Los Angeles has been a multi-cultural, polyglot city from the earliest times. In 1781, the pobladores, a small group of racially diverse farmers from Sonora, Mexico, arrived near the banks of the Porciuncula River, at a place that would later become Los Angeles. As new settlers arrived and the town grew, demand for labor increased, attracting Native Americans from throughout California. Eventually, after statehood, and with the building of the Santa Fe Railway, Americans began flooding into the city, along with immigrants from such countries as Armenia, China, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and Scotland, all seeking opportunity in the City of Angels. While the road was often rocky, these ethnic groups managed to persevere, sometimes working together to create a city comprised of peoples and languages from around the globe. New waves of immigrants changed the city after World War II, especially with the rise of Communism. In the 1980’s newcomers from Asia, the Caribbean and Central and South America expanded the scope of the increasingly inclusive metropolis. Fleeing oppression, many have found solace here from places like Cuba or Hungary or Iran. The true fabric of this great city is comprised of the families who have made their homes here and have brought the best of their customs to Los Angeles, creating a mosaic of many colors becoming one.
In celebration of our city’s diversity, the International Languages department is exhibiting photos from Los Angeles Public Library’s Shades of L.A., Herald Examiner and L.A. Chamber of Commerce photo collection, highlighting L.A.’s ethnic diversity. Here is a small sampling of the images displayed.
Our International Languages collection reflects our city’s multiplicity with materials in 30 languages currently available, as well as dictionaries, phrase books and easy readers available in over 500 languages and dialects of the world. As new waves of immigrants arrive, our collection will continue to expand and diversify.
Children dressed in the costumes of many different countries hold signs indicating the languages in which books are available at the Los Angeles Public Library, ca 1939 (Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Collection)
Members of Alpha 66 gather at a 1972 fundraising dinner to benefit for Cubans in Miami. Alpha 66 was an anti-communist organization working for the liberation of Cuba, and was formed by Cuban exiles. (Shades of L.A. Collection)
The Filipino Recreation Hall at 245 S. Main Street, in Los Angeles, in the early 1940's. The owner, Vincent, is standing on the right side, fifth from the bottom, holding a billiard rack. (Shades of L.A. Collection)
Workers gather by a delivery truck for Flower View Gardens florist, part of a family flower farm on Los Feliz Boulevard. The Japanese American family leased land in Los Feliz to grow flowers for the wholesale market on Wall Street from 1917-1942 and from 1945 until the 1960's. During World War II the family was evacuated to a relocation camp. (Shades of L.A. Collection)