How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The Pulitzer-winning reporter who could have been deported

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

On a window outside Bell City Hall, September 2010

A post in late March highlighted the story of Ruben Vives, a Los Angeles Times reporter who was once undocumented, brought here as a child from Guatemala by his mother.

Last month, Vives was a contender for a Pulitzer Prize for his work on uncovering the Bell political corruption scandal. Today, it was announced that he won.

Vives, 31, and veteran reporter Jeff Gottlieb were awarded the Pulitzer gold medal for public service for a series of stories exposing how politicians in the working-class, mostly Latino city of Bell were paying themselves extravagant six-figure salaries and manipulating records. Their reporting led to criminal charges against former city administrator Robert Rizzo and seven other current or former city officials, who were charged with multiple felonies and ordered to stand trial.


Navigating the Armenian American supermarket

Photo by Lory Tatoulian

The produce section scene at the Super King in Glassell Park, April 2011

As Southern California's immigrant enclaves have grown and evolved, so have their grocery stores. The ethnic mega-supermarket is now part of the regional landscape, making it as easy to buy once hard-to-find products from around the world as it is to shop at Vons or Ralphs. Want banana leaves for Central American tamales? No need seek out a carnicería in Pico-Union any more. Southeast Asian sambal sauce? There are supermarkets that practically stock aisles of it.

All you need is a good guide. So this week, Multi-American is kicking off an occasional series of informal guides to navigating the ethnic supermarket. Your first guide comes from guest blogger Lory Tatoulian, a writer, comic and highly savvy Armenian supermarket insider. Welcome, Lory.

The Armenian spirit is big, and so is its belly.


'Regulating freedom of choice:' Readers react to France's burqa ban

Art by Khalid Albaih/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Q&A post last week that highlighted the reactions of three prominent Muslim women in California to a controversial French law banning face-covering veils, enacted last week, has generated a lively debate in the comments section.

While the arguments have been heated, and the opinions not all politically correct, it has been an interesting discussion in that it displays how there are different ways of defining freedom.

The post featured interviews with Hadeer Soliman, vice president of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine; Edina Lekovic, director of policy and programming for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles; and Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The interviews were conducted by KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh, who herself is Muslim and wears hijab, the traditional head scarf.


In the news this morning: A request to hold off on deporting youths, SB 1070 a year later, L.A. musician left comatose won't be deported, mo

Senate Democrats Tell Obama to Hold Off on Deportations of Young Immigrants - Fox News Latino Twenty-two Senate Democrats have signed a letter requesting that the deportations of young people brought here by their parents illegally or who overstayed visas be put off, suggesting alternatives.

Immigration law uncertainty hangs over Hispanic neighborhoods - East Valley Tribune: Immigration A year after the approval of Arizona's SB 1070 anti-immigration law, immigrant advocates say that while "the hysteria died down" people have left, including school-age students who didn't return, and that uncertainty continues.

The Anti-Immigration Crusader - New York Times A profile of John Tanton, the Michigan doctor who became nation's most influential advocate for immigration restriction, seeding organizations like the controversial Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).


'Be Italian?' No, be a Mexican (Video)

I'll confess that I've never seen the film or stage versions of "Nine," so I had no idea what "Be Italian" sounded like when a colleague sent me this video of a local singer who tweaked the lyrics. Which is fine, because her version of it, "Be a Mexican" is brilliant in its own right.

The singer is Elysa Gomez, a contestant in the "Cabaret Idol" show at the Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill. The weekly show, a cabaret mini-version of American Idol, has been running since Jan. 23 and will conclude this Sunday.

The backstory to the lyrics: Gomez, whose day job is substitute teaching, grew up third-generation Mexican American in a relatively affluent Glendale family, the child of artists who had grown up in East Los Angeles and gradually moved west.

"I always hated to talk about growing up not knowing how to speak Spanish, and how the kids called me a fake Mexican," Gomez said by phone the other day. "I even had my Spanish teachers making fun of me. This has been a constant theme, that I was a sellout, an American Mexican princess, whitewashed, all these different things they would say."