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She thought she would become a doctor

Rocio thought that she would become a doctor. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she knew the sciences could be a solid career and pathway to success. Then she signed up for an anthropology class with the (appropriately named) Dr. Smiley, and fell head over heels in love – with an area of study.


She was enthralled with the idea that culture applies to everything – food, language, clothing – the entire framework through which you view the world. It is dynamic and ever-changing – in the office, in school, at home. This interwoven tapestry of overlapping cultures drew Rocio in and completely shifted how she saw the world.

Members of Familias Latinas Unidas

When she was introduced to 18th Street’s Culture Mapping 90404 project at a Familias Latinas Unidas (FLU) neighborhood meeting, she deeply resonated with what the map was trying to do. Both Rocio and her mom are part of FLU, a self-organized group of Latinx families in Santa Monica. The ongoing mapping project captures the cultural complexities in the Pico Neighborhood through the voices of local residents — residents whose voices have often been silenced, ignored, or erased through rampant displacement and gentrification.

Members of FLU

Rocio urged FLU to participate. She even helped many members film their stories. Back on a break from college she heard that the map was live online! She was overcome with emotion when she saw the faces of all the neighborhood women she knew, represented on the map, telling their own stories. Inspired, she went back to school driven to begin working directly with communities and asking big questions – how do you go about preserving and valuing culture? and how do you help people remember that which might soon be lost? She described 18th Street’s Culture Mapping 90404 project as a “great golden door that was being opened” on her future path and core personal mission.

Rocio at 18th Street Arts Center

Then Rocio heard about the Getty Marrow Internship Program, and she recognized 18th Street Arts Center on the list of job opportunities, and applied. Of course she was accepted. I mean, how could we not? So Rocio, this child of the neighborhood, who contributed to our Map before we even knew each others’ names, now works with us every day. She recently emceed our most successful Pico Block Party yet, 18th Street’s biggest festival of the year celebrating local Pico Neighborhood culture that grew out of our mapping activities. Rocio says of her work at 18th Street, “Being here is a privilege – I expect to learn a lot more and grow, so I can be prepared for the future and whatever opportunities might arise. I know I want to work with communities, to be the liaison between different institutions and community members and residents and children and immigrant families, because that’s my background. I want everyone to have a voice and be heard.” Rocio’s path is now headed towards cultural healing by amplifying the unique voices and experiences of her community.

18th Street is doubling the size of our community and mapping programs this year. We are so excited to inspire future Rocios to fall in love with anthropology, or contemporary art, or placekeeping, or cultural work — but we need your help.

Help us dramatically expand our community programs and add 60 new entries to our map, curriculum, workshops and outreach activities this next year. Give before the end of the fiscal year (June 30th!) and receive one of our 30th anniversary messenger tote bags! Thank you for helping us to reach our goals.

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