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Understanding Today’s Los Angeles: A Story of Three Immigrants by Sam Quinones

1:35 PM PST on December 7, 2015

Los Angeles Magazine published a remarkable story over the weekend by Sam Quinones. If you haven't read it yet, you should. By tracing the paths of three immigrants to Los Angeles (one from Oaxaca, one from Korea, and one from Armenia), Sam tells the story of modern Los Angeles.

Many of the most dynamic young people in the city today are the children and grandchildren of immigrants like the three profiled in the article. The struggles, sacrifices, and successes of this wave of immigration are personal, but they also affect all of us living in Los Angeles today. By delving into these personal histories, a theme emerges-- this town isn't easy, the challenges are enormous, but communities have the power to propel individuals, who in turn can help the community progress and stake its claim in the city.

Here's an excerpt:

By 1990, there were 24 Hamburger Hamlets. During that time, hundreds, probably thousands, of Zapotec peasant farmers from unpronounceable villages—Yohueche, Zoogocho—swept down the Sierra Juárez Mountains and into Los Angeles. “Many had rented out their lands back home to come here or taken out loans,” says Gonzalez.

Back home, these men wouldn’t enter a kitchen, much less cook an egg. That was women’s work. But in Los Angeles, the traditional machismo of rural Mexico withered. Hamburger Hamlet was a Zapotec Ellis Island, receiving the immigrants and teaching them restaurant basics, their first words in English (“mustard,” “ketchup,” “relish”), and confidence that they could navigate this new world.

Read the whole article here.

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