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May 2014 – “Agents of Change Fan Out in Alisal”

Posted on May 21, 2014

by Roberto M. Robledo

The Californian

May 16, 2014


First in an occasional series


If John Steinbeck lived today, one of his next novels would have to be about Alisal — Salinas' east side.

As he did with "Cannery Row," he might begin with a free-form verse — Alisal is a mural, banda music, slam poetry, jingle of an ice cream vendor's bell, Spanish tile roofs, a gunshot, police siren, smell of deep frying carnitas, waft of field-fresh strawberries, blue-suited cops, black-hooded criminals, quinceañeras, funerals, church-going immigrants, soccer as religion, women with babies in strollers. Alisal is a sea of stucco houses, it is garages and sheds crammed with families; idled, dirt-poor Mexican laborers, coiffed Latina entrepreneurs in spiked heels, it is pot holes and computerized schools, wayward teenagers, Chicano college coeds, graffiti-scarred fences, green parks. Alisal is low expectations and high hopes — and so much more.

Steinbeck famously wrote about the migration of the Dust Bowl refugees in the 1930s to the Salinas Valley. Today, he would find a similar story of the human condition among the established Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants who compose 95 percent of east Salinas residents.




Follow Roberto M. Robledo on Twitter @robledo_salnews #salinas.