In NYC, everyone seems to know I’m not from here. I get things like, “You’re so LA.” Fair enough…I grew up there. On the other hand, when I’m actually in LA, people think I’m from New York…“Why do you wear so much black?” So either I’m an oddball who doesn’t fit in anywhere or I take on certain traits of both sub-cultures. (Okay, maybe both.)
The East Coast versus West Coast rivalry is so 1995, but in 2010 we are evolved enough to appreciate what both have to offer. Limiting my discussion to LA and NYC, I propose here a list of the best (and the best) from sea to shining sea:
Food: Food lovers love NYC because of its diversity of eatery options. Not only can you get “Spanish food” as the gringos call it, but you can get Colombian empanadas, El Salvadorian pupusas, and Dominican arepitas. But if you want a great burrito, you have to go to Cali, which makes sense since it used to be Mexico. In my mom’s neighborhood, we say it still is, and the tacos you can get there (made from everything including lengua) are dangerously delicious.
Music: Four words: La Mega se pega. It really does. La Mega, the city’s premier Spanish-language station (and ranked in the top 5 among all of the city’s pop stations) plays a variety of Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, and the occasional Bachata. The station plays music que levanta a los muertos; it will definitely keep your hips shaking and your feet moving while you cook or get ready for the night’s party. In LA, K-Love has been playing the best Spanish pop for at least three decades. It may not showcase today’s best Salsa, but it regularly plays the classic goodies from Juan Gabriel, Luis Miguel, and El Puma. Both stations are also popular for their a.m. jokesters. For some, mornings wouldn’t be complete without the riffs of El Vacilón or y El Cucuy de la Mañana.
Community: Latinos make up 27.6 percent of New York City’s population and 48 percent of Los Angeles County. Our presence is immense and so is our role in mitigating inequities and promoting social justice. Latinos have formed powerful organizations out of both cities including Alianza Dominicana and The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). And now of course with Being Latino up and running again, we can commune and celebrate with people across the country and everywhere in between.
The Mother Tongue: One of the best things about both cities is that Spanish always seems to be in ear shot. Whether it’s the melodic inflections of the Mexican Americans in LA or the rapid-fire, punctuated Spanish of the Nuyoricans, the mother tongue is usually just a bodega or block away. So many of the non-Latinos I know have picked up and practiced Spanish by shopping in their own neighborhoods. For Latinos, the proliferation of Spanish means we get to feel connected to our culture and to each other in a way that helps make wherever we live feel like home.
What about YOU? What are your favorite parts about Being Latino where you live?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.