In his new book Latino Los Angeles in Film and Fiction: the Cultural Production of Social Anxiety, UC Merced professor Ignacio López-Calvo has a simple explanation for the historically negative English language representation of California illegal immigrants. Every society needs its scapegoats, especially in times of crisis.
López-Calvo tells hometown newspaper the Sun-Star that in his native Spain, it is immigrants from North Africa and South America who are blamed for “taking our jobs.” When he first came to the U.S. in 1991 to study and later teach at CSU Los Angeles, he was less than impressed with the City of Angels:
“My first reaction to Los Angeles wasn’t very positive,” López-Calvo recalled. “I started to do research on why it was so segregated, and the history of Latinos in the area…” López-Calvo said there’s a lot of illuminating literature about and by Latinos in California, but a lot of it has been ignored.
The good news, the prof says, is that in concert with the rise of a Latino middle and upper class, standard media depictions of Latinos as gangbangers, gardeners and busboys are giving way increasingly to showcasing as judges and white collar professionals. Which in the prof’s case means it would probably be easier today to find an LA apartment than it was in the 90s.