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

'Ecuadorean by birth, Mexican American by accident...and Angeleno by geographic location'

The skyline as seen from the east, November 2009
The skyline as seen from the east, November 2009
Photo by Keith Skelton/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A post yesterday on the unexpected questions scattered around the new LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum in downtown Los Angeles - some of them printed on the floor - prompted a response from reader Diego Cardoso that resonated with me, as it might with other readers.

The questions at the museum, which highlights local Mexican American history, included these: Do you identify yourself by your nationality? What would you bring if you had to move to a new place?

Cardoso, who was born in Ecuador, wrote:

I migrated to the U.S. when I was 17 years old. My hopes at that time were very modest. I wanted to learn English and hope for the best. Since I was granted a student visa and attended Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, my first impression of Los Angeles was through an Eastside perspective.

As my life evolved, I became more Mexican/Latino and never thought about a nationality. I do not know when I realized that that my home had become Los Angeles. At times in my life I hated L.A. (the urban infrastructure) but loved the magical synergy of different communities and people. I got lost in L.A. and succumbed to its magical power of allowing me to reinvent myself. Nowhere to return; home is L.A.

The day I became a U.S. citizen was an ordinary day in my life. The extraordinary day was when I first went to the polls to cast my vote. That day I realized I had became a citizen of the Americas. Ecuadorean by birth, Mexican-American by accident and culture, Minnesotan by marriage, and Angeleno by geographic location.

If I had to move to a new place, I would take the photos I have taken of Los Angeles, the memories of an ugly, always evolving and magical cultural place I call home.

The tourism industry would never use "ugly, always evolving and magical" to describe Los Angeles, but for people who truly get this city, these words describe it beautifully.

I'll admit that one of the reasons Cardoso's comment resonated so is that I'm also a product of the Eastside, a Latina who isn't Mexican but who grew up embracing what at its cultural core is a Mexican town. Like Cardoso, I assimilated into a mongrel: Cuban by birth, American by naturalization, and in many ways, culturally Mexican American by osmosis.

When I identify as an Angeleno, it all makes perfect sense.