L.A. protests underscore frustration of immigrants

By Christina Hoag-Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The smell of corn roasting on sidewalk grills, the oompah beat of Latin music blasting from mom-and-pop stores, colorful signs touting tongue-twisting names like Atitlan and Quetzaltenango.

This central Los Angeles neighborhood could almost be plucked right out of Guatemala City.

Long ago a well-heeled area of Los Angeles, in more recent decades the Westlake district surrounding MacArthur Park has become a densely packed enclave of Central American immigrants fleeing brutal civil wars and grinding poverty in their home countries.

This week, the bustling community turned into a hotbed of unrest after a police officer shot and killed a Guatemalan day laborer who allegedly lunged at him with a knife. The incident Sunday sparked three days of protests by people who felt that killing Manuel Jaminez, a 37-year-old illegal immigrant, was an unfair and unnecessary use of police force.

The demonstrations surprised officials, who blamed the blowback on outsiders who had come to the area to stir up trouble. A visit to the neighborhood of grimy tenements with curlicued cornices and portals that belie a more elegant past reveals a social tapestry fraying from increasingly hardscrabble living and widespread frustration.

“Life is very hard here,” said Ricardo Fernandez, a retired Nicaraguan truck driver. “I tell people not to come, it’s not as good as before. But people still come.”

The neighborhood has long been a first stop for new arrivals who have made the risky journey to “el Norte.” More than two-thirds of residents are foreign-born, almost three-quarters are Hispanic, almost half live in poverty.

Drawn to a neighborhood with flavors of home, about 118,000 residents jam the area’s 2.7 square miles, making it one of the most crowded districts in Los Angeles.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/11/l-protests-underscore-frustration-immigrants/

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