Op-Ed: L.A.’s history of Latino-Black political conflict? It’s a curiously short tale
LOS ANGELES For a few years before I was born, the city of Los Angeles was home to a large Latino population. The largest of any city in the United States, with 1.9 million residents, Los Angeles is dominated by Italians, Mexicans, Greeks and Puerto Ricans.
In recent years, that population has shrunk sharply and the Latino population in Los Angeles is increasingly clustered in its downtown, on the edge of the city known as Little Mexico. In recent years, that population has shrunk sharply and the Latino population in Los Angeles is increasingly clustered in its downtown, on the edge of the city known as Little Mexico.
Los Angelenos with roots in Central or South America might argue that Little Mexico is a new development. But the real issue is whether the Mexican-American population is leaving Los Angeles or whether it is changing to survive.
The story of the struggle for a Latino political future in Los Angeles is a surprising tale.
In Los Angeles in the early 1990s, the issue of illegal immigration and crime in immigrant neighborhoods captured the attention of the nation. The issue of illegal immigration has been central to the election of President Donald Trump and the Republican agenda in Washington.
But the issue of how Los Angeles treats immigrants is much older.
The Mexican diaspora started a new kind of immigration in the late 20th century. Rather than coming to California in search of a better life, they came from the central and South American states and took jobs and settled down in places like Los Angeles to try to avoid the fate they found themselves as migrants in their homelands.
They had jobs to do, and not much else. Mexican-Americans, who came from Central or South America in record numbers in the 1970s and ’80s, were not only discriminated against when they tried to get work in jobs with unionized workers — they were sometimes refused jobs by the very workers that would be expected to defend their right to be treated with dignity.
The Mexican-American population, for the first time in Los Angeles history, came to be an electoral force. In the 1984 and ’86