How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The forgotten history of the Filipino laborers who worked with Cesar Chavez

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A mural commemorating the late labor leader Philip Vera Cruz, who worked alongside Cesar Chavez, May 2010

For those closely related to the farm labor movement of the 1960s and 70s, the story of Asian American farm workers and the extent to which these workers were involved in the movement is fairly common knowledge. But for many others familiar with the legacy of labor and civil rights leader César Chávez, whose birthday was celebrated yesterday as a state holiday, the story of the Filipino laborers who worked side by side with him is a piece of near-forgotten history.

The Filipino American culture website featured a film trailer yesterday for a documentary titled "The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the UFW" that tells the story of United Farm Workers of America leaders Larry Itliong, Phillip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, and Andy Imutan, all of whom were instrumental to the farm labor movement.


In the news this morning: Minorities and political influence, a dangerous crossing from North Africa, in the fields on Cesar Chavez Day, mor

America's New Electorate - The Atlantic How the growth of minority populations can reshape the political landscape in the U.S.

Muslim Girl Still Scared After Attack - NBC New York The 13-year-old girl attacked by a 12-year-old male schoolmate endured "months of harassment" from the boy, who was arrested and charged with felony assault.

Migrants headed for Italy die when boats sink - Sydney Morning Herald As North Africans fleeing unrest head north by sea, rescuers have retrieved the bodies of 27 migrants whose boats sank in the Mediterranean.

Judge to hear defense of Arizona's immigration law - Arizona Daily Star The judge considering challenges to Arizona's SB 1070 immigration enforcement law is scheduled to hear arguments Friday over the state legislature's request to join the governor in the defense.


On the trail of the Tapatío Doritos

Photo by Jeremy Brooks/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Last week, I came across a Facebook update from a friend with a photo that made my heart skip a beat. It was a small photo of a bag of Doritos, on the front a familiar and revered image: The smiling man in the sombrero from the label of the Tapatío hot sauce bottle.

Her message:

OMFG!!! I have been waiting a long time for this.

Ditto, sister. L.A.'s own Tapatío hot sauce, the closely-guarded secret of a local Mexican American family business, is a regional obsession. Before it became available nationwide, I remember smuggling it in my carry-on bag to California expats on the east coast, even to a friend who had moved to Europe.

And wisely, after years of creating bizarre flavors that range from the very un-taco-like "Original Taco" and even faux pizza, Frito-Lay recently got wise, apparently, to the fact that many people like to douse the company's chips in Tapatío sauce. Sure, there are flavors like "Flamas," blazing-hot Doritos the deep red color of imaginary hellfire with a lemony tang, but it's no Tapatío sauce. The Tapatío-flavored Doritos - along with Tapatío-flavored Fritos - have only been available recently.


Resistance to the wrecking ball in Boyle Heights' Wyvernwood apartments

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A between-buildings playground at the Wyvernwood complex, February 2011

Just as some Santa Ana residents are battling gentrification that they fear could displace Latino businesses and residents, so are some of the residents of Boyle Heights, especially those in the sprawling 1939 mega-complex known as the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments.

I've written about this place before, a 1,187-unit, 6,000-resident mini-city within a city, so huge it's often mistaken for a housing project. The privately owned complex has housed generations of immigrants in the longtime port of entry that Boyle Heights has traditionally been, starting with European Jewish immigrants and later, multiple generations of Latino families, mostly immigrants from Mexico and their descendants.

Wyvernwood has faced the wrecking ball since early 2008, when its owners announced they'd be razing the aging 70-acre complex, which includes a large amount of green space, to make room for a more dense mixed-use development of rentals, condos and retail, including high-rises. Of the 4,400 planned units, less than 700 would be set aside for affordable housing, according to preservation activists.