Los Angeles is famous — maybe infamous — for not preserving its past. On The Frame, we’ll occasionally visit cultural landmarks that are no longer around in a series called “Gone, Not Forgotten.” In this first installment, singer Perla Batalla takes us to the site of a record store that was once owned by her parents.
We're standing in Santa Monica, at Pier and Lincoln, which was the location of my parents' record shop when I was growing up, Discoteca Batalla. It's kind of a big deal [because] I haven't been here for over 20 years. Discoteca Batalla was not just a record store, it was a hub for the Latino community.
Truly a family affair
They opened in the late '60s. Of course, on a regular basis my mother would have been there. And also I worked there all the time as a little girl. My mother trusted me completely. By the time I was 10 years old, I could run the store by myself. You walked in and there were records everywhere. My father built the furniture that the LPs were in.
A place for community
Sometimes on the weekends ... out front there would be a full mariachi in their costumes...and hundreds of people would gather down the street. My mother would make food for strangers to just come in off the street and listen to great music. And because my father was a DJ, he could get some pretty famous groups here to play for nothing. It was pretty amazing.
Filling the customers' needs
People really struggled, they struggled with loneliness, being away from home. They struggled with money. They obviously wanted to support their family. The economy was very bad in Mexico. And Discoteca Batalla made them feel like they could be home for a second. Farmworkers, people who worked in people's houses would come. Restaurant workers. But famous people came too. Bobby Vinton, who was a famous singer then, would come and ask my mother, "What songs should I be listening to, because I need to record in Spanish." Because Eydie Gorme's record with Trio Los Panchos had been so famous that now a lot of other people were looking for this music.
The matriarch of the store
My mom, Barbara Batalla, she ran the store. She was from Buenos Aires, she was Argentine. She met my father here, who was a Mexican. He came to the States and joined the Army and got his citizenship that way. But she ran the store. She was blonde-haired, blue eyes, and they called her Güera [light-skinned]. Mom was sort of the town gossip and also the town therapist. The Mexican families who were here, away from the other parts of their families in Mexico, just making money and sending it home. Mom was always talking with them, she would help them mail things home. She was very funny. I think she brightened everyone's day.
On the changes that led to the end of Discoteca Batalla
The huge stores had opened that carried enormous amounts of records and they had all of the Spanish-language music that people were buying. And my mother just couldn't keep up anymore. When I was growing up, there was a huge Mexican community here and it seems to have been pushed out by Hollywood and the wealthy. So that makes me sad. But on the other hand, things do have to progress and change. And I'm OK with that. But I'm really glad to see that the building hasn't been torn down. It's still there. It brings back a lot of wonderful memories.
Perla Batalla named one of her albums after her parents’ record store. Her recordings are available through iTunes.