How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A Thanksgiving retweet

Photo by Lane & Anne/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The table is set, November 2007


RT @NeffStarr Turkey with my white family @1pm Then my mexican family @6pm

I caught a retweet of this little gem from someone in Houston yesterday. I liked it because it captures, in less than 140 characters, the transitioning between cultures that is also a big part of Thanksgiving Day for many in Southern California, where families are of mixed ethnicity, mixed race and mixed status.

For recent immigrants who celebrate it, the holiday is part of their adaptation to a new culture. For those who have been here a long time and have raised children here, it is a tradition that captures a cross-generational blend of voices, attitudes and languages at the table.

And for those of us raised here, the second and third generations (and the 1.5s like me), it's a day of transitioning between the old and the new, the families that raised us and the families we have perhaps married into, which, in this part of the country, might be from a different culture altogether.

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Remembering those who put food our our tables, and those who can't afford it for their own

Photo by Donna Sutton/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Agricultural workers in a field near the California coast, August 2007

A couple of reports released in the past week are good food for thought as many of us head home early tonight to start Thanksgiving preparations.

One gives us a reason to consider ourselves lucky if we're in a position to indulge at the holiday table; the other, a sense of understanding of the difficulties faced by the people who grow and prepare our food, in particular the female workers who make up a large segment of the food industry.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that around 15% of U.S. households, 17.4 million altogether, didn't have enough money for food at some point last year. Of those, 6.8 million households had chronic financial problems that forced them to miss meals on a regular basis. Minorities, along with single parents, were among those who had it worst. From the report:

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California, meet Arizona: A proposed SB 1070-style ballot initiative moves forward

Photo by Patrick Dockens/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Last month, I posted a brief list of similarities between Arizona's SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law and a proposed ballot initiative in California that aims to put a closely related law on this state's books.

At the end of September, Tea Party activist Michael Erickson filed a proposal for the "Support Federal Immigration Law Act" with the state attorney general's office in Sacramento. Yesterday, the California secretary of state authorized a signature drive for the initiative.

Erickson, a Bay Area activist who describes himself as a business consultant, drafted the proposed initiative with help from attorneys and worked with veterans of the Proposition 187 campaign, though he did not want to disclose names of individuals or groups he worked with when we spoke.

Like the Arizona law, the California initiative would empower local law enforcement to check the legal status of anyone they suspect could be in the country illegally. However, while the initiative is patterned after SB 1070, Erickson said precautions were taken to avoid some of the rough spots that led to parts of the Arizona law being blocked by a federal judge last July, leading to a pending appeal from the state in federal court. Among the provisions similar to those of SB 1070:

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In the news this morning: DREAM Act update, an AZ-style initiative moves forward in CA, more

Congress eyes DREAM Act: Fair to illegal immigrants or back-door amnesty? - Christian Science Monitor Back-and-forth from both parties as vote nears on legislation that could provide path to legal status for undocumented college students and military hopefuls. A vote could take place next week.

Push in Iowa and California For Arizona-Style Immigration Laws - Fox News Latino Ballot initiatives are moving forward on both states on measures that would allow local authorities to check immigration status.

USCIS - USCIS Introduces First-Ever Fee Waiver Form - uscis.gov U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has introduced a standardized form for requesting waivers of the fees charged for immigration-benefit processing.

Gold Strike in East L.A.! - LA Beez A year into the Metro Gold Line's extension through Boyle Heights and East L.A., the line has been embraced by locals, who use it regularly.

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Three turkeys, three cultures

Photo by cobalt123/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Okay, so there are four turkeys here and not three, whatever. November 2005

It's two days to Thanksgiving and a turkey dinner prepared with...mole? Fish sauce? Heck yeah.

This morning I came across two posts on two different ways to prepare turkey, and they have nothing to do with basting it with butter or Mrs. Cubbison's.

Tasting Table Los Angeles featured a post on the secrets of Oaxacan-style turkey cooking as practiced by Guelaguetza restaurant chef Maria de Jesus Monterrubio, one of which involves a bird seasoned with chile paste, spices and chocolate and served with rich, chocolatey Oaxacan mole. KCRW's Good Food blog had a recipe for Vietnamese-style turkey seasoned with coriander, ginger and fish sauce.

Mmmm. Of course, Thanksgiving turkey made the immigrant way is about the only way I've ever eaten it at home. In my family, the bird is soaked overnight in mojo criollo, the garlicky marinade made with sour oranges that Cubans typically reserve for roasted pork. My parents must have decided that if they were going to assimilate and eat turkey instead of pork, they were going to do it on their terms.

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