Diverse LA: From ‘Wine’ Street to the Wilshire Grand

WHO ARE THE REAL ANGELINOS? (AN OCCASIONAL SERIES)-(Editor’s Note: Los Angeles’ great diversity  is cause for considerable pride among today’s Angelinos. Lesser known is the fact that Los Angeles has always been culturally and ethnically diverse … even at its founding. This column is part of an occasional series by Rosemary Jenkins examining the diverse roots of our City and rhetorically asking: Who are the real Angelinos?)  

Would there be a City of Angels without our Black and Latino roots, our Asian-American, Armenian, and Filipino communities? Attempting to innumerate all of who we are would be an endless task, but, on the other hand, such elucidation would prove we are all part of the same fabric of the Angelino quilt.

We are a city of nearly 200 languages and dialects and a multiplicity of religions. 

Angelinos have evolved from our humble beginnings on Olvera Street (formerly called Wine Street but renamed to honor Augustin Olvera, the first Superior Court Judge of Los Angeles County) to the new Wilshire Grand building, destined to be the tallest edifice west of the Mississippi River in the next few years. 

We are cradled by ever-expanding freeways and palm-lined boulevards that surround parks and recreation centers with a harmonious dissonance that creates the excitement that only a resident of Los Angeles would know—an appeal that continues to draw visitors, many of whom choose to stay as they become drawn by the Los Angeles allure while adding to its charm. 

The later freeways divided us into smaller communities but helped us spread from its compact borders to a sprawling city with hills and valleys, oceans and rivers, beaches and deserts that are all enveloped by the wings of angels. At the same time, those transportation streams also united us as they made it easier for everyone to access all parts of the city—living in one place while working and recreating in another. 

Most metropoles across the world began as small villages along major rivers (for transportation and cargo shipment). Los Angles was really no different. The city’s river brought food and water and alluvial plains on which the nascent population could grow crops and vineyards and raise livestock. 

After a catastrophic flash-flood in 1825, the LA River actually changed direction and has since run just east of the current downtown area where it provided fresh water and food for the early settlers. It begins in the Simi Valley and runs, with the contributions of its many tributaries, across the LA plains and into Long Beach. Without an adequate water supply, no city can survive. Thus much attention is even now being spent on preserving and reviving the LA River to its “original” state. 

Those thriving centers across the world eventually became major capitals which often evidenced homogeneous, monochromatic populations. Los Angeles, however, was different from its inception. 

The Porciuncula began as a multi-ethnic community (founded by American Indians, Mulattos, Negroes, one Mestizo, one Creole, and one Spaniard) and grew by sharing its culture and taking pride in its diversity. 

Our current official City motto promotes a lovely thought: Preserving the Past to Enhance the Future. How fitting is that?!

Our City is celebrated for its vibrant night life, its world-renowned restaurants and famous theatres, its intimate cafés and enclosed shopping malls, its television and radio shows and its variety of newspaper offerings. 

Los Angeles is an inspiring place because of its diversity and stability. We celebrate ourselves throughout the year with any number of parades and river flotillas, film premiers, recognition galas, and worthy fundraisers. 

We can all take pride in the city that was, is, and will be. It is ever-changing and we are changing with its growth. It is time to toast ourselves and revere the city that sustains us. After all, we all make up that wonderful group called the Angelinos! 

Also in this series: 

Who Are the Real Angelenos? Apolinaria Lorenzana   

Black Angelenos: From Brick Block to City Hall 


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Coalition. Jenkins has written Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, A Quick-and-Easy Reference to Correct Grammar and Composition and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts.  She also writes for CityWatch.)





Vol 12 Issue 15

Pub: Feb 21, 2014