How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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.


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?


In the news this morning: The challenges to state anti-illegal immigration bills, StoryCorps in town, Muslim screenwriters, Cesar Chavez Day

Groups target states' illegal-immigration bills - USA Today Latino groups, business associations, farm bureaus, civil rights organizations and lawyers have come together to craft a state-by-state attack against the proposals.

NYC alleges major U.S. Census undercount - UPI The city says the population in its boroughs was vastly undercounted, especially immigrants.

Readers speak out on Senate's anti-Muslim bigotry hearing - On Politics: Covering the US Congress, Governors, and the 2010 Election - USA Today What readers are telling the newspaper as the U.S. Senate prepares for a hearing tomorrow on anti-Muslim discrimination.

StoryCorps Griot project records oral histories of LA’s African American community - 89.3 KPCC The documentary project StoryCorps is in Los Angeles for the next month to record African American oral histories for a national archive.


Five ethnic food tastes worth acquiring

Photo by roboppy/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Not easy being green? Avocado milkshakes.

Since Monday, Multi-American has featured a post a day on those unsung delicacies of ethnic cuisines, the dishes people grew up with that may not sound, smell, look, or even taste like delicacies at first, but that are tastes worth acquiring, because they're pretty darn good.

And what a week it's been. People have suggested items ranging from tejuino to grilled mackerel, nopales to bee pollen. I've had a chance to try a few.

Which brings me to the final item of the week, which I'm enjoying right now: The avocado milkshake, popular in Vietnam (where it's known as sinh to bo)  and other parts of Southeast Asia.

For those who grew up with guacamole, the idea of the avocado as a sweet dessert fruit - and it is a fruit - is foreign. But the reverse is true for people raised in cultures where avocado milkshakes are enjoyed. From a post with a recipe on the Viet World Kitchen blog:


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.