In the late 19th century, The Land of Sunshine was a journal distributed across the country to promote Southern California life to tourists and potential residents. It extolled the endless beauty of the Los Angeles region and its abundant natural resources--"this fair land of fruits and flowers," as described in the poem that gave the journal its name. Charles Fletcher Lummis, who assumed editorial duties in 1895, was one of its most ardent promoters. The Anglo-ideals and the romanticized Mexican past portrayed in his writings lured many readers to move out west.
He did not merely act as a regional booster, however.
As an outspoken advocate for Native American rights, Lummis wrote often about the pleas of the natives. In his poem "The Old Mestizo," published in The Land of Sunshine in 1895, he points to the struggles they face with each new set of migrants:
God give you good evening, paisano and yet unknowingThis land that you were born in, your land that has ceased to be!Where is it gone--come tell us, you who haveseen its going-- That slow, good, patriarchal world that was by the Western Sea?
Where? Quien sabe? But somewhere gone, and beyond our sifting;Lost as the years behind you and the faces long unseen.Under your feet you felt it--the very landscape shifting,Even the Olden withering, ever the New grown green.
In Los Angeles its landscape shifts continuously, literally and figuratively. Frequent seismic shifts shake up the grounds beneath us, while the cultures above ground are in constant cycles. Many buildings survive earthquakes, but migration and displacement can render neighborhoods unrecognizable within decades, for better or for worse. We are constantly striving to find our identity within the vast differences from each neighborhood to the next. By reinventing the environment around us, we try to create a new sense of place, while potentially burying the past.
We here at Departures aim to understand and record these shifts and cycles of our changing neighborhoods. By naming our blog Land of Sunshine, we give a nod to our complicated but hopeful past, while pointing to a future when we can reclaim that title without irony.
While the sun shines endlessly on our streets, there is always a bit of shade to be found around the corners of our city. The shade may be gone the next morning, but we will always remember where it used to be.