Gold Line riders tour nacimientos

Heather Bleemers had never spent much time on Los Angeles’ Eastside, despite being an urban planning graduate student at USC.

But on Sunday, Bleemers ventured from her usual stamping grounds. She and about 50 others toured the area’s Nativity scenes, known as nacimientos, taking advantage of the new Gold Line extension.

Unlike previous tours by car or bike, this year’s event depended entirely on public transportation.

“We live in Silver Lake and . . . don’t go outside that area much,” said Bleemers, who took the tour with her husband. “But the [Gold Line] is so easy to ride that it’s been a revelation.”

That was organizer James Rojas’ plan. The Boyle Heights-born urban planner hopes the new extension from downtown through the Eastside to East Los Angeles, which opened last November and cost almost $900 million, will encourage interest and development there.

“The line removes a barrier to the Eastside,” he said.

Many members of the tour said they’d spent little time east of downtown and were even less familiar with nacimientos. (For the record, the scenes, constructed on lawns and parking lots or in living rooms, often stay up until Jan. 6, the date when the three kings were said to have visited Jesus. Some stay up longer, according to Rojas.)


“I think of this more as a cultural tour, not another thing that has to do with Christmas,” said Cyrus Helf, who walked to the tour from a friend’s house in Silver Lake to help promote clean transportation.

The first stop was an elaborate scene on a fenced-in front lawn on Clarence Street, off the Pico-Aliso stop. While several members of the group stopped to get sweets at an ice-cream truck, the rest admired the dozens of plastic figurines on the lawn.

“It seems to get bigger every year,” Rojas said.

“Hey, that’s a real stuffed rooster. It’s got real feathers,” one visitor said.

Another house, near the Mariachi Plaza station, was adorned with flowers and Mexican and U.S. flags.

Near the back wall of a parking lot stood what Rojas called the area’s largest Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine. To reach the nacimiento there, the group had to cut through El Mercado, the bustling market where vendors sell mole and other specialties. Some of the sightseers lingered, clearly wishing to try the fare.

“We’re going to have to come back,” said Chris Martins, Bleemer’s husband. Martins and Bleemers got their Mexican food fix at the fourth and last stop of the tour, the King Taco stand near the Maravilla station. The restaurant owners had constructed a Nativity scene, accompanied by a nearly 40-foot Christmas tree, in a parking lot across the street.

Rojas had included more stops on previous tours but limited this year’s to destinations close to the Gold Line so children could attend.

“It’s hard for them to bike around the city,” he said.

“But this is just a taste,” Rojas said as he stood in line to place his order at King Taco. “There’s plenty more for them to see out here.”