How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

American snapshot: Boyle Heights

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sticker message spotted on the freeway, February 13, 2011

The stickers on a truck driving along the 101 interchange through Boyle Heights get at the long-running debate over how to identify those of us with ancestry from Latin America: Latino, Hispanic, or simply as from wherever it is our roots are, like Mexicano?

An older thread on one chat board had some interesting and occasionally raw takes, including this one: "Hispanics are things and people of Spain. We are not things or people of Spain."

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In the news this morning: A different Arizona immigration bill, MALDEF president a possibility for CA high court, Persian classes at USC, mo

Hearing set on bill requiring hospitals to check patients' immigration status - Arizona Republic The state senate bill would require hospitals to confirm that someone is in the country legally before the person is admitted for non-emergency care, and that if not, that the hospital notify immigration officials.

Thomas A. Saenz: Governor considers naming a civil rights activist to the state Supreme Court - Los Angeles Times Saenz is president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and led the legal fight against Proposition 187 in the 1990s.

Illegal immigration: Conservative Inland Empire cities move to require E-Verify - Los Angeles Times The inland communities pushing for tight immigration rules in the workplace are especially hard-hit by the recession, with a high rate of foreclosures and unemployment.

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Five Valentine meals to share with your amor

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.


Forget momentarily about chocolate, oysters and the rest of the usual food suggestions that accompany Valentine’s Day, about aphrodisiacs and expensive dinners. As a favor to lovestruck foodies in the Los Angeles area, a few colleagues and I recently came up with an unscientific but well-loved list of some of the best date-friendly offerings to come out of our immigrant enclaves.

Five favorites:

Ethiopian There’s something very intimate about sharing a meal from the same dish, eaten with your hands. The spongy injera bread serves as a both plate and utensil with which to scoop up savory stews, called wot, and other dishes, making the meal a tactile experience. The food itself is fragrant, seasoned with garlic, ginger and other spices.

One place to find it: Nyala at 1076 South Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 936-5918

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'It kind of took me by surprise:' Egyptian American voices

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Patrons watched Al Jazeera updates from Egypt last night at the Nubia Cafe in Anaheim, February 10, 2011

Last night, in one of the crowded hookah lounges that dot an Anaheim neighborhood known as Little Arabia, I came across a table of Egyptian immigrants tensely watching Al Jazeera via satellite, a group of friends grumbling over a shared smoke and many cups of hibiscus tea.

They were angry and frustrated, having hoped for a resignation announcement from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak yesterday that turned, instead, into a declaration that he planned to stay in power. But not for long. This morning, those who had managed to sleep awoke to the news they had hoped for: Amid mounting protests, with hundreds of thousands crowding Cairo's Tahrir Square and unrest throughout Egypt, Mubarak finally resigned, ceding power to the military.

Since then, I've caught up with several of the same people I spoke with last night. Today is a new day, they said, and they are elated. For some, mixed in with the joy is a bit of fear of the unknown, magnified by distance as they watch the country they grew up in, and where many of their loved ones still live, begin the difficult transition toward what they hope will be genuine democracy.

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American snapshot: Egyptian pride in Anaheim

Photo by Shirley Jahad/KPCC

Mohamad Said celebrates outside a bakery on Brookhurst Avenue in Anaheim, a stretch dubbed the "Gaza Strip" for its many businesses catering to Middle Eastern immigrants. February 11, 2011

Said, 28, told KPCC reporter Shirley Jahad this morning that his family was in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and that "the biggest flag of Egypt is in his heart."

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