Combination of cultures makes Los Angeles a city like no other, says L.A. Councilmember Eric Garcetti
“You can be, like I am, a fourth generation Angeleno or somebody getting off a plane tonight, and within minutes you can find something that’s intensely familiar, no matter where you come from in this world.”
Los Angeles mayoral candidate and city councilmember Eric Garcetti experienced a homecoming of sorts on Feb. 16 while speaking at the UCLA Lab School.
Hosted by the UCLA Latin American Institute and the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies, Garcetti’s talk focused on cultural diversity, education and civic participation, beginning with his memories of being a student at the Lab School, which he credited for making him the person he has become.
He said that the diversity of his classmates at the Lab School greatly informed and shaped his worldview. Diversity in the classroom, whether ethnic, racial, economic or otherwise, is something that he believes every student to should have the opportunity to enjoy.
Garcetti’s history, like that of many Angelenos, is rooted in immigration. Three of his great-grandparents came to United States, fleeing war in their homelands. His paternal great-grandfather was killed during the Mexican Revolution and his great-grandmother later walked over the border with Garcetti’s grandfather, who was a year old, into El Paso, Texas.
Garcetti represents the 13th Council District, which is home to more than a quarter million people, 60 percent of whom are foreign born. The most culturally diverse area in Los Angeles, more than 100 languages are spoken across its neighborhoods. The diversity found in his district and throughout Los Angeles makes the city a preferred destination for people across the globe, he said, adding that there are 35 countries whose largest populations outside of their borders are found in Los Angeles.
“You can be, like I am, a fourth generation Angeleno or somebody getting off a plane tonight, and within minutes you can find something that’s intensely familiar, no matter where you come from in this world,” said Garcetti, whose family grew up in Boyle Heights and subsequently moved to the San Fernando Valley. “You can also be here your entire life and go two blocks in a new direction and find something you’ve never seen before. That combination of cultures, of being able to see both the familiar and the completely unfamiliar and the challenge that it gives to you, whether you’re a new student or if you’re in the golden years of your life, is really a unique opportunity for Angelenos.”
He also said that Los Angeles is a city at risk of fragmentation; one in which public policy is not as informed by research as it should be and one where “the political structures don’t really reflect something coherent and workable.”
In addition, Garcetti spoke of his hope that investments in community building and education will foster a better sense of unity and understanding among people. He also discussed the importance of reaching out to people of all ethnicities and cultures and encouraging them to get involved with government and the political process.