25 Signs You Grew Up Latino in California

Growing up in California, outsiders have the misconception that every day is filled with sun and surf, kind of like we’ve seen on episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 or The O.C: a luxe life with the world at your feet. Growing up Latina in Cali sure had its perks like hanging out in Hollywood (before it got glammed up). And here, you are the majority, but don’t assume it included driving down the PHC in a convertible white Jetta. It’s more like cruising down the barrio streets of East Los in your brother’s beat up Mustang. Life in California is a bit like Mi Vida Loca with a mix of Blossom. Here are 25 signs you grew up in California:

What did we miss? Share your cali experiences in the comments!


Whether you were a legit chola (or not) growing up in Cali meant looking like one from time to time – it was a fashion trend after all. No doubt your look included wearing “Raisin” lip-liner, teasing up your bangs, and sporting Dickie pants. Wearing old-school Nikes, however, is taking the gansta look to another level. Hopefully your mom didn’t catch you doing it.

2. Forever 21

You shopped at the original Forever 21 before it blew up.


Your dad played Los Bukis from his car speakers while he washed the car on the lawn. (This way the lawn got watered, too.)

4. rockabilly

The only hipsters in L.A. (before transplants took over Echo Park, Silver Lake, and the Mission District) was the rockabilly crowd that frequented Uptown Whittier.

5. King taco

Once you realized that the key to ditching school, and not getting caught, was befriending school security, the place to get your Mexican grub on was not Taco Bell (God forbid) but King Taco.

6. quince

The only clubbing you did growing up was getting down at your cousins’ quinceaneras.

7. Edward James Olmos

You are somehow six degrees separated from Edward James Olmos.

8. Bodegas

New York has bodegas, but Cali had liquor stores that had everything you needed: food, magazines, and more.

9. Yard Sale

You had a yard sale at least once a month.

10. Disneyland

One word: Disneyland.

11. Old Town Pasadena

Living the fab life meant going out to Old Town Pasadena.

12. Under the table

Your mom always knew someone that had a business “under the table” that could make birthday cakes, hem your dresses, fix cars or do your wiring.

13. Chicano

History class never touched upon the rich culture that was in our own backyards: Chicano studies. Fun fact: cruising down Whittier Boulevard was a right of passage, and a huge part of people’s history. This arterial street that runs from the L.A. River to East L.A., and onto Brea, was an integral part of the Zoot Suit scene after World War II. It’s always been a place to be seen whether you were driving down in a low-rider or a used pickup truck.

14. Big Bear

Even though it snowed every winter in Big Bear (a two-hour drive from L.A.) your family never had the proper snow attire or gear when you visited. Instead you layered up your sweats, and slid down the mountain not on a sled, but on your brother’s vinyl jacket.

15. Paletero

Your dad’s homie was the paletero man with the bells.

16. folklorico

Taking folklorico dance class was your extracurricular activity.

17. Beach

You went to Huntington, Newport, or Seal Beach with your family, and every cousin that fit in the van, stocked the cooler with carne asada and SunnyD, and stayed till dusk.

18. Earthquake

Your mom yelled-out every Spanish curse word in the book every time there was an earthquake.

19. Jim's

We know people love to love In-and-Out, but they’re mostly tourists who don’t know the ins-and-outs of California food (no pun intended). The most O.G. place to get a burger is at Jim’s! This SoCal burger chain is like our version of the Peach Pit. And we’ve seen just about everything go down at Jim’s, from drunken fights to families enjoying a pre-Christmas Eve dinner.

20. Baja Cali

A Mexican vacation meant driving to Baja California and visiting your extended family in Mexicali and Rosarito.

21. Alejandro Fernandez

Your family saw Alejandro Fernandez in concert at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena (aka the rodeo).

22. Swap Meet

Weekends are meant for shopping, and in California that meant shopping at your local swap meet. These social shopping adventures, usually held in a defunct Drive-In or a random parking lot, is the place where you can get a bottle of shampoo, a pair of Converse, and a bag of chicharrones con sal y limon, all in one swoop! And Jay-Z can attest to its ghetto fabulousness.

23. Murals

Walking down the street is like going to an art museum. You can’t escape the colorful murals that storyboard the history of each neighborhood.

24. Winter Jacket

You put on a winter jacket when temps drop below 70 degrees.

25. Growin up Cali

The best part of growing up in California is knowing that every inch of that beautiful state that is surrounded by oceans, mountains, and deserts, is that it has always been a part of your history. And even if you forget that for a second, every street and city name en Español will remind you of your roots.