How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Honoring Zorba, el Mexicano


Photo by Teamperks/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Mural depicting Anthony Quinn, as Zorba, on the old Victor Clothing Company building downtown, 2008

It looks like I'm on a movie kick today, so here's another film-related post: I loved a short piece that I read today on LA Beez on efforts to restore a downtown mural that depicts Hollywood's best-known Greek as played by a Mexican, the late actor Anthony Quinn.

The mural is known as "The Pope of Broadway," painted in 1984 by artist Eloy Torrez. Money is being raised to restore the fading artwork, which faces 3rd Street on the south side of the Victor Clothing Company building, now residential lofts. A non-profit group hopes to involve at-risk youths in the restoration as part of an educational project. It's a gorgeous mural, even in its faded state, one that speaks to both the Los Angeles of immigrants and the Los Angeles of film lore.


Q&A: 'Panic Nation' Filmmaker George Adams

Immigration has been the theme of several films on the festival circuit this year, including some of those featured at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival in Hollywood. The festival winds up tonight.

Last month, “Panic Nation,” an immigration-related documentary by filmmaker George Adams, won the award for best documentary at the Broadway International Film Festival Los Angeles downtown. Adams, who grew up in Southern California, moved a few years ago with his wife to Oklahoma, where she grew up. It was there, of all places, that he decided to make a film about the debate over illegal immigration.

In 2007, landlocked Oklahoma, population 3.7 million and almost smack in the middle of the country, took the lead among states enacting their own strict anti-illegal immigration laws. Oklahoma’s HB 1804 foreshadowed Arizona’s SB 1070 – and the many state proposals that have since followed suit - but received scant attention. It did, however, make Adams to want to parse out the debate over illegal immigration, tracking down lawmakers, journalists and others from all sides in hopes of breaking down just what it is that is driving states to take matters into their own hands.


The American quilting circle, redefined


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Sobia Nawaz, an immigrant from Pakistan and one of the Tuesday Ladies, at work behind a pile of quilts

This afternoon I dropped in on a quilting circle, spending time with a group of women who meet once a week to sew and enjoy one another's company. Save for a few smallish details, it could have been a scene straight out of Normal Rockwell: A sun-dappled room in a rambling Pasadena house, a pitcher of sweet lemonade on the coffee table, the women sewing and embroidering surrounded by a sea of fabric.

But the Tuesday Ladies, as they call themselves, are not what one might immediately picture when a Pasadena quilting circle comes to mind. The women are Muslim immigrants from a variety of places - Pakistan, Bosnia, Iran, India, Palestine - who meet once a week to sew quilts that they sell for a cause.


American snapshot: Lynwood


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A bust of a former Mexican president outside a hip-hip store in Plaza Mexico

Perhaps it's a music store somewhere in Michoacán, home state of 1930s Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas? No, it's in Plaza Mexico, the Mexican-themed, Korean-American-developed and owned shopping and entertainment complex in Lynwood, Calif. Only in Los Yunaites.