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Snapshots from the Melting Pot – Celebrating the Heritage of Folks Who Helped Make Los Angeles Great

Photo Friends,
Mexican American musical group ca 1960
Group photo of the "Sensations" Mexican American musical group. Includes Jess Margarito (top, left), Jimmy Ortiz (at right, with guitar), and Ronny Rios, [ca. 1960]. Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community

National Latino Heritage Month is a month dedicated to highlighting the culture and contributions of Americans whose origins can be traced to Mexico plus Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and other Central American countries as well as Cuba and the Caribbean. This celebratory month runs from September 15 through October 15. Meanwhile, the entire month of October is Italian Heritage Month (formerly known as National Italian-American Heritage Month) and also German-American Heritage Month (which began as German American Day on October 6, 1987) and Polish-American Heritage Month.

Shades of L.A., a subset in the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo archives, is a collection of personal and family photos contributed to the Library by residents in the Los Angeles area. A perusal of this collection provides images of Southern Californians from the aforesaid ethnic groups raising families, running businesses, having parties, carrying on traditions, creating new ones, and leaving their mark on their communities.

(Note: The photos are in no particular order with some images representing more than one ethnic group. Such is the melting pot that we call home.)

high school graduates, 1957
L to R Erlinda Medina, Olivia Cueva Fernandez, Helen Estrada in graduation robes at Banning High School in Wilmington, [1957]. Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community

Three young women prepare to graduate from Banning High School in Wilmington, California. The school is named after Phineas Banning, who is referred to as the “Father of the Port of Los Angeles” and was one of the founders of the town of Wilmington.

Picnic in Verdugo Park
Picnic in Verdugo Park. Shades of L.A.: Polish American Community, Shades of L.A.: German American Community, Shades of L.A.: Jewish Community, photo taken in 1908 by the Graham Photo Company

Adults and children gather for a picnic for the Concordia Club, a social group, at Verdugo Park in Glendale. The Concordia Club, a members only (and, originally, men only) club was established in 1889 to preserve German culture and heritage. When Los Angeles Jews found themselves excluded from admittance to the club, they incorporated their own Concordia Club in 1891 and built their own clubhouse on Figueroa Street.

Karate expert Oscar Maldonado performs a flying side kick
Shades of L.A.: Guatemalan American Community, photo taken on September 19, 1996

Karate expert Oscar Maldonado performs a flying side kick for young students in a karate studio.

Karen's Quinceanera
Shades of L.A.: Guatemalan American Community, photo taken on November 3, 1996

A young woman celebrates her 15th birthday with a quinceañera (fiesta de quince años), a Latin American tradition marking the transition from childhood to womanhood.

Max Heller's drugstore 1928
Shades of L.A.: Jewish Community, Shades of L.A.: Polish American Community, Shades of L.A.: Russian American Community, photo taken in 1928

Druggist Max Heller (standing) prepares to serve a customer at the soda counter in his first drugstore, located on Brooklyn Avenue (which was later renamed César E. Chávez Avenue) in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, forty percent of the population in Boyle Heights were Jews of Eastern European descent.

Olvera Street tortilla makers
Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, photo taken in 1988

Tortillas are made by hand at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera Street, a part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, an historic district in downtown Los Angeles and the oldest section of Los Angeles. The plaza area on which it is located was under Spanish rule for 40 years and Mexican rule for 26 years before coming under U.S. rule in 1847.

Italian Women's Club of Los Angeles
Shades of L.A.: Italian American Community, photo taken in 1975

Board members of the Italian Women’s Club of Los Angeles (Club Femminile Italiano di Los Angeles) hold a meeting, with press chairman Maria Ricci seated in the third seat from the left.

Alpha 66 forum
Shades of L.A.: Cuban American Community, photo taken on June 7, 1980

Alpha 66, an anti-communist organization working for the liberation of Cuba, conducts a meeting in Lynwood, California, on June 7, 1980. Alpha 66 was formed by Cuban exiles. The word “alpha” means beginning and the group started with 66 people.

Camping trip
Shades of L.A.: German American Community; photo taken in 1934

Two sisters relax outside a tent they are sharing with their husbands during a camping trip in Idyllwild, a town located two hours southeast of Los Angeles in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Group at Pacific Beach
Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, photo taken in 1920

A group of young people enjoy an outing to Pacific Beach in San Diego.

Family in the parlor
Shades of L.A. Russian American Community, Shades of L.A. Polish American Community, Shades of L.A. Jewish Community, photo taken in 1908

A Polish-American family poses for a photo in the parlor of their home on Wall Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Halloween witches
Shades of L.A.: Cuban American Community, Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, photo taken in 1976

Two girls pose in their Halloween costumes which were made by their mother, a Cuban émigré.

Catered spread for open house
Shades of L.A.: Italian American Community, photo taken in 1969

Here we see a variety of breads, pastries, and finger sandwiches made for an open house in Beverly Hills by the mother of Michael Giuliano, an American of Italian heritage. A braided breadbasket features prominently in this catering spread.

Alpha 66 members with refugees
Shades of L.A.: Cuban American Community, Shades of L.A.: Vietnamese American Community, photo taken in 1964

Members of Alpha 66, a group formed by Cuban exiles working for the liberation of Cuba, assist Vietnamese refugees at a rally in Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

Hanging laundry in the backyard
Shades of L.A.: Ukrainian American Community, Shades of L.A.: Polish American Community, Shades of L.A.: Jewish Community; photo taken in 1956

A young girl helps her mother hang the laundry in their backyard in Southern California.

Charitable event dining group, Little Joe's
Shades of L.A.: Italian American Community, photo taken in 1970

A charitable event is held at Little Joe’s Restaurant, an Italian family restaurant located on North Broadway in Chinatown. Attendees to the fundraiser included fitness guru Jack Lalane (third from left) and crooner Rudy Vallee (far right).

Family at Christmas
Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, Shades of L.A.: German American Community, photo taken in 1967

Angelina, her husband Kenneth, and daughter Lucinda pose for a Christmas photo at Angelina’s parents’ house in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. Kenneth has just returned home after being stationed in Thailand for a year during the Vietnam War.

Family at the library
Shades of L.A.: German American Community, photo taken in 1948

A mother, daughter, and son enjoy an outing to the Fairfax branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.


Written by Annie Murphy. Originally published on the Photo Friends Blog September 26, 2017.


 

 

 

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