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Little Tokyo or Japantown? Los Angeles Leads the Way with Ethnic Enclaves

Source: The HAND Foundation

The City of Los Angeles contains the largest number of officially designated ethnic enclaves in the United States. Neighborhoods and commercial districts with names like Little Armenia, Thai Town, Little Tokyo, and Historic Filipinotown span the city’s map. Most reflect Asian diaspora populations, but in recent years, strategic African and Latin American diasporas have sought similar official recognition.

Having an officially designated neighborhood can be a source of pride for members of a diaspora. Mainstream recognition can indicate that the diaspora community has finally “arrived;” and publicly acknowledged ethnic enclaves can help project a cosmopolitan image of the city they call home. Cities can even use these culturally textured neighborhoods to draw tourists, both domestically and internationally. Los Angeles has an advantage here because of the entertainment industry’s ability to endow locations with mythical qualities. Take Persian Square in Los Angeles’s Westwood district, which has the largest concentration of Iranians in the United States. The Persian district, known also as Little Persia or “Tehrangeles,” receives regular attention from mainstream American audiences.

While Chinatown and Little Tokyo have been part of Los Angeles in some form since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, newer proposals for official diaspora recognition can create resentment among longtime residents. Washington DC witnessed resistance from vocal members of its African American population when a movement emerged to rename a section of U Street “Little Ethiopia.” Longtime residents argued that the new designation would eclipse their own neighborhood history as the “Black Broadway” of America, where revered figures like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald performed. So the momentum from Ethiopian business owners collapsed. Washington DC boasts the largest Ethiopian diaspora in the United States, but Los Angeles is the only American city with an official “Little Ethiopia,” which has occupied the neighborhood also known as South Fairfax since 2004.

In recent years, Latin American diasporas have tried to capitalize on this unique naming trend of Los Angeles. The Salvadoran community campaigned successfully to establish the El Salvador Community Corridor in 2012 in the Pico-Union neighborhood. With so much attention on the Salvadoran community, leaders in the Guatemalan, Honduran, and Nicaraguan communities have been petitioning the City of Los Angeles to designate a larger area of the Pico-Union neighborhood as the Central American Cultural District.

The HAND Foundation's mission is to advance the philanthropic sector, prevent child sexual abuse, build a global middle class and prepare and engage the Next Generation. (read more)


... Payvand News - 04/29/14 ... --

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