Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Recapping a weekend of Mark Sanchez stories

Photo by TexKap/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Had the New York Jets beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, Mark Sanchez would have been the second Latino quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the Super Bowl. He wasn't, and I don't follow football closely enough to get into the reasons why or what a faulty headset might have had to do with it. But the coverage surrounding Sanchez this weekend in relation to his ethnicity was interesting enough.

On Fox News Latino, sports reporter Maria Burns Ortiz, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' sports task force, wrote:

Much was made when, as a quarterback at the University of Southern California, Sánchez wore a mouthguard depicting the Mexican flag. But as much as some people want to believe, it wasn’t a political statement any more than the average high school kid wearing a Ché T-shirt, or a young woman carrying a handbag bearing the image of la Virgen de Guadalupe.

It was a nod to his heritage, but it wasn’t an all-encompassing declaration of who he was.

He grew up speaking English, but speaks decent Spanish and understands it pretty well. In other words, he’s just like literally millions of other U.S. Hispanic millennials.

He’s the face of the Latino quarterback for a generation who doesn’t remember Joe Kapp or Jim Plunkett. Or, let’s be honest, for kids who don’t even realize the aforementioned players are Latino.


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Featured comment: One reader's plea for 'space' in Compton

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A post from last week regarding the political scenario in Compton, where Latino residents are vying with the city's established but shrinking African American community for political power, drew a series of comments over the weekend. While most of the later comments revolved around illegal immigration (and no, the lawsuit filed by three Latina residents trying to change Compton's local election process has nothing to do with this) there was an intriguing comment at the beginning that I reread a few times.

From a reader identified as "1tag," the comment, below, captured something beyond what's often described in simple terms as racial and ethnic tension in parts of Los Angeles County such as Compton, where a traditionally African American population has given way to a Latino majority.


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In the news this morning: Chipotle immigration protests, the virtual fence, the 'Sanchize,' Hollywood green card marriage, more

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Chipotle Faces Protesters After Firings Over Audit - Wall Street Journal The Denver-based corporate burrito chain fired a large number of employees from its Minnesota restaurants after records were audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration bill concerns Kentucky's Latino community - Miami Herald The southern state is the latest of many to float an immigration crackdown bill.

$1B virtual border fence went from optimism to doom - Houston Chronicle By the time the Bush-era "virtual fence" was canceled by the Obama administration this month, five years after its inception, the first 53 miles of sensors, cameras, radar and towers at two locations in Arizona had cost $1 billion.

Rise of the Sanchize: The Jets' Mark Sánchez Is the NFL's Latino Franchise Player - Fox News Latino On the 24-year-old Latino quarterback who leads the New York Jets.


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Revisiting the Valley, in Dr. King's time

San Fernando Valley map, March 2008
Photo by grabadonut/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Among the favorite pieces I've read in recent days is the transcript of Kevin Roderick's weekly column for KCRW that aired earlier this week. Roderick, who edits LA Observed, reported on the 50th anniversary last weekend of a visit that Martin Luther King, Jr. made to what was then the remote west end of the San Fernando Valley. Invited by a white pastor, King delivered two sermons at a small church in Woodland Hills, and spoke about integration at Canoga Park High School.

What stands out is how Roderick places King's visit in the context of early 1960s Valley history, when this part of the region was, as he writes, "a place where if any blacks lived then, they were mostly alone." The piece continues:

The valley then wasn't the suburban melting pot we know today, filled with immigrants from Latin America, Korea, Armenia, South Asia.

There were no weekend cricket matches in valley parks in those days. No black Baptist churches. No black students at all in the public schools in the west valley.

And that was no accident of history.

When the wheat fields were first subdivided into yards and suburban homes, the deeds stipulated that the land could never be sold or rented to anyone of African, Chinese or Japanese descent.

Those covenants were also used to limit where Mexican Americans could live. In the first years of Canoga Park, the field workers whose families might have been in the valley for half a century were confined to a section called Cholo Town.


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Compton: A shifting population, except in City Hall

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos, red dots represent Asians and green dots represent whites. Each dot represents 25 people.

When the initial 2010 census results were released last month, the attention quickly turned to the nation's growing Latino population and, in turn, how it will shape the political landscape.

While the U.S. Census Bureau has yet to release new data on race and ethnicity, it's already clear that some of the states with the biggest population growth, and which will gain Congressional seats, also happen to be states where Latinos have come to represent a bigger chunk of the population in recent years. But does this necessarily translate into more political clout for Latinos? And as these population shifts take place, what shape do they take at the neighborhood level, culturally and politically?

An interesting case study is playing out in Compton, a working-class Los Angeles County city that was long predominantly African American (some may remember it as the Compton of N.W.A's 1988 hip hop classic Straight Outta Compton) but where Latinos now make up two-thirds of the population.


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