How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Video: Running migrant family guerilla art in L.A., pre-Banksy

A post yesterday on a pre-Banksy artistic rendering of the running migrant family freeway sign - one of innumerable pre-Banksy versions, actually - is now in turn inspiring art submissions.

I received this YouTube video of an early-morning guerilla art sprint involving the running family last May 1, shot by a USC film student. Multiple prints of the running characters were installed around the city, dangled over freeway overpasses in the hazy, subdued golden light that dawn brings to a smoggy town. Shaky camera, great footage.

As mentioned in previous posts, the familiar image started life as a caution sign along San Diego-area freeways in the early 1990s, a warning for motorists to watch for pedestrians at a time when smugglers were leading their charges across lanes to evade immigration authorities. Many migrants were hit and killed. Long before British street artist Banksy's much-covered "Caution" stencil went up (and went down) in Los Angeles recently, a number of mostly Latino artists in the U.S. had been claiming the image as protest art. The characters have been reinterpreted as everything from Pilgrims to college graduates, even as the Holy Family.

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A sneak peek at one 'Corrido of L.A.' entry

Art by Gajin Fujita, courtesy of LACMA

In late September, I wrote about an unusual songwriting contest for the "The Corrido of L.A."

The contest, put together by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the University of Southern California, encouraged 7th through 12th-grade students from throughout the city to write and submit songs in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style that best captured the essence of Los Angeles, in any language. Contest judges would include the band Ozomatli, which was to perform the top ten entries in a concert this month.

The deadline for submissions was in mid-November, and since then, KCET's website has provided a sneak peek at one of the songs submitted. The station's Departures hyper-local project recently posted audio and video from a group of students at the Los Angeles Leadership Academy who, calling themselves Los Geekz, have produced a haunting, stylized rap about urban life in "the sickest part of Cali," as they put it. The group calls the piece "Change is Coming," and while it sounds nothing like traditional corrido, no matter.

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Immigrants and the 'new maturity' of L.A.

A report released last week by Cal State Los Angeles' Pat Brown Institute contains an interesting section about immigration and the "new maturity" of Los Angeles, examining the interwoven relationship between immigrants who settle in Los Angeles, the children they raise here, and the city's changing face as native-born Angelenos become the majority and the city's post-World War II baby boom generation reaches retirement age.

The multi-part report is called Los Angeles 2010: State of the City, and also includes sections on issues such as water use, transportation and local politics. In a lecture today at the University of Southern California, report co-author Dowell Myers, a professor and urban growth specialist with USC's School of Policy, Planning, and Development, lectured on his research for the immigration portion.

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