Many poems, songs, and conversations are about having a sense of belonging, or not belonging. I usually felt alien to this concept since I had never felt a sense of belonging – and this didn’t really matter to me. Recently, I realized that not belonging and not caring to belong allowed me a false sense of freedom. After exploring my fears and the trauma behind it, I suddenly awoke in Los Angeles, California, about 6,646 km away from Panama, the place where I am from.
My name is Lorena. On my first trip to Los Angeles, my partner took me to Lorena Street in Boyle Heights. Aside from showing me the neighborhood where he grew up, my partner was already trying to make me feel at home in his beloved city. I simply loved seeing pharmacies, clinics, restaurants, and schools with my name on it. Since that day, we romanticized the idea of walking the 3.2 mile strip of concrete and take photos along the way. After all, Lorena Street is Los Angeles in all its beauty and depth.
“The signs of gentrification are already present in Boyle Heights, indicating that this Mexican American community will soon be displaced.”
As you traverse the street you find a running track around the historic 9-acre Evergreen Cemetery, diverse family owned businesses from nut wagons and food trucks to furniture upholstery and tire repair shops, post-World War II housing projects smothered in murals, a beautiful 1920’s open arch bridge, and the Interstate 5 Freeway which connects the US to Canada and Mexico. Lorena Street is also a ten minute drive from Downtown LA. The signs of gentrification are already present in Boyle Heights, indicating that this Mexican American community will soon be displaced.
If the American dream is about the praise of monetary wealth and endless consumption, the Latin American dream must be about the praise of spiritual wealth and endless production. As dreamers we can pursue an abundance of truthful connections, limitless creativity and intimate communication. These photographs, LA (Latin America) Dreams, are about being awake but maintaining this dreamy vision. They are about hope, intimacy, a sense of presence — and how I found the right place to find myself.
Although I might always be an outsider in Los Angeles, I realized that belonging has more to do with finding inner peace and acceptance. I took these photographs on the day of the solar eclipse (August 21, 2017) as a way of capturing and marking a new beginning, aligned with the cosmos. Seeing so many people look up was a beautiful realization that we can just as easily look inward, especially when we hold a dream in common.