How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

At LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the questions are on the floor

Last weekend I paid a visit to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the new museum chronicling Mexican American history and life in Los Angeles that opened Saturday.

The museum's downtown location is itself noteworthy: It sits across from Olvera Street near the city's birthplace - so close, in fact, that construction turned up the bones of more than a hundred early residents from a cemetery believed to have been exhumed in the mid-1800s.

The museum pays worthy tribute to early Angeleños, and the Californios and Mexicanos whose history has at times felt close to lost as waves of newcomers arrived and reinvented Southern California. Its interactive displays also highlight the more recent and familiar history of Mexican Americans in the West, from the Chicano civil rights movement to the farm workers' labor struggle in the Central Valley.

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A candlelit rally in L.A. as Dream Act vote nears

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010


With a vote on the Dream Act expected as early as tomorrow, enthusiasm mixed with jangled nerves tonight at a candlelight rally held by supporters in downtown Los Angeles.

Close to two hundred people showed up outside La Placita Church near Olvera Street, some wearing caps and gowns, many holding votives and picket signs. Clergy leaders that included Cardinal Roger Mahony, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, led participants in prayer.

"We are walking with you, and we will be with you until this is accomplished," Mahony told the crowd.

It may take a while. A vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who attend college or join the military, could take place in both the Senate and the House as early as tomorrow. However, chances appears slim for the proposed legislation. This is particularly true in the Senate, where it has failed to win the necessary Republican support to pass, even after a tightened version of the bill was introduced last week.

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