LA to San Bernardino, Philly, Mexico City: Why Angelenos moved during pandemic


Ana Sheila Victorino traded in a fast-paced LA life for a soul-affirming experience in her hometown of Coyoacán, an area within Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Ana Sheila Victorino.

An estimated 12% of Californians left the state between March 2020 through much of 2021, including thousands of Angelenos looking for a lower cost of living, less traffic, and new opportunities. KCRW talks to three former Angelenos who used the pandemic as an opportunity to reconnect with their roots and lay a foundation for the future. 

That includes Lexi Notabartolo, who moved to Philadelphia after she realized LA would be too expensive to settle down and buy a home.

“This whole region was my mom's great horror story — [although] in some charming ways. She met my father here. But also, she’s from Whittier. You couldn’t get a tortilla here. You got them in cans,” Notabartolo tells KCRW. “There's this really stubborn belief, especially [among] people who are born and raised here like, ‘Yeah, this town’s great. But no one else knows that. So how did you figure it out?’”

Cozette Livingston moved from South Gate to San Bernardino County’s Crestline to spend more time with her son and grandson.

“The highlight of my day is going to check my mail. Then I'll stop at the grocery store for anything I need. And the nice thing is the grocery store is literally across the street from the lake,” she describes. “And when the sun shines on the water. It just gets all sparkly and pretty and everything is so fresh up here. I don't have to worry about traffic where I live. I can take my grandson for a walk and not worry about him getting kidnapped or anything like that. I still don't let him play outside by himself because there are bears here.”

Ana Sheila Victorino moved to Mexico City to reconnect with her dad who died in 2019.

“When my dad passed, the call to move to Mexico really got louder because for me, moving to Mexico and having this experience was a way for me to connect with my dad,” Victorino says. “All the reasons that were getting in the way of me making this happen were slowly getting lifted and the call was getting louder.”

Victorino adds, “So when the pandemic started, the things that I was doing that were in physical locations, we realized they don't need to be in physical locations. We can do this work remotely. So I was like, ‘Oh my god, everything's lining up for me to finally make this happen.’”

The pandemic afforded her the chance to find parts of herself that she felt she was always yearning to get in touch with, including her ability to speak Spanish.

“Spanish is my love language. Spanish is the language that I was first loved in. Spanish is a language that I learned to love in. And that holds a really special place in my heart. I felt like I wasn't fully able to express myself in a language that feels closest to my soul,” Victorino says.