Category Archives: L.A. Life

A local food review: Chichen Itza Restaurant

By Jonah Vroegop

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Do you enjoy delicious Mexican food? If your answer is yes, I have a recommendation for you! Due to its location near the USC campus, Chichen Itza is a popular spot for students and community members to pick up a bite to eat. They serve a variety of dishes from tamales, tacos, soups, tortas, appetizers, and more! It is one of my favorite places to eat around USC, and a great spot to go to if you are looking for a new place to eat during quarantine.

First and foremost, the restaurant is located in Mercado La Paloma – a local business hub of the Figueroa corridor that supports business ownership opportunities and living wages for members of our community. There are many restaurants and businesses similar to Chichen Itza, as well as non-profit offices, a health office, and a range of affordable meeting rooms and community spaces. They frequently host art and music-centered events, film showings, and open mic nights as well, giving the community a forum and a place for local interaction. The market takes pride in the quality of their goods and services and are proud to serve the community with the goal of achieving economic and environmental justice while fostering community engagement and exchange of culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurants and shops are only open for takeout or delivery. Don’t miss the chance to check out the market! 

The cuisine served at Chichen Itza comes from Yucatan, a region in the south of Mexico known for its fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and oregano as well as achiote. Their menu is expansive and definitely contains something for everyone! They take pride in their ingredients and use house-made meats and handmade corn tortillas. These ingredients are staples of Mexican street cuisine and a vital part of serving a delicious Yucatan dish. Many of the marinades and preparation techniques come from the Yucatan region, providing flavors and ingredients that aren’t commonly seen on restaurant menus. Each dish comes with a few options for fillings, cooking techniques, and salsas. I recommend the cochinita pibil (banana leaf-wrapped slow-roasted pork) and the pollo asado (roasted chicken) on any dish. If you’re struggling to find something to order, you can’t go wrong with tamales – arguably the most famous Mexican street food.

“Taco’s de pollo asada” and a “torta de pollo asada”
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Southern Hospitality

By Kalan Leaks

[3 minute read]

As I write this, I am realizing that this semester will be my final one as an undergraduate attending the University of Southern California. It’s been quite a journey from being a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman to being a nonplussed engineer with bags under his eyes. Living in Los Angeles has taught me so much about the world as well as myself. Its many charms have won me over despite some of its flaws. However, as the time until graduation slips ever closer, my mind wanders towards my first home in the Southern part of the United States.

I was born in Blytheville, Arkansas, at 11:37 pm on October 28th.  Blytheville is on the northeastern side of Arkansas, so if you wanted to take a quick vacation, Tennessee and Missouri are only minutes away. Arkansas itself has a few interesting, noteworthy quirks. The state gem is a diamond due to the fact that Arkansas is the only state that produces diamonds, and it produces more rice than any other state. Also, for some reason, our state beverage is milk.

Photo by Christian Mack on Unsplash

Blytheville only has a population of around 15,000 people-that’s smaller than USC’s current undergraduate population and almost 3 times smaller than USC’s total student population! If that astonishes you, then you would be surprised to know that the neighboring town of Dell, Arkansas, has a population of only 250 people. Blytheville is a town that takes pride in agriculture and small town charm. You only have to drive a few minutes outside of town before riding along cotton or wheat fields at your side just waiting to be harvested. A benefit of living in a small town is that you get to know everyone in your community. It reminds me of an old television show that would air late at night called Cheers. The theme song would say, “…where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” To me, that’s Blytheville.

However, the downside to living in a small town is, ironically, that everyone in the community knows you and your family. If you happen to get into trouble at school, your family will probably hear the story from five different people by the time you get home. So, you have plenty of incentive to be on your best behavior.

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Learning About Homelessness in LA

 By Jason Her

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

As a social work student living in Los Angeles, I often wondered about the homeless crisis shown on the news and the actions being taken to assist this population. This made me question many things about the situation, and I wondered how it had gotten this bad. Coincidentally, this led me to an internship working with the homeless population, an opportunity that was unexpected, but that allowed me to gain a better understanding of the crisis we are facing. 

Photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash

Although there are many reasons why one may experience homelessness, contributing factors are state and federal policies. An example is the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in 1967 which led the state government to deinstitutionalize mentally ill patients. California was one of the first states to do so. Some may argue this was a good thing, but as a result, victimization, homelessness, and increased rates of incarceration occurred. This was followed by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1987). It decreased federal funding to the states and gave patients the choice to seek treatment outside of a mental institution, have the option to seek treatments at clinics at the state level, and have the freedom to administer their own medication. An ethical move in the eyes of the federal government, but as we know, the mentally ill are amongst the most vulnerable populations in society because most cannot make sound decisions. As a consequence of these policies, mental illness has become prevalent in the homeless population, making it a difficult problem to tackle.

Aside from these policies, another factor that has contributed to the homeless crisis in Los Angeles is the destruction of single-room occupancy hotels in Skid Row. These single-room occupancies were the most affordable housing mostly used by transient, immigrant men who worked to build railroads around the mid-19th century. In the 20th century, men from the rest of the United States who headed west for employment would often end up on Skid Row, where they could find housing, food, or shelter of some kind. Over the years, it would house the city’s working poor, unemployed, disabled, and otherwise marginalized residents. But between 1950 and 2000, 15,000 residential hotel apartments that were once single-room-occupancy were destroyed, forcing thousands of people onto the city’s shelters and sidewalks.

Photo by Christian Gabele on Unsplash
Continue reading Learning About Homelessness in LA