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[ STREET SCENES : EAST L.A.]

Where Life Flows

Cesar Chavez Avenue winds through the neighborhood like a Main Street, U.S.A., past the shops and restaurants and the old church that has been at the center of so much over the years.

June 16, 2008|Deborah Schoch

It was a quintessential L.A. scene. The bride sat squeezed between her parents, wrapped in embroidered white satin, bejeweled, makeup in place, waiting for her groom. They were to be married in just a few minutes.

But the groom hadn't arrived. He waited at home for his father, who was stuck in freeway traffic.

The wedding was to take place at Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church on Cesar Chavez Avenue. Many residents of East Los Angeles attend the historic church, which opened Christmas Day 1925. Cesar Chavez once held meetings there; in 1994 Brooklyn Avenue was renamed for him.

Today, the urban avenue, with its colonial red-tile architecture, has the settled feel of a Mexican Mayberry. It passes the Centro Maravilla county offices, auto part shops and East L.A.'s only heated indoor pool, where aging women perform aqua-aerobics. It passes popular bakeries and eateries like the one at Zamora Meats with its famous carnitas. But even Mayberry can change, and a Denny's is coming soon.

Out Lady of Solitude still celebrates all but one of its Masses in Spanish. The groom who was running late -- 27-year-old Manuel Lomeli -- met his future wife, Diana, 25, there. But he finally pulled up to the church. It helped that the priest arrived late too.

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-- Deborah Schoch

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