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Visiting Orange County's Little Seoul -- Happy Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 19, 2014 07:53pm | Post a Comment
INTRODUCTION TO LITTLE SEOUL 

Welcome sign at Brookhurst
Welcome sign at Brookhurst

Drive down Garden Grove Boulevard with your windows up (paying proper attention to the road in front of you) and you might not notice that you're passing through Little Seoul. There are no banners, memorials, murals, monuments or that many fluttering South Korean flags. Pass through on a bus and maybe you'll notice the Hangul signs and blue tile roofs. The best way to experience Little Seoul, despite some drawbacks, is by walking in it – although your hair might pick up the smell like bulgogi by the end of your ramble. The other day I headed over there to explore it, accompanied by Una Zipagan and host of the excellent Notebook on Cities and Culture podcast, Colin Marshall

Another blue tile community
Another blue tile community

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Visiting Little Saigon -- Happy Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 13, 2014 04:51pm | Post a Comment

INTRO TO LITTLE SAIGON

Little Saigon

Southern California is home to several ethnic enclaves and since the region's largest and fastest growing racial minority are Asian, perhaps it's not surprising that most of the recognized neighborhoods are specific to various Asian populations. In Los Angeles County there's Cambodia Town, Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, Little Bangladesh, Little India, Little Osaka, Little Tokyo, and Thai Town. Orange County is home to Little Arabia (Arabs being geographically Asian if not -- by most people's reckoning -- racially so), Little Seoul, and Little Saigon -- the latter of which is little in name only.

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Happy quasquicentennial, Orange County!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 11, 2014 03:00pm | Post a Comment
On this day in 1889, Orange County, California was born, making it 125 years young today. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Orange County

In early 1889, Pemberton Medicine Company (later Coca-Cola) incorporated in Atlanta, Colombia Phonograph (later Columbia Records) launched, Japan adopted the Meiji Constitution and the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris. Meanwhile in Southern California, the communities on Coyote Creek's left bank seceded those on the right bank and incorporated as the County of Orange. More precisely, on 11 March a bill was signed into law which allowed for voters to vote whether or not to approve the motion to incorporate -- which they did (2,509 to 500) on 4 June, 1889. But today's date is the one that is observed by most of Orange County's friends and family as its birthday.

It wasn't the first time county borders within California had changed. In the first half century after the US invaded and conquered Alta California from Mexico, the county borders have changed several times; San Bernardino County split from Los Angeles County in 1853, parts of Los Angeles County became Kern County in 1866, and in 1893 Riverside County was formed out of what had been parts of San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Several attempts were made and failed to establish Orange County in the 1870s and '80s.

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San Clemente -- The Spanish Village in OC

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 10, 2013 03:28pm | Post a Comment
INTRODUCTION

San Clemente postcard
Mid-20th century postcard from San Clemente

Until the visit that Una and I took to San Clemente this past weekend, I don’t think that I’d ever visited the place. I’m not entirely sure because nearly all of my trips south on the 5 have ended in Mexico and the stretch of freeway between South Orange County and San Diego County has blended together in my mind into white-walled, red-roofed blur. I may very well stopped in San Clemente to refill the gas tank on at least one occasion but, again, I have no recollection. Now, however, after having spent a weekend there and exploring mostly on foot (the best way to explore) I promise that I won’t confuse San Clemente for any other red-tile community.

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San Clemente is the southernmost city in South County. This is inarguable in a geographic sense and arguable in a symbolic sense as well. South Orange County is generally and night entirely inaccurately characterized as a predominantly white, politically conservative, and wealthy place.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange County
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange County

San Clemente is predominantly white -- 76% white (compared to 44% for the county as a whole) although to me it seemed even whiter. However, slow change is afoot and in the past thirty years, the Latino population has more than doubled whilst the Anglo population has shrunk by 14%. According to the 2010 census, the population of San Clemente is 17% Latino but that seemed to me much lower. My perception versus the facts might have to do with the fact that I stayed near North Beach and spent most of my time exploring Downtown and the area next to the ocean -- areas that are possibly much whiter than others. In two days I only heard Spanish being spoken on three occasions, including once in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant. Asian-Americans make up just 4% of San Clemente's population, and blacks and Native Americans both make up less than 1% of the population. 

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What you neighbors know about the Dirty South? -- A South County primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 31, 2013 04:44pm | Post a Comment
YES, THE STEREOTYPES, THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE

Most of us know the stereotypes and are familiar with the frequent characterizations of Orange County. It’s supposedly culture-less and even somehow history-less. Anyone who’s spent any time in Los Angeles has no doubt heard the same hollow, bafflingly ignorant observations made of about that richly cultured city yet sadly, many Angelenos (who ought to no better) still nevertheless cling to the dated, and increasingly disconnected stereotypes about their neighbors to the south.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange County
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange County

Of course anyone who’s spent any time in Orange County knows that the popular images of that County have as little in common with reality as the prevailing stereotypes of Los Angeles do. I'll acknowledge that there’s a degree of truth to some of them but as Orange County grows more urban, more diverse, more liberal, and more interesting, spreading them reveals more about the vastness of the spreader's ignorance than their insight or knowledge about the subject.


As of 2012 roughly 31% of Orange Countians were registered Democrats whereas 42% were registered Republicans so neither corporate political party can claim the majority (for now although the percentage of the former grows whilst the latter declines). Of all Orange Countians, 45% speak a language other than English at home. With a population that is 44% white*, 34% Latino**, 18% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American, there is no racial or ethnic majority. Forbes magazine recently placed Orange County above Los Angeles County in its list of the most diverse communities. Orange also has the third largest county population in California, just behind that of San Diego. But Orange’s population density is contained much higher. 1,472.3/km2 versus San Diego’s is 260/km2,making it more than five times as dense as the second biggest county in the state and therefore hardly a big, sleepy suburb.

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