Luis Orlando Gallardo Rivera is the head of an urban development agency in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He will be spending the next week in Orange County to attend a Fair Housing Policy Conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Luis is a member of the left wing Popular Democratic Party (PPD) in Puerto Rico, and he maintains a personal blog at: http://www.barriomulas.com/blog/

Everything is so far away that I’m left with little urge to even leave my hotel. I sympathize for the paleo-conservative vision of healthy communities, but Orange County resembles more the neo conservative corporate culture utopia. Development is strictly horizontal; fostering the need to depend on a vehicle.

Mom-and-pop shops fall victim to the monolithic power of Starbucks and McDonald’s. It’s ironic to think that the only bit of “local food” available is at Carl’s Jr. Burgers. I feel little sense of community on these streets.

I met another Puerto Rican during the conference, which livened up my strolls with reflective conversation. He is a black-skinned Puerto
Rican, spicing up the shared experience even more considering the fact that Orange County is comprised of only 1.67% African American. It was fascinating seeing his loud, vocal, and colorful Puerto Rican personality clash with his Californian surroundings.

During one occasion, we had been talking about Puerto Rican music only for him to take his mp3-equipted cell phone from his pocket. “I have that song right here!” he belted, as bus passengers glanced towards him. His loud little cell phone began bumping the sounds of Puerto Rican reggaeton, a white-skinned passenger continuously looked at us as if he didn’t know what to do with himself. “Look at that guy!” my companion said to me in Spanish. “He’s panicking!”

Having a variable by my side added flavor to even the simplest short strolls.


What’s the quickest way to get a waiter to ignore you? Being the only Latino among a crowd of Asians in an Asian restaurant. Racism works both ways.

I got a hold of one of those “things to do” magazines and I have to say that I’m not surprised that every other ad was for tanning salons and plastic surgeons.

With a considerable amount of free time on my hands one afternoon, I headed north and purposely got lost. (Maybe a little more than I was expecting.) Comfortable with the public transportation system, I had left my array of maps and guides in my hotel room. Big mistake. Up until now my logic had told me that buses run up and down each of the city grid’s streets, thus meaning that I would have to take a maximum of two buses to get to any nearby location (one to go east or west and another to go north or south.) It was to my surprise that no bus ran up and down
Magnolia Ave. Oh well: the walk from Commonwealth Ave. all the way to La Palma was quite an educational trip, I’d have to say. (Like I said, I had a lot of free time this specific afternoon.) The early dinner that I gulped down in a small Fullerton restaurant was quite charming.

Casually walking down the street, I spotted a small, dusty bookshop in the corner of my eyes. Excited, I backtracked and peeped inside of the door. A gray – but husky – man in his 60s was sitting behind a computer.

“Hello?” I ask.


“You guys are open, right?”

“Why yes I am,” he politely responded.

“Geez. You don’t know for how long I’ve been looking for a bookstore.”

“And you probably won’t find one, unless you like the Internet,” he responds. It was almost as if he knew that his store’s lifeline was soon to end. After scanning his aging bookshelves I asked him whether or not there were other bookshops in the area. He handed me a 2004 pamphlet with a list of local stores only to snatch it from my hands and quickly mark out the majority of them with a pencil.

“This one… this one… and this one have closed,” he said, as he handed me back the pamphlet. The pamphlet was obviously the last breath of life from the county’s bookshop industry.

Failing to locate any other “cool” location to spend my evenings, I went ahead and visited Steamers for a second time. The fact that a number of people within the crowds were the same as the day before had affirmed my perception that such places were the rarity in Orange County.