El Sereno: Where History Meets Community

Michael Wynne
 | April 9, 2024

Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the United States. So, naturally, it’s full of cultural gems that only the locals know about. Luckily, a few Los Angelenos are willing to share their finds with the outside world. One of those well-kept secrets is a historic neighborhood just miles from the city’s downtown, El Sereno, where history meets community.

Right in the heart of Los Angeles, El Sereno sits with a diverse history that spans centuries.

But how did this diverse enclave earn its name, and what stories lie beneath its serene façade? Join us as we delve deep into the historic tale of El Sereno.

El Sereno: Where History Meets Community

Long before Spanish settlers arrived, the land that now cradles El Sereno was home to the Tongva people, the original people of Los Angeles. Their village, Otsungna, stood along the banks of a stream — later named Arroyo Rosa de Castilla — which flowed east of present-day Guardia and Farnsworth avenues.

A trail connected Otsungna to the village of Yangna on the Los Angeles River, continuing onward to the site of the future Mission San Gabriel. This trail would eventually become Mission Road.

“For thousands of years, the Tongva turned to these chaparral foothills and mountains during spring and summer months for food,” The Los Angeles Times writes. “Its canyons served as trading routes, connecting the flourishing communities of the Los Angeles Basin with Native communities from the Mojave desert.”

El Sereno’s Roots and Culture

In 1769, the Spanish overland Portola Expedition ventured near El Sereno. Two years later, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was founded, encompassing the area that would become El Sereno.

A century later, as railroads and jobs arrived, El Sereno began to flourish as a working class community. Families put down roots, and the neighborhood evolved.

“The influx of new residents created a need for community facilities, such as churches, schools, and a social center,” the El Sereno Historical Society explains.

Today, El Sereno’s community is over 80 percent Latino, with community bonds and cultural heritage.

Non-residents may recognize its streets from favorite films, music videos, and television shows, including AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead.

But beyond the glitz, it remains a place full of local pride.

Where to Eat: Cheos Tacos

Now, let’s talk about food. If you’re in El Sereno and craving a taste of something truly authentic, then venture over to 5429 Alhambra Ave. There you’ll find the Cheos Tacos food truck.

For nearly 30 years, Cheos Tacos has been the go-to spot in the Sereno area, serving up exceptional Mexican food. This family-run establishment has seen three generations pour their heart and soul into its legacy, creating a culinary experience like no other.

Their fame extends beyond the neighborhood, with even celebrities like George Lopez choosing Cheos to cater their events.

Renowned for their mouthwatering salsas that perfectly complement an array of meat options, Cheos Tacos is a must-visit.

Celebrities aren’t the only ones who love this family-run food truck. Their Instagram page is full of love.

“I live in North California. This is our spot to go when we go visit mom,” the_one_and_only_mari writes on the food truck’s Instragam page.

And soylatialupe writes, “I’ve been going to Cheos for years now … since your papa started it, the quality has not changed …”

As for the best items on the menu, the Nuestro Stories LA-based team recommends the carne asada tacos or burritos with any of their sauces. 

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