Tamales! What can be better this time of year? I ventured over to the L.A. Tamale Throwdown in El Sereno after it kicked off this afternoon to take a few photos and, well, eat tamales.
Like most other people who make tamales for the holidays, I make them once a year - just once, because it's hard work - and am usually sick of them by the day after Christmas. But it's been almost a year, as I'm sure it has for many tamalistas, so now is the time to start indulging again.
The event itself was a hoot: vendor stands selling tamales, aguas frescas, pupusas and other staples, great music, artesanias, and a trophy-laden table of lucky judges onstage, eating steaming plates submitted by the city's tamal purveyors. (Don't know what the grand prize is, but I'll bet it's not a year's supply of masa.) Best thing is that it runs through 10 p.m. Saturday.
This is a few days late, but I don't want for the week to go by without mentioning the recent passing of Rudy Regalado, a revered musician in the worlds of Latin rock, Latin jazz and salsa. In L.A. popular culture, he was best known as the man behind the timbales in the legendary 1970s band El Chicano, whose sound could only be described as pure Eastside.
Rooted in East L.A., the band was responsible for classics that for some Angelenos are nothing short of anthems: "Tell Her She's Lovely," the instrumental "Viva Tirado" (in the video above, Regalado is on the timbales to the far left) and perhaps one of the greatest-ever recorded versions of "Sabor a Mí." Their sound was loose, funky and soulful, and it remains especially evocative for many an Eastside-raised kid, me included.
Steve Li in a photo from a Facebook page set up by friends
A story that has been making the rounds in recent days is that of Steve Li, a 20-year-old Chinese-American college student from San Francisco who is being held in an Arizona immigrant detention center awaiting his imminent deportation to Peru.
The destination seems baffling at first. Here's the backstory: Li's parents left China for Peru before he was born. He was born in Peru and lived there as a child until his parents left for the United States, fed up with political instability there. They applied for asylum here but their application was denied. At the time they arrived in the United States, Li was 12 years old.
While deportation cases involving American-raised young people are sadly common, Li's case is unusual in that his parents, who were temporarily detained then released on electronic monitoring, would be deported to China permitting their native country takes them back. But because they had their child in Peru, where Li has no friends or family, he is considered a Peruvian national.
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In a post earlier today about the record number of military naturalizations this past year, I briefly mentioned the story of the late Marine Lance Corporal José Gutierrez of Lomita, one of the first members of the U.S. military to die in the Iraq war on March 21, 2003.
It's been a few years since the release of this documentary about his life and death, The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez. But it's worth revisiting not only because it gets into the citizenship incentive for so-called "green card soldiers" to enlist, but because it recounts the life of an extraordinarily tenacious young man.
Orphaned in his native Guatemala by the age of nine, Gutierrez struggled to survive and eventually made his way north, with big dreams of becoming an architect. From a May 2003 story in the Los Angeles Times: