How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Introducing the cultural mashup dictionary: Our first term, 1.5 generation

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Just like Southern California’s culture is shaped by immigrants and their descendants, so is its language. There is an evolving lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined here and elsewhere in the U.S. where immigrants have influenced the English language, and it has influenced them.

And it’s worth compiling into its own dictionary of sorts. Today I’m introducing the first entry, a term I use often: 1.5 generation.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:

The term 1.5 generation or 1.5G refers to people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens. They earn the label the "1.5 generation" because they bring with them characteristics from their home country but continue their assimilation and socialization in the new country. Their identity is thus a combination of new and old culture and tradition.

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The gripping tale of a garment industry slave

Photo by Sebastia Giralt/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Roman-era slave shackes at a museum in England, August 2010

Human trafficking into the United States is often associated in the public consciousness with the sex industry, and for good reason. But the trafficking of workers, including factory workers in the garment and food processing industries, is also relatively commonplace.

Today CNN's anti-slavery Freedom Project posted the harrowing testimony of Flor Molina, a Mexican woman who in 2001 was enslaved as a garment worker.

Desperate for money after losing her baby because she could not afford health care back home, Molina began taking sewing classes in order to find work. It was there that she fell victim to trafficking, after a trafficker approached her sewing teacher "because she knew a lot of women who knew how to sew and would be desperate to come to the United States." Molina recounts:

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In the news this morning: Census lawsuit, more minority children, another anti-birthright citizenship bill, Dream Act protest, more

Group sues over census: Mexican-American caucus says count missed Hispanics - El Paso Times A group of Latino lawmakers in has filed suit in Texas, alleging an undercount of the state's Latino population, particularly those who live in colonias along the border.

Mexico under siege: Two Americans fatally shot at the border had moved to Mexico for economic reasons, boss says - Los Angeles Times Sergio Luna and Kevin Romero were making an early-morning commute to work in the U.S., as many do, when they were shot, their employer says. They had moved to the Mexican side of the border to save money, as other Americans have.

Census Shows Hispanic, Asian Children Surging - Wall Street Journal In 10 states, white children are now a minority among their peers. In 23 states, minorities now make up more than 40% of the child population.

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The hunt for Red Tapatío Chips, concluded

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Empty bag, chips gone

So the hunt for Tapatío hot sauce flavored Doritos that I embarked on last week has come to a happy conclusion. Over the past few days, several gracious readers shared chip-sighting locations that ranged from a gas station in Los Feliz to the Superior supermarket in Lynwood.

And in the end, the day before I planned to hit the Lynwood store, I found them during a weekend trip to San Diego at a gas station. Just like that.

So how were they? The chips had a fair amount of heat, to start with, which is a good thing. The powdery coating was the right shade of Tapatío red-orange. And the taste did have that distinctive vinegary Tapatío tang (even though vinegar isn't a listed ingredient in the sauce).

There was also an oddly familiar taste that had nothing to do with Tapatío, and I realized why after reading a Frito-Lay press release today, which explains that the "distinct Tapatío taste is added to top-selling Doritos Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips to make Doritos Tapatío." Aha, that's the taste - Nacho Cheese. Not bad, but it distracts the palate a bit from the Tapatío-fest.

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What is your most awkward language moment?

It's been well documented by now that growing up bilingual can be good for you. But getting there? Survivors of an English-learner upbringing can attest that it's not always an easy road, and that the bumps along it - some amusing, some awkward - continue well into adulthood.

I began learning English in kindergarten, learning it at the same time my immigrant parents did. Because I was so young, I quickly mastered the American accent, as did my immigrant peers. But one of the pitfalls of growing up in a household where everyone is learning English is that along the way, you pick up many of the mispronunciations common to English learners.

These mispronunciations vary depending on who is learning the language. For Spanish and Tagalog speakers, for example, the double "ee" of "sheep" is often pronounced like the "i" in "ship," and so forth. I got over the obvious mistakes fairly quickly.

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