Los Angeles used to be part of Mexico. The United States took control in 1847 during the Mexican American War. But it’s still a city with a large Mexican American population and a large Latino population.
It’s also a county of 88 cites, a complicated gathering of boundaries and ideals.
To anyone who comes for the first time, LA can be a tough place to get to know. Even people born and raised here have barely scratched the surface of this place.
Writer DJ Waldie has spent a lifetime studying and writing about the good and bad of LA. His latest book is a collection of essays and short pieces. It’s called “Becoming Los Angeles: Myth, Memory, and a Sense of Place.”
“Up until 1980, 1990, Los Angeles sold itself to the rest of the world, to the rest of America, as the best advertised lifestyle product in the world. A lot of that was made up of myths and beliefs and false historical narratives, somewhat even false promises,” says Waldie.
He continues, “Today’s image of Los Angeles is sometimes very fearsome. … And I’m interested in … knowing how new narrators of Los Angeles stories, the new makers of the image of Los Angeles, what they are doing. And those new storytellers, new image makers are as mixed and mingled in their colors and ethnicities and races as they can possibly be. Los Angeles has always been a crossroads of the world.”
Waldie says the greatest and most profound artwork in LA is the architecture of houses. “Our homes are its finest artwork.”
He says the biggest myth about LA is that it’s all Hollywood. However, residents here know that Hollywood is just one part of the city — one that might project romance, mystery and a noir aspect to the world.
“But to ourselves this is a complex, complicated place … rich in diversity in people and places and things. And teaming with stories that are not Hollywood stories but are our stories … our actual lives.”