How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

From 'The Good Earth' to 'Akira:' White actors, non-white roles

Photo by Fotographia Guerilla/Flickr (Creative Commons)


A Hollywood casting controversy has been gathering steam lately, not because there is anything particularly new at its core, but because there isn't. It involves the casting of white actors in non-white roles, something that has been happening for decades and is not, on its face, much of a surprise. The surprising thing is that it's still happening in 2011.

The film in question is an adaptation of the Japanese science-fiction manga series Akira, which was made into an animated film in 1988. Last week, Deadline New York posted a short list of the actors who had received scripts for the live action film project.

For the role one of the lead characters, Tetsuo, on the list were "Twilight" vampire/heartthrob Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, and James McAvoy. Actors receiving scripts for the role of another lead character, Kaneda, were Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix.

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Will Latino-led redevelopment in Santa Ana ultimately rob it of its Latino-ness?

Photo by Joe Wolf/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Fourth Street in downtown Santa Ana, January 2011

Last night I sat in on the live taping of AirTalk's segment today on the gentrification battle in Santa Ana, a city I worked in years ago that's been through some changes since, and is poised for more.

The gist: Plans are afoot to redevelop the Orange County seat's downtown commercial area surrounding Fourth Street, a strip that for years has attracted stores that cater to the city's predominantly Latino residents, most of them immigrants from Mexico and their descendants.

And it's the descendants, it turns out, who are pushing the redevelopment agenda. The city's all-Latino council wants, as one city leader described it yesterday, to "diversify" the mix of businesses downtown, which right now leans toward the mom-and-pop and attracts first-generation customers.

"I want to shop here," said Carlos Bustamante, a city council member and "born and raised" native of Santa Ana, as he described himself. "I don't want to have to leave my city to go buy a suit."

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In the news this morning: Muslim civil rights hearing, ethnonyms, Latinos and organ donation, deported child coming home, more

Durbin Examines Muslim Civil Rights Violations, King Calls Hearing Nonsense - Fox News Muslims are accused of not being "real Americans," Sen. Dick Durbin said today during a hearing held to address Muslim civil rights issues; the hearing was criticized by Rep. Peter King, who held a recent hearing on the threat of radicalization in the U.S.

Barack Obama still hopeful on immigration - Politico During a Washington, D.C. forum on Latinos and education, Obama told the predominantly Latino audience that he’s hopeful an immigration overhaul bill will be able to pass Congress soon.

What’s in an ethnonym? - Being Latino Interesting piece on the words used to refer to people of a certain ethnic group, such as “Latino” and “Hispanic.”

Many Hispanics hesitant about organ donation - Reuters The fear comes partly from religious beliefs associated with Catholicism, that "the person will not be able to get into heaven because their body will not be whole."

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The award-winning reporter who could have been deported

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

"Educación," Luis Genaro Garcia

A remarkable story that made the rounds over the weekend is that of Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Vives, who with colleague Jeff Gottlieb recently won the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for uncovering the Bell political corruption scandal. He is now a contender for a Pulitzer Prize.

In the latest issue of Orange Coast magazine, columnist and former Times journalist Shawn Hubler - who once employed Vives' mother - told the story of the kid she knew first as her nanny's son:

Her son was a 17-year-old high school student then. Quiet. Polite. Smart, too—college-smart, we’d tell the nanny, who’d just smile. Proud, we thought.

He was about six months shy of his 18th birthday when she told us the real story: Her son had been born in Guatemala and brought into the country as a little boy. She had left him with his grandma, had saved every spare cent to pay the coyote. For the first six years of his life, she’d scarcely seen him; when she had swept him into her arms, he barely recognized her. She’d never told him that his papers had expired, that he was here illegally. She had assumed they were all going back to Guatemala. Now, though, she was reading that her citizenship wasn’t enough, that at 18, he could be deported. Her boy, she said, desperately wanted to go to college.

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Readers recommend their own ethnic food tastes worth acquiring

Photo by snowpea&bokchoi/Flickr (Creative Commons_

Love it or hate it, a serving of nattō.

Thanks to everyone who has chimed in on a post from last Friday on the unsung delicacies of ethnic cuisines, those dishes, drinks, fruit and other flavors that may not seem like delicacies to those who didn't grow up with them, but are worth sharing and trying.

The post Friday featured a list of five items, four of them culled from suggestions. Over the weekend, more suggestions have rolled in. So much food. Where to start?

I'll begin by addressing a comment from one reader, Cam, that made an interesting and valid point: "All foods are ethnic cuisines. EVERYONE has an ethnicity."

That's true. And in this country, unless you consider native staples like frybread, it's also true that just about every dish hails from elsewhere, even the humble hot dog. The idea was to gather a list of familiar tastes from Southern California's vast mix of immigrant cultures that have yet to make it to the mainstream American palate, or least find wide acceptance there. To date, thankfully, there is no such thing as a McGuac avocado shake. In a hundred years, who knows?

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