March 13, 2014

Culture can be found in plenty of neighborhoods throughout Orange County, from Anaheim to Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach to Fullerton, but the one that is dear to my heart is Santa Ana.

I enjoy Santa Ana and know it fairly well. Not only do I live in Santa Ana but my kids go to school here and they absolutely love the nearby Discovery Science Center. Santa Ana reminds me a lot of the old South Chicago neighborhood I grew up in, albeit on a smaller scale.

Spanish Baroque-inspired Architecture

Located 10 minutes from the Anaheim Resort area and established in 1869, Santa Ana has the second-largest population in OC (just north of 330,000), as well as the largest concentration of Hispanics in the county. Just down the street from the Bowers Museum (and Kidseum) is the Santa Ana Arts District, where monthly art walks" showcasing local art takes place (first Saturday of the month).

Santa Ana Arts District

This area is part of the historic downtown Santa Ana and is composed of many art galleries, shops and restaurants. Restaurants like Memphis and Gypsy Den feature live music entertainment, while Chapter One: the modern local is the area'€™s latest gastropub.

Chapter One: the modern local

The landmark 1928 Santora Building has a lower level (basement, if you will) that also has many shops and galleries. It'€™s interesting to note that the brick composition of the building keeps temperatures much cooler in the day than what is beaming outside.

With nearly 80 percent Latino-American residents, you can find a lot of the unique Latin flavor that is influenced from Mexico, South America and Central America within the borders of Santa Ana.

Graffiti Art

In recent years, some eclectic restaurants, retailers and entertainment options have cropped up in the area now known as the East End, which was formerly known as the Fiesta Marketplace. Some of the offerings include the newly-renovated" Yost Theater, which was built in 1912, making it the oldest in OC; Frida Cinema, great spot for independent film viewing and film festivals; nearby Playground restaurant, which features themed dinners in an intimate setting; Blends, a sneaker boutique shop; American Barbershop and Left of the Dial Records.

The Yost Theater

Virgin Mary tile portrait

Geographically speaking, the East End isn'€™t a large area at all; it divides historic 4th Street between 3rd and 5th, and French and Bush streets and is part of the overall Downtown Santa Ana area. Although the area is relatively small, the impact that this area is having on the community is huge.

Santa Ana East End

American Barber Shop

The revitalization of this segment of Downtown Santa Ana is similar to what can be found in Downtown Anaheim with the infusion of ethnic shops, unique entertainment options and non-chain eateries that are heavy on uniqueness and light on ordinary. If you want a genuine representation of Latin culture within OC, this is the place to find it.