The isolation of Calle Cuatro
Calle Cuatro, which was once filled with Latino vendors and Spanish music playing from inside shops, is now dead and silent. Shop windows that were once decorated with beautiful dresses are now empty and hang signs that read, “Please help us save our businesses.” Fourth Street, which was founded in 1869 by William Spurgeon, is one of the most historical locations in Santa Ana. However, in recent years, many of these small Latino owned businesses have been driven out. With a handful of these businesses remaining, many have fought to keep this historic place in Santa Ana alive. However, OCTA’s new streetcar may have been the final nail on the coffin.
The OCTA streetcar project started in 2019 and is set to finish by 2024. The new streetcar has been funded by private investors, the government, and local government, the cost of which totals over $509 million. The streetcar is set to follow a 4.15 mile route that starts on Westminster Avenue and Harbor Boulevard, circles through Fourth and Sixth St., then runs to Santiago Street.
According to OCTA, the streetcar is to provide faster and cleaner transportation to the residents of Santa Ana. Although the street car is to have many benefits for Santa Ana residents, that has not been the case for everyone. Construction of the new streetcar has created an isolated environment for the current businesses located on Fourth St.
Shawn Macawn has owned a small fabric shop in the heart of Downtown Santa Ana for over 32 years. Macawn has shared some concerns about the construction of the streetcar.
“Disaster… this train it really has no purpose. It connects Santa Ana to Garden Grove. It seems that nobody knows what the purpose of this train is. Most of us, the older generation of the street, the Latino catering businesses, we only depend on the foot traffic. And the foot traffic is gone, unfortunately,” said Macawn.
When asked about what the community or the city has done in order to help the small businesses, Macawn expressed that most of the Latino community is nowhere to be found.
“We don’t get any support from the Latino community. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why they’re giving up on their community. I don’t know why they don’t show up on the street and show up to protest, this is unbelievable. This community belongs to the Latinos and they have to take care of their community,” said Macawn.
Macawn also went on to share that he feels that as a community, we should be protesting and bringing awareness about this situation, not only to the city but to others as well.
“There is no action from the community, and unfortunately it is kind of depressing. We have been here for a community for over 30 years, we cater to the community we provide for the community, and it seems that the community was happy with all of us, but now that we need them, there is no support,” said Macawn.
It is no secret that there have been many attempts to drive out Latino owned businesses from Fourth St. for years. Macawn also shared his experience about prior incidents.
“This started about maybe 10-12 years ago, when we had a fight with the city. And unfortunately, they drove away many Latino owned businesses. They’re trying to change the community, unfortunately, and that is not right. We honestly need support from the Latino community right now,” said Macawn.
Minerva Alvarez, the owner of a quinceanera store, also took the time to share her own experience and concerns about the streetcar.
Alvarez has owned and run her business for about 30 years. She shared that business had been slowing down for a couple of years, and the new construction of the streetcar has affected her business even more since the road is completely blocked off.
“I don’t think that the train has any benefits for us, especially for my business. I think this is the worst thing for my business,” said Alvarez.
Although many feel that the streetcar will benefit many of these small businesses over time, Alvarez expressed that she did not know how her business would benefit.
“My business is wedding dresses, quinceanera dresses, and with all the noise and trash the train is going to bring, it will not be good for my business. Maybe for other businesses they will benefit from it, but for me, personally no,” said Alvarez.
Although it may seem convenient for us to tell these small businesses to hang tight or tell them that people could walk to their businesses, it has much more to do with the construction of the streetcar.
Fourth St. has always been a significant place for the Latino community. Fourth St. has been known as a little piece of Mexico in Santa Ana, California. Many of these owners solely depend on their businesses for their livelihood. Once we let go of Fourth St. and no longer care for the community, we will lose it.