How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

RIP Le Van Ba, the Vietnamese sandwich king

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The storefront of a Lee's Sandwiches in Westminster, August 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The storefront of a Lee's Sandwiches in Westminster, August 2010


If there is anything good that came out of French colonialism in Indochina, it's the bánh mì, otherwise known as the Vietnamese sandwich. And the man who helped popularize it in California was Le Van Ba.

Le, the founder of the widespread Lee's Sandwiches chain, died last week at 79. The headline of his obituary in the San Jose Mercury News, his hometown paper, called him "the Ray Kroc of Vietnamese sandwiches."

Which is appropriate. A successful sugar planter in his native Vietnam, Le began the sandwich business with his family after starting over as an immigrant in San Jose. According to the Mercury-News story, the business really took off in the last decade after Le took the advice of his U.S.-born grandson, who suggested he adopt American fast food-style business principles. The chain expanded to where there are now close to 40 of the sandwich shops in five states, most of them in California.

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Cholagate! Reaction, fallout over the identity of 'Ask A Chola'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBXV6rm97yQ

The scandal that has erupted in recent days over the unmasking of video blogger/minor web celeb "Ask A Chola" as, well, not a chola has provoked impassioned reactions from detractors and supporters of the pseudo-chola performance artist. It has also spawned many a discussion about what constitutes art and at what point racial satire becomes offensive, and if there is any leeway at all when it's performed in "brownface."

In a nutshell: The vlogger known as Chola has starred for the past few years in sometimes amusing, sometimes confusing, sometimes slightly disturbing videos that she posts on her website, askachola.com. There she expounds on everything from "chola culture" to Star Wars, pirates, health care and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in an a pseudo-Latino/Eastside brogue, her face hidden behind a green bandanna.

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Interesting take on Disney workers' hijab and the mainstreaming of Muslim culture

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Intern Noor Abdallah in modified Disney uniform

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote about Noor Abdallah and Imane Boudial, the two Muslim women working at the Disneyland resort in Anaheim who were pressuring their employer for the right to wear hijab at work.

In his column yesterday, the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik wrote about the issue again with some interesting perspective on Disney: Given the company's massive influence on entertainment and mainstream culture in general, could its actions help pave the way toward the mainstreaming of Muslim culture and standards of dress?

As an example of Disney's cultural evolution, Hiltzik cited in his column Disneyland's one-time ban on same-sex dancing, which in 1984 led to the eviction of two gay men from the park. The company lifted the ban the next year following a court challenge.

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287(g) basics: How the federal-local immigration partnership works

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009

Last night, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to extend the county’s participation in a partnership between Sheriff’s Department officials and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement known as 287(g), which allows deputies to screen people who land in county jail for immigration status.

Just what is 287(g)? The federal program derives its odd name from a 1996 amendment to the immigration law that authorized it. From the ICE website:

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 287(g), performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and employees, to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This authorizes the secretary of DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers.

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OC in color: The ethnicity map

Art by Eric Fischer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A color-coded ethnicity map of Orange County, based on census data

Last month I posted a color-coded map of the Los Angeles area based on race and ethnicity, the work of artist Eric Fischer, who has created a series of similar maps of U.S. cities based on 2000 Census data.

This map of Orange County, also by Fischer, illustrates the ethnic makeup of the county thus, per an explanation by Fischer on his Flickr page:

I was astounded by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides and wanted to see what other cities looked like mapped the same way. To match his map, Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people.

Specific cities within Orange County can be identified by dragging the cursor over the map.

The map is especially interesting in light of how the county's demographic changes have become a factor in the race for the 47th Congressional District, which encompasses the cities of cities of Garden Grove and Santa Ana and takes in parts of Fullerton and Anaheim. The changing face of Orange County had a role in the 1996 defeat of incumbent Bob Dornan, a Republican, by Loretta Sanchez, a Latina and a Democrat. Now Van Tran, a Vietnamese-American and a Republican, is vying for Sanchez's seat.

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