How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A list of the Triangle fire's immigrant victims reveals how little has changed

Photo by Dennis Crowley/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A sidewalk memorial in New York to Sonia Wisotsky, 17, one of the Triangle factory fire victims, March 25, 2010

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a blaze that killed 146 New York garment workers, most of them young immigrant women, and is credited with sparking the modern labor movement. Workers were trapped in the building, unable to escape to the stairwells because doors were locked. A fire escape collapsed. Desperate, many of them jumped, falling several stories to their deaths.

The fire was not only New York's biggest workplace disaster of its time, but the greatest tragedy to hit the city's communities of then-recent arrivals from Europe. Most of the workers were Italian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, the vast majority women, many with families. They put in long hours and scraped by with meager wages, much like immigrant garment workers today.

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Superheroes needed: Power Rangers join Japan quake relief drive

Photo by Álvaro Felipe/Flickr (creative Commons)


In the two weeks since northeastern Japan was devastated by a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami, among the growing list of donors to relief efforts have been the Japanese companies that have operations in Southern California, even some in Baja California.

The latest on this list is Bandai, the toy company and purveyor of Japanese superhero action figures, most famously the Power Rangers.

Donors who stop by Bandai America's headquarters in Cypress between noon and 7 p.m. today for a drive-through fundraiser will get to meet characters from the Samurai Power Rangers, Ben 10 and Swampfire, Lassie the dog and Tamagotchi. Goodie bags are promised, too.

The Bandai drive takes place at 5551 Katella Avenue in Cypress and will benefit American Red Cross relief efforts. Cash and check donations (not food or clothes) are being accepted. Bandai and several related businesses, among them the entertainment company Saban, are part of the effort. Bandai America plans to make a matching contribution for personal donations.

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In the news this morning: Latino population growth and politics, 100 years after the Triangle fire, Muslim civil rights hearing, more

Census data show Hispanic boom. How it could impact US politics. - Christian Science Monitor The Latino population in the United States grew 43 percent since 2000 to 50.5 million, accounting for more than half the nation's population growth and potentially affecting future elections.

The Triangle fire: A blaze that woke a nation - CNN Then as now, the garment industry is made up of immigrant workers. Of the 146 who died in the fire 100 years ago today, the majority were young Italian and European Jewish immigrants.

Senate to hold hearing on Muslim civil rights - Reuters The March 29 hearing is being held in response to recent incidents targeting Muslims, such as Koran burnings and controversies over the building of mosques.

San Gabriel ‘maternity tourism’ operation reignites birthright citizenship debate - MULTI-AMERICAN After San Gabriel city officials shut down a makeshift maternity ward catering to foreign nationals, talk among politicians and others has gone back to restricting who gets U.S. citizenship at birth.

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San Gabriel 'maternity tourism' operation reignites birthright citizenship debate

Photo by Qi Wei Fong/Flickr (Creative Commons)


A week after Arizona legislators voted down several immigration bills, two of them intended to force an end to automatic U.S. citizenship for children born in this country, the debate over birthright citizenship has a new epicenter. This time, it's the San Gabriel Valley.

The Pasadena Star-News reported this week that San Gabriel city officials shut down a townhouse illegally converted into a makeshift maternity ward, where investigators found several women who were Chinese nationals and their newborns. A code enforcement officer was quoted as saying that it "played a role in the maternity tourism trade which caters to wealthy Taiwanese, Chinese and Koreans."

As the news has spread, California politicians have used the incident to get back into the birthright citizenship debate. In comments posted on news sites, members of the public have also sounded off on the topic, which has been in and out of the headlines for months after federal and state legislators announced plans to introduce anti-birthright citizenship bills earlier this year.

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Ethnic food tastes worth acquiring: Nopales

Photo by Ron Dollette/Flickr (Creative Commons)


I'll admit that there's nothing terribly unconventional about nopales, the fourth item in this week's series of unsung ethnic delicacies. Nopales, or nopalitos, are made from the cooked paddles of the prickly pear cactus and are standard fare in Mexico, and thus in Southern California.

But the items we're talking about here are not necessarily unusual, just unsung. I hadn't thought of including nopales, but a note from a reader this week reminded me of why they're not particularly popular with those who didn't grow up with them: "babas," or in English, slime.

Which is a crying shame, because when prepared well, the slime is gone and the nopales are delicious, with a tangy taste and a texture not unlike green beans. Yadhira De Leon wrote on KPCC's Facebook page that they are are "good for you and filling."

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