Last Mexican of Venice
The Last Mexican of Venice is gone. The flippers got her. Yanked her like a rotten, smelly tooth. Sent L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies to do it.
Jeannine Mendoza grew up in Venice. She and her four siblings waded in the marshes before there was a Marina, built bonfires on the beach before it was illegal, delighted in its unpretentious working-class Little Rascals streets. Her parents bought an unassuming house in what avaricious realtors would one day dub “The Golden Triangle,” but it was just a sidestreet niche in 1957. And Mom and Dad had grown up in West L.A. and Santa Monica.
For that matter, the Last Mexican of Venice was descended from the Marquez family, recipients of an 1839 land grant that included Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades.
You want your “roots?” There are your “roots.”
But Jeannine Mendoza, a great-granddaughter of Old California, has been kicked out, under threat of arrest, from the home she and her late husband, Aaron Hassman, bought back in the ‘70’s. A 500-square-foot matchbox on Superba Avenue near Lincoln where they somehow managed to raise two boys, while Jeannine’s Nana lived in a mother-in-law apartment out back. Typical circumstances of old Venice, long replaced by millennial tekkie royalty, movie royalty, developer royalty.
Royalty. I remember an old bum I met on a pier long ago, declaiming. Everything in his speech somehow came back to the word, “rat.” “Royalty!” he exclaimed, spit hanging off his white stubble. “Roy. Al. Ty. RAT!”
The RATs got the Last Mexican of Venice, which is how Jeannine wryly referred to herself in recent years, just as they have gotten countless others in her heavily white gentrified neighborhood, and flipper-infested neighborhoods everywhere. The RATs smell money, and nothing else matters. Not someone’s hard work or integrity, not suffering, not tragedy. Only money. It’s really just the old Vaudeville play, “The Drunkard,” on a huge scale. The poor widow (Jeannine lost her husband several years ago) being evicted by the rich landlord.
Jeannine Mendoza grew up believing that you should give back to the community, the world, in some way. Most people used to believe this way, before college kids answered “icon” or “rich” when polled as to their career ambition. She went to Cal State Northridge on loans and financial aid for minorities (Educational Opportunity Program) in the early ‘70’s, got a degree in education. Then a Master’s degree. Eventually, an Ed. D. Right. Dr. Mendoza.
And she taught. . .kindergarten. Occasionally first or second grade. She believed this is where she could make the most impact, and that the most impact should be made here, when brains and hearts are so malleable. She was dedicated, she was effervescent, she adored her students. Many came back years later to thank her. Radiant reviews from supervisors. Always.
And so it went. She taught, she raised a family, she paid off her gigantic student loans. Her husband taught grade school, and supplemented income by becoming a boat captain for hire, piloting outings to Catalina, Baja on weekends. The Hassmans got by. They were a happy couple, in love with each other, their kids, their home, their work.
Except. . .