How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Castellano's list: New school brings to light a little-known hero of the Holocaust


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A photo of José A. Castellanos, displayed at the new charter school

A new charter elementary school in West Adams is being named for a scarcely-known hero with a story as dramatic as that of Oskar Schindler: José A. Castellanos, El Salvador's consul in Geneva, Switzerland during the Holocaust, who helped save the lives of tens of thousands of European Jews by issuing them fake Salvadoran citizenship certificates. Really.

The story behind the namesake of the new José A. Castellanos Charter School goes like this: While stationed as the consul in Geneva in the early 1940s, former Salvadoran army colonel José Arturo Castellanos Contreras was approached by George Mandel, a Romanian-born Jewish businessman, who told him about the imminent danger that his family and others were in.


Muslim employee files complaint against Disneyland, seek to wear hijab at work


Photo by IIOC Masjid Omar AlFarouk/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Two women in hijab at a Southern California picnic, June 2008

Learning about the First Amendment as she went about applying for U.S. citizenship inspired a young Muslim woman who works at Disneyland to challenge a company policy and wear her hijab to work.

Today, Imane Boudial filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging she is not allowed to wear the traditional head scarf while on the job, according to 89.3 KPCC and other news reports. Boudial has worked at the Grand Californian Hotel's Storytellers Restaurant for more than two years. More from the KPCC story:

"As long as she's been there, she took off her hijab before she went to work because it's against Disney policy,'' said Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for Boudlal's union, Unite Here Local 11. "But more recently she's gone through some experiences that have enlightened her a little, and she wanted to challenge the policy because it's illegal and wrong.''

Several months ago, Boudlal, who is Arab, applied for U.S. citizenship, Shelton said, adding her lessons on the First Amendment changed the way she started thinking about the issue.


In the news this morning

This morning has brought with it an interesting mix of stories. Here are a few of them.

  • The Associated Press reports that in Arizona, legislators have decided to shelve the idea of making "tweaks" to the state's SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law, as proposed earlier by Gov. Jan Brewer, pending the state's appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court. The state is appealing the decision of a federal judge who last month blocked key parts of the law from being implemented.

  • And speaking of Arizona, according to a news release on MMD Newswire, the conservative Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, known as ALIPAC, has been keeping count of states following Arizona's lead and has announced that there are now 22 states that have been pursuing SB 1070-style legislation.

  • The Washington Post and UPI report on the continuing federal civil rights investigation involving Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who is being threatened with a lawsuit if he refuses to cooperate. Arpaio is under investigation for possible discrimination against Latinos in violation of federal civil rights laws.

  • Remember Aunt Zeituni? The immigration judge who granted asylum to Zeituni Onyango, President Obama's aunt who would have otherwise been deported to Kenya, said in an Associated Press story that the leaking of her immigration status by a federal government official made her a potential target in her native country, thus making her deserving of asylum.

  • The Sacramento Bee and others have stories based on a new report showing that Latino homeowners have been hardest hit by the state's foreclosure crisis. The entire report from the Center for Responsible Lending can be seen here.

  • The Washington Post has an interesting piece on the key role of conservative bloggers in bringing the politically charged debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque to national prominence.

  • Lastly, the Stanford Report, from the university of the same name, has an interesting story on the work of a graduate-student anthropologist who has been unearthing a former fishing village, near what is now the Monterey Bay Aquarium, that was home to hundreds of Chinese immigrants more than a century ago.


The all-American Chinese-Japanese fortune cookie saga continues

Photo by John Hartnup/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A fortune cookie, May 2006

Is the fortune cookie really a Japanese-American invention? Yes, reports KCET's Departures, which links the all-American cookie to the 107-year-old Fugetsu-Do confectionery in Little Tokyo.

Of course, the fortune cookie's creation myth spans the California coast, with some claims that it originated in a Japanese tea shop in San Francisco in the late 1890s or early 1900s, others that it made its debut some twenty years later in Los Angeles, the invention of a Chinese-American noodle company.

In the intervening years, Fugetsu-Do has made its own fortune selling mochi, the delicate, chewy rice cakes for which the sweet shop is best known.