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

Two great maps: Who we are, in L.A. and in the U.S.

Screen shot of changing demographics map on, January 2011
Screen shot of changing demographics map on, January 2011

This is turning out to be the week of the excellent demographic map. Yesterday, KCET posted a fascinating interactive map revealing Los Angeles County's changing demographics decade by decade since 1940. Each click brings a new decade and a new ethnic mix.

Especially interesting is seeing the region's once small African American and Latino communities grow and, in South Los Angeles and surrounding areas, eventually merge. One can also see the gradual emergence of the San Gabriel Valley's Asian American community between 1980 and 2000. The map accompanies an interactive series on the history of a onetime Compton agricultural zone known as Richland Farms.

Yesterday I also came across an equally cool map, this one a national map of surnames published by National Geographic earlier this month. On this map, one can zoom in on a part of the country and see which surnames are the most common.

In California, Hispanic surnames are predominant in the southern part of the state, not so much in the north. The southernmost common surnames are Hernandez and Martinez; the northernmost, Jones and Smith. And tucked into a corner of Southern California, along with Ramirez, Garcia, Martinez and Hernandez, is the Vietnamese surname Nguyen.

The surnames are color-coded by where they originated, for example, red for names originating in Spain, pale blue for England, brown for Scandinavia, purple and black for names from Japan and China, respectively (both of which predominate in Hawaii). A country of immigrants, mapped.