East Side Dreams: The Untold Story of East San José

Story and King mural painted by Teen Angel, date unknown. Historic Photo Collection, SJPL California Room.
East Side Dreams

East Side Dreams Exhibit: Coming in 2022

From December 2018, through March 2019, San José Public Library’s California Room hosted its largest-ever historical exhibition. The subject: the history of lowriding in San José.

In 2022, the California Room will return with East Side Dreams: The Untold Story of East San José.

Inspired by the connections we made and the stories we heard as we put together our lowrider exhibit, East Side Dreams will examine the social and political development of San José’s East Side from the 1950s through the 1980s.

How East Side Began

 

Pink Elephant Market, date unknown. Photo by Richard Diaz. Courtesy of La Raza Historical Society
Caption
Pink Elephant Market, date unknown. Photo by Richard Diaz. Courtesy of La Raza Historical Society

 

Before the 1950s, the East Side was uninterrupted farmland stretching towards the eastern foothills. Its residents, mostly migrant agricultural workers, lived in a patchwork of rural barrios without sewers, sidewalks, or streetlights. The area was known as "Sal Si Puedes" ("Get out if you can").

As the East Side grew, it remained neglected by the city government and misrepresented by the media. The situation gave rise to generation of community organizers who battled police brutality and housing discrimination and lobbied for improved public services and minority representation in city government.

Activism in East Side and Beyond

United People Arriba March, date unknown. Sofia Magdaleno Mendoza Collection, SJPL California Room.
Caption
United People Arriba March, date unknown. Sofia Magdaleno Mendoza Collection, SJPL California Room.

 

Defined by groups such as the Community Alert Patrol (CAP), United People Arriba, the Community Service Organization (CSO), and the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), and by figures such as Blanca Alvarado, Luis Valdez, Ernestina Garcia, and Ceasar Chavez, the East Side set a powerful precedent for community activism across the country.

East Side Dreams: The Untold Story of East San José will synthesize stories both remembered and forgotten, presenting a comprehensive historical picture of the East Side and its people.

Up to and beyond the exhibit, the California Room will continue to collect and archive materials on the East Side’s social and political development.

 

Los Lupeños dancer, date unknown. Los Lupeños de San José Records, SJPL California Room
Caption
Los Lupeños dancer, date unknown. Los Lupeños de San José Records, SJPL California Room

East Side Revelations

The San José Public Library's California Room is putting a spotlight on San José's East Side with a series of blogs that will feature individuals, businesses, and community organizations with ties to the East Side. Here are blogs in the series:

Blog Category
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Local History