How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Home, sort of: A 'Mexican gringo' in Mexico City

Among the many writers appearing this weekend on panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held this year at USC, is one whose book I've been particularly enjoying lately.

In 2007, former LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times staff writer Daniel Hernandez set off to live in Mexico City, a place he had visited after college but otherwise had little personal connection with. A Mexican American from San Diego, he was intrigued by the "impossible megacity," as he describes it, a cultural capital that is woefully undervalued in the United States.

The result of his move is "Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century," published earlier this year. The book starts out in December 2007 as Hernandez participates in the annual Virgen of Guadalupe pilgrimage to La Villa in the north of the city, a mix of religion and revelry. "This is my first real test, my welcoming," he writes. "Not as a Catholic, but as a paisano."

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Five years after the 'Great American Boycott,' what's changed?

Photo by jeromebot/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Marchers in downtown Los Angeles on May 1, 2006

Sunday marks five years since the massive immigration reform marches of May 1, 2006. It was that year, amid a wave of activism, that May 1 first became closely associated with immigration rallies.

Things have changed quite a bit since, something I discussed in detail during a recent segment on KPCC's Madeleine Brand Show. But with this year's march coming up in two days, it's worth revisiting the history of the May 1 marches, as well as what to expect this year.

A little background: May 1 is traditionally known as International Workers' Day, celebrated as a "labor day" holiday in some parts of the world. In 2006, at the height of a large immigrant rights movement that revolved around talk of broad immigration reforms and guest workers during the Bush administration, immigrant rights advocates wishing to point out the connection between immigrant workers and the nation's economic engine organized what was referred to as the "Great American Boycott." The goal was for people to abstain from buying or selling anything, working or even attending school, anything that could demonstrate the power of immigrants.

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In the news this morning: Secure Communities under scrutiny, the other L.A. book festival this weekend, remembering the 1992 riots, more

Immigrants' fingerprinting program under scrutiny - Associated Press California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren is pushing for an investigation into whether Homeland Security employees lied to the public, local governments and Congress about the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.

Immigration Reform Won't Happen Without GOP Support, Obama Tells Latino Celebrities in a Meeting - Fox News Latino Comprehensive immigration reform doesn't stand a chance without Republican support, President Obama said in a White House meeting with Latino celebrities on Thursday.

A New Cultural Center Brings Mexican American Voices to L.A.'s Birthplace - GOOD The magazine's review of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a new downtown museum highlighting Mexican American history in Los Angeles.

Big LeaLA Spanish-language book fair in LA this weekend - 89.3 KPCC Coinciding with the Los Angeles Times book fair at USC this weekend is the LeaLA festival, put on by the organizers of the prestigious Guadalajara International Book Fair, who will raise their tent at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the first time.

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Secrets of the Latin American supermarket

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Last week, Multi-American kicked off a series of informal guides to the ethnic supermarket, the mega-bodegas of all flavors that have become part of the regional landscape as Southern California’s immigrant enclaves have grown and evolved. Guest blogger Lory Tatoulian took us on a tour of a Super King store, part of a warehouse grocery chain that caters to Los Angeles' vast Armenian American community. This week I'll be your guide, touring one of the region's many superstores catering to Latinos. So let's go.


The Latin American supermarket has been a familiar sight in Southern California for decades. When I was a kid, my family shopped for familiar products in the small carnicerías of Huntington Park and Bell, but I remember when things began changing. One of the first incarnations of the Latino warehouse store was a Vons-owned chain called Tianguis - a Nahuatl word for an open public market  - that opened a store near us.

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