Romero: Do Latinos Have a Future in Downtown Santa Ana?

Walking around last week’s Grow Conference at the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana, I was stunned to see that the future of my boyhood home doesn’t apparently include people like me.


It seems like we’ve been having the same debate here in Santa Ana for what seems to be decades on how to spur economic development that attempts to hide the Latino face of the city.



I first encountered it, I still remember the very day, on August 3, 1958 upon arriving home from military service. One of my boyhood friends, an Anglo named Donald Dunn, told me about a rental opportunity around Highland Street – now where the Boys and Girls Club is in that area. He inquired for me and told the owners I was Latino, and then had the tough job of calling me and letting me know that I wasn’t welcome in my own hometown, even after serving my country as a military veteran.

Flash forward 57 years later and that same feeling comes back as I walk around the event at the Discovery Cube.

When I look at the faces of the event, picturing what downtown Santa Ana will soon look like, there are few Latinos, other than meal servers and parking attendants.


That makes me angry. Even worse, as a Latino and someone with roots here going back to 1912, it makes me sad.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Economic development should be more inclusive.

Small business and property owners across Santa Ana should be included in this city’s future in a role other than food server.

That’s a concept that our all-Latino city council and property owners seem to not share. They seem to even fight it.

Yet they don’t have to.

Consider the current debate over what to name our city’s main business thoroughfare.

Given that some Anglos were offended that it might simply be called by it’s historic name, Calle Cuatro, we opted for a more inclusionary approach advocating for signs that would read: Calle Cuatro/Fourth Street.

Even though I have yet to see those signs, it’s a signal that we can all be part of downtown’s future.

Yet watching the photos from this week’s event, it makes me wonder if at some point, even the name Santa Ana will disappear from this city.

I sure hope our city council and civic leaders prove me wrong.

Sam Romero is retired Santa Ana business owner and former Marine who was based at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. The Romero family has been in Santa Ana since 1912. His parents married in 1920 and had four children, two boys and two girls. Besides shining shoes and selling newspapers as a boy in the 1940s on Fourth Street in front of what is now the Taqueria Guadalajara. In High School, he worked at Neal’s Sporting Goods on the 200 block of East Fourth Street. Later in life, he, his wife and daughter opened a Catholic gift shop, first on Main Street, and then relocated it to the 300 block of East Fourth St, operating it for more than 30 years. Sam has been active in numerous business associations focusing on downtown Santa Ana since the 1980s.

  • Madeleine Spencer

    Like Jane Jacobs stated in her book “The death and Life of Great American Cities”: There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness and disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served (Jacobs, 1992, p.15).”Here is the video that was presented at the Grow Conference showing Santa Ana’s pretended order : Romero is absolutely correct in talking about media representation celebrating what the city demographics is not what developers want it to be.

  • 90degreeanglo

    Señor Ben Dayhoe is 100% correct! Lots of representation.

  • Señor Ben Dayhoe

    There is plenty of Latino representation in Downtown Santa Ana (not bussing tables or attending parking lots), they’re just too busy running their businesses to attend conferences!

    Here’s just a few:
    Joe Castro – Owner, The Barrel Room
    George Mendoza – Owner, American Barbershop
    Ana Serato – Owner, Downtown Sugar
    Gabriel Ruiz – Owner Wursthaus
    Jon Melendez – Owner, MAR
    Jannett Mendoza – Owner, Kutsi Restaurant
    Felix Barron – Owner, KTCHN DTSA
    Ed Perez – Owner, Lola Gaspar
    Yvonne Flores – Gallery Owner, Professional Realtor
    Rudy Cordoba – Owner, Calacas / Calacas Cafe
    Eddie “Q” – State Farm Representative
    Joaquin Martinez – Owner, Elite Fitness Downtown
    Ruben Martinez – Owner, Libreria Martinez
    “JJ” – Owner, Chapter One
    Joey Mendez – Owner, Proof Bar

    Let’s not forget the El Catrin guys, Pattern owner (Oscar, I think), and Taqueria Guadalajara Dudes. All great folks that help make our Downtown multicultural, “Un-Orange County”, and amazing.

    • 90degreeanglo

      You can add Gunther’s to the list and Downtown Donuts that is opening next to Eqeko.

      • Señor Ben Dayhoe


  • nomasillegals

    When people work serving food or parking cars it’s usually because it’s the only job skills they have. My dentist is on Main St in Santa Ana and when I go there I feel like a duck out of water, there are only latino’s.