This is the second post in a series. This post focuses on the early development of my personal life in the town of Visalia, CA. It describes my parents and the experiences in elementary school that will have an impact on my outlook and experiences in the coming years.
I grew up in the Southern portion of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Californians in general usually call it the “Central Valley” but hose that live there just call it “the Valley”. This gets a little confusing when i visit Southern California because “the Valley” to them refers to the San Fernando Valley. Oh well. Mine’s bigger.
The city i grew up in is called Visalia (pictured above), which is located about 40-minutes south of Fresno. When i was born, Visalia had a population of around 60,000. Today, the population has doubled to around 125,000.
Visalia is old. Settled in 1852, It’s the oldest town between Los Angeles and Stockton and is the county seat of Tulare County, named one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. Over 36% of the population identifiy as Latino and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line. Many of the Latino’s in Visalia settle in an area known as “North Side”. It is named so for being north of the 198-Freeway that runs through the center of town. North Side is a ghetto in both senses of the word. It is a ghetto in that it is a place where people of similar background settle. It is where you can find the small Mexican shops and grocers. But it is also a ghetto because it is arguably the most run down area of the city. Here is where most of the crime occurs, where the local gangs hangout, and where most of the police spend their time. I didn’t grow up here.
As i implied, this is not a typical tale of rising from the streets by the pull of my bootstraps and making it in the world. No, im sorry to say that I was born on the other side of the freeway. The neighborhood i grew up in is known as “Royal Oaks”. Already it sounds pretentious but i assure you the name is more pretentious than the neighborhood itself.