From a short piece I have in the current edition of Tu Ciudad magazine:
It's not often you get a cultural lesson from a piece of municipal property, but this actual manhole cover plainly conveys the essence of Los Angeles, day after day, politics and media games aside. The message, etched in steel, is not a call by Chicano nationalists for a reconquest of the American Southwest. It is simply a statement of fact.
How? History tells us that L.A.’s roots and soul were indeed made in Mexico, but so does the present. We're reminded in the way the city is laid out, along the former boundaries of old Californio ranchos. We're reminded in the flavors and sounds of the cultural landscape -- la comida, la vibra. In the faces of the people, who come in every shade of brown mismatched with black and white and yellow and red and everything in between.
Today, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Jim Gilchrist, and hordes of faceless lieutenants in the relentless hate-talk war against "illegals" too often cloud our historical perspective. In Los Angeles -- the undisputed capital of modern-day Alta California -- even our manhole covers are smarter than that.
This one has Homeland L.A. written all over it, and if you look back in those archives, for me it's all about the layering of L.A.'s mixed-race Mexican heritage with everything that's come before and after. It's what makes it so rich and unlike any other city in the world.
* Better late than never: I want to thank Oscar Garza, Dennis Romero, and the team at Tu Ciudad for including me in their 2007 "Hip Hot Now" issue. It was a really cool feature and photo session at the lake. And regarding that issue release event at Union Station: the magazine sure knows how to throw a party.