By Claire Harlin
Formed in the 1920s by Mexican farmers hired by neighboring ranch owners, La Colonia de Eden Gardens is a wealth of culture, known for its vibrant history and good food.
“Solana Beach is such a desirable community to live in and it’s unique in that it’s got a barrio and nobody knows there’s a barrio here,” said longtime resident Victor Tostado. “It’s a hidden gem.”
But despite the assets La Colonia is known for, Tostado said it has been a constant battle to keep the neighborhood healthy and safe. That’s why he and several other dedicated community members that make up the La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation are holding a community forum on April 30 to address issues such as education, safety and “cultural sensitivity,” Tostado said.
Manny Aguilar, who is also on the foundation and has lived in La Colonia since 1980, said the neighborhood has been plagued by drug use and commerce, especially when he first came to the community.
“It was drug alley. We were saying, ‘We don’t want the next generation hooked on drugs and we need to change the dynamic,’” said Aguilar, adding that even though much has improved through awareness and community policing, the reputation has left a tinge of negativity and possibly a stigma in the community, leaving “institutionalized barriers” that need to be broken down in order for there to be growth, he said.
“A lot of the things happening in this environment start at a very young age,” said Aguilar. “These are very competitive school districts and if kids start behind the eight ball, they remain behind the eight ball.”
To help with this, Aguilar said there needs to be an open dialogue among all stakeholders in the community, and that is why leaders from the City of Solana Beach, Mano a Mano Foundation, Santa Fe Christian Schools, Mira Costa Community College, the Sheriff’s Department and many others have been invited to participate in the forum, which will be held at the La Colonia Park Community Room from 6 to 8 p.m. The forum is open to the public and will place a huge focus on the youth of La Colonia, who will be the next leaders of the community.
In the works are a number of youth recreational and educational programs that will be discussed, and the foundation wants feedback from the community on how to make La Colonia a better place. Community leaders will also be on hand to answer questions.
Tostado said, “For one reason or another, the migrant community may not feel like part of the community.” It is this isolation that the foundation hopes to address, among issues such as language barriers and education.
“This is one community that needs to be united in the most positive way,” said Tostado. “We need to break down the institutionalized attitudes about how people view the community and how the community views each other. It’s an affluent community and at times it is difficult for some to relate to the entire community. Some people are frankly in the shadows.”
The April 30 Community Forum will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the La Colonia Park Community Room. For more information, contact Manny Aguilar at 619-672-5872.