Sylmar. The east-most corner piece of the San Fernando Valley. At first glance, the city isn’t much to look at. It’s dusty, surrounded by freeways, bordered by mountains, and filled with plenty of mom and pop restaurants/shops that don’t give off that quaint small-town vibe that should come with a description like “mom and pop”. No, there isn’t a “folksy” aesthetic here, but there is something more honest. Everywhere there is a grit. The people aren’t mean or unapproachable. You just see hard work and long hours and perseverance and a slight worn look about everybody. It’s humility. It’s working two jobs to feed five mouths. It’s clipping coupons for groceries. It’s roses by the freeway and fruit on the corner. Grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, big brother, big sister. Everybody does their part and you can see how they wear it.
The kids don’t have the grit yet. They go to school, they play, they ask for toys and games and ice cream, but they carry on their backs the dream of a better tomorrow. It’s not their dream, but their parents. A large burden that they don’t know of yet, but the rest of us know, because we put it there. For now, the childhood innocence serves as a visual balance to the adulthood around them. It’s what makes Sylmar unique from other cities in the San Fernando Valley. You see a very specific people here and I don’t mean the dominant hispanic demographic. The buildings are boring, the shops are plain, but the people are strong. There is a resilience that emanates from each glance that is also drawn in the lines of their faces, each one telling the story of how that resilience came to be.
Sylmar is almost spartan. It’s not a place to do things. That’s what the freeways are for, to take you places where you can do those things. Sylmar is a place where you become into something. Witness people in a metamorphosis that takes them hungry and turns them into self-sustaining champions; where people open their doors to see mountains and then climb them. You can’t help but revere people like that. This city was made for and by them. A community deserving of respect and pride. The lucky do not live here, the ultra-rich do not live here, only the meek and gritty. They live here and they live a hard life, but a good life. I hope while I’m here, I get the opportunity to do the same.