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Latino Los Angeles

“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” — Frank Lloyd Wright

Los Angeles has always moved and shimmered like an optical illusion for me, with the truth of it splitting endlessly, occupying remote extremes of a possible spectrum of reality. Dreams and ideals are exported continuously by the movie machine, exquisite stories spun on sets with flat facades. The temperature hovers, faithfully, around 72 degrees year-round. And the smog, a grayish bad mood at mid-day gives away to a magical, other-worldly orange-pink at dusk. And as dusk gives away to night, the city never ceases to sparkle from the perch at Griffith Observatory, a curious place to look at the skyward heavens, in this city where tourists flock to see the terrestrial stars.

A couple of months ago, I drove up to the Griffith Observatory before dawn, watching the sleepless city transition into the day. Gazing at the grid of largely Spanish-named streets below, I was thinking about the Latino crevices between the shifting and transient illusion of modern-day Los Angeles. Beautiful pockets of solid, enduring Latino culture. With long-reaching historical influence over Los Angeles, Mexico sits a mere 140 miles to the south. In fact, America’s 2nd most populated city was a part of Mexico as recently as 170 years ago. With half of Los Angeles having Latino heritage, the Mexican culture endures as the most fully infused and vibrant aspect of Los Angeles.

I had the honor of photographically celebrating the Latino heritage in Los Angeles for National Geographic Traveller (UK edition) out this month. Here are a few of my favorite outtakes and the layout:

By Kris Davidson. View of Los Angeles at sunrise from Griffiths Observatory in Los Angeles, California.


By Kris Davdison. Muralist Levi Ponce, a 2nd generation Mexican American, uses art to both beautify his neighborhood and also celebrate Latino heritage. The Mexican-guerilla Mona Lisa is a nod to the power of art as subversive cultural commentary and advocacy. Photographed the the Los Angeles Mural Mile in Pacoima in Los Angeles, California.
By Kris Davidson. Loyal Alliance Southern Califas Car Club, a predominantly Chicano car club, proudly display lovingly maintained cars in Wilmington in Los Angeles at a Latino heritage event. In an article in VICE, written by Samuel Gilbert on the subject: “These vehicles were long viewed as something as marginal and anti-social, as lowriders acted outside of normative culture,” says Andrew Connors, curator of art at the Albuquerque Museum. In recent years that has begun to change, as a growing respect for the self-taught artistry and cultural importance of these vehicles has emerged. “What else combines a self-taught knowledge of painting, upholstery work, and even hydraulics?” says Connor. “This is a pretty transgressive art form… in the best possible way.”
By Kris Davidson: Latina tastemakers: LEFT: First generation Johana Hernandez designs red carpet dresses for a host of celebrities. She began learning at a very young age, growing up watching up immigrant parents, tailors from El Salvador, work at the sewing machine. RIGHT: LA-based artist Marisabel Bazan (www.iammarisabel.com) brings a Panamanian burst of happiness into her paintings and sculptures, with many of the patterns extended to a popular pashmina and decorative pillow line. Photographed at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood in Los Angeles, California.


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