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Diversity makes Los Angeles an American place. This diversity also makes it a unique city, combining a multicultural atmosphere with injustice and violence. The cityís Mexican population has contributed to this blend, especially through its experience as the first settlers, immigrants, and the Zoot-Suit Riots. Their contributions, along with those of other minorities are displayed proudly through the various street murals that cover the wall of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was a diverse city, with a distinct blend of cultures at its founding. This diversity and cultural mixture persists in the city today. In 1781, a band of settlers reached what is now the megalopolis of Los Angeles. This group, which sought to expand the reign of the Spanish Crown, did not consist primarily of Spaniards. Most of the settlers were of mixed decent. Of the 23 adults, eight were Indian, and ten were black. One black settler was the son of a black slave and an Indian woman from Alamos. There was only one European Spaniard. Another man was listed as an espanol americano (American Spaniard): he was born in Mexico but of Spanish descent. One woman was listed as a coyota: she was the child of a mestizo or mulato and an Indian of the frontier. A man from Manila, Philippines was also among those who originally set out to found the city (Rios-Bustamante, 43). The great diversity of the group marked the ethnic intermixture that resulted in the formation of a new ethnicity, namely that of the Mexican. The original settlers of Los Angeles were ethnically diverse; they brought with them and created a distinctive culture.

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The ethnic composition of the settlers reflected that of the Colonial northern Mexican frontier (Rios-Bustamante, 43). The basic social and cultural patterns of Mexican society in Alta California developed during the previous 200 years, during which Spanish and native cultures intermixed (Rios-Bustamante, 36). This inclusion also involved the racial mixture. These gente de razon (people of reason), as the settlers were called, were of mixed blood. This mestizaje is apparent in the founding population of Los Angeles. Spanish law provided little difficulties for black bondsmen to buy their freedom in New Spain, and custom provided little to no barriers to intermarriage (Weaver, 16). The Pico Family, which became one of the most powerful families during the Mexican period of the city, originated from a Mestizo-Mulatto marriage (DeMarco, 11). The settlers brought with them a society that allowed cultural intermixture.

All settlers contributed to the development of the city. Pobladores were required to be male heads of families, experienced farmers and agricultural laborers, and skilled in farming techniques and irrigation. A mason, a blacksmith, and carpenter were also among the group of settlers. Soldiers accompanied the group to protect them (Rios-Bustamante, 40). The livestock these settlers raised were the basis for the large herds of the Mexican national period. Crops consisted of corn, beans barley and wheat (Rios-Bustamante, 56). Harvesting the crop required a large amount of work in which all participated. Work allowed contact between Indians, Africans, Europeans, and mixed persons, exposing them to each otherís culture (Rio-Bustamante, 58). The constant work and cooperation among the settlers made the pueblo flourish, and promoted intercultural interaction.

The small band of original settlers is very similar to the current residents of Los Angeles because it continues to be a multi-ethnic city. Today Mexicans make of 28 percent of the Los Angeles County population. Asians make up 11 percent, blacks 11 percent and whites 56.9 percent (US Census of Population 1990, 34). Indeed Los Angeles receives more immigrants than any other major city in the United States (US Immigration and Naturalization Service, 67). Similar to Los Angeles, the United States hosts a diverse population. In 1996 close to a million people immigrated into the United States. Among the most highly represented nations were Mexico, Philippines, India, Vietnam, China, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ukraine, Russia, and Jamaica (United States Immigration Service). Because of its diversity, the United States allows its citizens to decide what it means to be American (Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, 46) This freedom of identity promotes cultural intermixture. Mexicans, Asians and Russians celebrate St. Patrickís day with the same fervor of an Irish person. Pinatas swing about at just about every childís birthday party. A fast-food restaurant advertises its menu: "One dollar Chinese food, Hamburgers and Doughnuts!" A large part of the Los Angeles and American culture, is a mixture of the various cultures that reside here.


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