Fourth Street as a Latino institution had a great run. As early as the 1910s, legal segregation forced Mexicans onto the stretch of Fourth Street to the east of Main; by the 1930s, that side was almost exclusively Mexican. As others lost faith in the viability of downtown SanTana, more Mexican entrepreneurs moved into the area, transforming it into an economic war chest for the city. It's those very businessmen and businesswomen who occupied the historic buildings when no other ethnicity would, saving one of Orange County's few true downtowns from the wrecking ball, and thus leaving it ripe for gentrification. The thanks they're getting for keeping the area alive? The boot.

The Great Recession has hurt many of the businesses on Fourth Street, but also key were those Brave New Urbanists, who complained loudly for years about the quinceañera shops, the mango ladies, the whole Mexican-ness of it all and are winning the all-important battles in convincing property owners and city fathers to see it their way and put forth a “renaissance” of the area. This district always annoyed a certain segment of SanTana, who have a twisted nostalgia about the place that puts the blame on Mexicans and none on those gabachos who had no faith in the city.

They are finally getting their way, while the rest of the most-Latino big city in the United States carries on, obvlivious.

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