How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Quote of the moment: On the ascent of the Chilean miners

"May God help all of them to get out. The Atacama desert is unforgiving. Some 60 years ago, God saved my own life when my truck rolled over in the proximity of that mine. I barely got to Copiapo, drenched in black gasoil, but uninjured.

"Speaking of the miners, they should get an agent to manage their affairs collectively. They also need a book writer and a movie director. And a good rest. May God bless them!"

- a comment posted by "xxl maroc" on Latina blogger Fausta's Blog


Media offers are reportedly already coming as the trapped miners begin their hopeful ascent after two months underground.

In Los Angeles, where a small Chilean-American community is scattered around town, some people have dropped into the Rincon Chileno restaurant on Melrose to cheer the rescue on in unison. (And so has the media, according to restaurant staff.)

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American snapshots: The cultural club

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The 19th-century revolutionary and national hero José Martí, spotted on the back of a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The 19th-century revolutionary and national hero José Martí, spotted on the back of a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The 19th-century revolutionary and national hero José Martí, spotted on the back of a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The 19th-century revolutionary and national hero José Martí, spotted on the back of a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The 19th-century revolutionary and national hero José Martí, spotted on the back of a t-shirt


Yesterday I posted a single photo from a weekend verbena - a big party, essentially - at the Sociedad José Martí, a Cuban cultural club in Hawthorne founded by then-new immigrants more than 40 years ago.

Immigrant cultural clubs and mutual aid societies are as old as immigration to the United States itself, with each group of newcomers reaching out to their countrymen, finding ways to keep traditions alive, and, depending on the type of association or club, raising money to help new arrivals, those left back home (including elaborate hometown infrastructure projects) or both.

Just in Southern California there are are Mexican clubs, Salvadoran clubs, Cuban clubs, Russian clubs, Armenian clubs, Chinese clubs, Vietnamese clubs - the list is too long to mention all.

The immigrant cultural club tradition was a part of my childhood. While L.A. is no Miami, Cuban cultural clubs abound here, from La Cofradia in South Gate to the Club Cultural Cubano in Monterey Park. Attending the dances and picnics put on by these and other clubs was a way for my first-generation parents to connect with people they could relate to, all of them seeking familiarity in an unfamiliar place.

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In the news this morning: Oaxacan mezcal, immigration in key elections, SB 1070 challenge to move forward

Mexican hard liquor on the rise in Los Angeles | 89.3 KPCC Oaxacan mezcal, a close cousin of tequila made from the same agave plant, is gaining popularity.


Florida elections: Immigration issue could sway key races in Florida - Los Angeles Times The ongoing national debate could be critical in the campaigns for governor and several close congressional races.


Illegal immigrants draft legal plans in case of deportation - USATODAY.com Undocumented immigrants have begun drawing up legal documents to spell out what they want to happen to their families and belongings if they are deported.


Arizona immigration law: Judge denies bid to stop lawsuit - The Arizona Republic A federal judge has denied motions by Gov. Jan Brewer, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB 1070.

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The border in Boyle Heights

Seeing the new play "Detained in the Desert" this weekend in at the Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights was a bit like being transported back to my recent previous life as a reporter covering the U.S.-Mexico border: The water bottles in the desert, the immigrant detainees in jumpsuits, the immigration officials and the dark desert roads, along which unspoken tragedies have unfolded. There is even a character based on the leader of a San Diego volunteer group that sets up water stations in the desert for migrants.

Overall, I liked it. Written by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Josefina Lopez, "Detained in the Desert" revolves around two central characters, one of them a young Mexican-American U.S. citizen traveling through Arizona who, upon refusing to show an officer her nonexistent "green card," winds up at an immigrant detention center. The other is an anti-immigrant talk-radio host named Lou.

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Online reaction to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize win at once fascinating, unsettling

Photo by laihui/Flickr (Creative Commons)

From a sign held up in Hong Kong, January 2010

Among the most interesting aspects of the response to jailed Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize last week (aside from the Chinese government’s predicted angry reaction, President Obama’s call for his release, and sadly, the subsequent house-arrest detention of Liu’s wife) has been the heated exchanges online in recent days in reaction to the news, with a mix of immigrants and others chiming in with strong opinions about the award, communism, U.S.-China trade and more.

Liu, an advocate for political and human rights reforms, was sentenced to 11 years in prison two years ago for inciting subversion of state power. He also advised students involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, during which a still-unknown number of protesters were massacred after military troops opened fire.

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