Platano power hits L.A.

For a place known as a Mexican city, L.A. has recently shown how it continues to grow as a multicultural megapolis.  I’m continually intrigued not only by the confluence of Latino cultures but also by how L.A.’s Latino essence is impacting the evolution of the larger southern California universe.  Manny Ramirez’s move from the Red Sox to the Dodgers is a case in point.

Unlike LA and it’s northeast neighbor the Big Apple, Boston is far from being a multicultural landscape–in essence and spirit that is.  To be sure, Boston is increasingly Hispanic, and it’s top three Latino communities are Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican (yes, Mexican), in that order.  In fact, these are the same top three Latino populations in New York.  While Boston’s and New York’s Hispanic culture is still very Caribbean, the prevailing culture in Boston is still New England, Anglo, and yankee (and not the baseball type).  For someone like Manny, who was born in Santo Domingo and moved to New York’s Dominican Washington Heights as a teenager, I can understand why he didn’t feel totally “welcomed and at home” in Boston–it may be known as Bean-town but that certainly has no reference to the kind of morros and habichuelas Manny grew up with.

Of course, Manny may have made a grand entrance to L.A. but we can’t forget that another Dominicano has made southern California his second casa for a bit longer time: the L.A. Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero (and as longtime Dodger fan, I can’t overlook Manny Mota).  Guerrero (or Vladdy) has definitely made a huge mark on the LA baseball scene, not only by nearing records set by the likes of Lou Gehrig but also by helping the Angels storm into post-season play.  Manny and Vladdy are about to get the bachata party started in La-La Land!

But, I would be short-changing the full impact of Dominican culture in L.A. if I just stuck to the baseball diamond.  Earlier this year I noted how well Dominican writer Junot Diaz’s book has done in southern California (based on bookstore sales tracked by the L.A. Times).  Well, it seems Junot isn’t quite done.  Junot’s book, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” was on the L.A. Times bestseller list for 32 weeks!  And now the paperback version has been released, and this past Sunday was the #3 seller on the L.A. Times list.  I think Junot’s novel about the immigrant experience has certainly resonated with many Angelenos–immigrant and non-immigrant alike.

L.A. has a lot more Nicaraguans, more Bolivians, more Argentinians, more Peruvians, more Cubans, more Salvadorans, and as we well know, tons more Mexicans, than it has Dominicans.  There are nearly 6.7 million Mexicans and almost 5,000 Dominicans, although Manny’s arrival and the media’s reaction makes it seem like there are a lot more–the Dominican culture is certainly being felt.  Whether it’s the sounds of bachata groups like Aventura or Xtreme on L.A.’s 96.3 Latino FM, or the sounds of Dominican batters, or more book sales for Dominican writers, platano culture in L.A.  has arrived.

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