How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Ecuadorean by birth, Mexican American by accident...and Angeleno by geographic location'

Photo by Keith Skelton/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The skyline as seen from the east, November 2009

A post yesterday on the unexpected questions scattered around the new LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum in downtown Los Angeles - some of them printed on the floor - prompted a response from reader Diego Cardoso that resonated with me, as it might with other readers.

The questions at the museum, which highlights local Mexican American history, included these: Do you identify yourself by your nationality? What would you bring if you had to move to a new place?

Cardoso, who was born in Ecuador, wrote:

I migrated to the U.S. when I was 17 years old. My hopes at that time were very modest. I wanted to learn English and hope for the best. Since I was granted a student visa and attended Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, my first impression of Los Angeles was through an Eastside perspective.

As my life evolved, I became more Mexican/Latino and never thought about a nationality. I do not know when I realized that that my home had become Los Angeles. At times in my life I hated L.A. (the urban infrastructure) but loved the magical synergy of different communities and people. I got lost in L.A. and succumbed to its magical power of allowing me to reinvent myself. Nowhere to return; home is L.A.

The day I became a U.S. citizen was an ordinary day in my life. The extraordinary day was when I first went to the polls to cast my vote. That day I realized I had became a citizen of the Americas. Ecuadorean by birth, Mexican-American by accident and culture, Minnesotan by marriage, and Angeleno by geographic location.

If I had to move to a new place, I would take the photos I have taken of Los Angeles, the memories of an ugly, always evolving and magical cultural place I call home.


Video: Russia on Sunset Boulevard

In this video from KPCC's Grant Slater, filmmaker Robin Hessman discusses her film "My Perestroika," which tells the stories of five Russians who came of age during the collapse of the Soviet Union. The video follows Hessman, who lived in Moscow in the 1990s, as she promotes the film in Los Angeles' Russian immigrant community.


In the news this morning: The 'last-minute' D.C. immigration meeting, Sheriff Baca and L.A. Muslims, unauthorized workers and taxes, more

LA leaders at White House for immigration meeting - 89.3 KPCC Immigration reform, the topic of what was described as a “last-minute meeting” at the White House yesterday, hasn’t placed high on the list of Congressional priorities.

Baca and the Muslim community: Baca wins support in Muslim community through conversation, not confrontation - Los Angeles Times The L.A. County sheriff's approach to crime fighting in minority communities has focused on building trust.

Brewer: We Weren't Invited to Obama's Immigration Forum - Arizona Gov. Brewer complained that she was not invited to President Obama's immigration meeting yesterday in Washington, D.C.

Study estimates that illegal immigrants paid $11.2B in taxes last year, unlike GE, which paid zero - New York Daily News Columnist Albor Ruiz's take on a study that estimated the taxes paid state by state by unauthorized workers.


A White House immigration 'call to action,' but no breakthroughs

Photo by Chris Christner/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Early news reports have been describing President Obama's immigration meeting this afternoon with several dozen elected officials, law enforcement, business, civil rights, religious and other leaders, all invited to the White House to discuss the prospect of a broad overhaul of the nation's immigration system.

Politico spoke with attendees that included Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and the Rev. Al Sharpton. From the story:

According to Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, Obama made a “compelling case” in a meeting at the White House that he was still committed to changing the immigration system, despite his failure to move legislation in either body of Congress in the last two years.

Obama said he wouldn’t let the failed voted in December on the Dream Act, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants to attend public universities and achieve a path to citizenship, be the last word on that bill.

Rev. Al Sharpton told reporters that at the “unusual meeting,” in which Obama stayed the whole time, Obama asked the leaders to continue pushing their constituencies to apply congressional pressure on immigration.


At LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the questions are on the floor

Last weekend I paid a visit to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the new museum chronicling Mexican American history and life in Los Angeles that opened Saturday.

The museum's downtown location is itself noteworthy: It sits across from Olvera Street near the city's birthplace - so close, in fact, that construction turned up the bones of more than a hundred early residents from a cemetery believed to have been exhumed in the mid-1800s.

The museum pays worthy tribute to early Angeleños, and the Californios and Mexicanos whose history has at times felt close to lost as waves of newcomers arrived and reinvented Southern California. Its interactive displays also highlight the more recent and familiar history of Mexican Americans in the West, from the Chicano civil rights movement to the farm workers' labor struggle in the Central Valley.