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Bienvenidos a East Los Angeles

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009.

We kicked off our stay in East Los Angeles with two powerful stories. Miyo Ukita brought her mother, Nellie Mitani, into the booth to share her experiences in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Nellie was living with her husband in Fresno, California and remembers the moment she heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. “That was the saddest time in my life.” Nellie and her husband were ordered to evacuate Fresno and sent by the government to an internment camp in Arizona. “Here we were, citizens of the country and we were treated like enemy aliens.”

Narie and Miyo

Rueben Martinez, longtime owner of a Latino literature bookstore, and his granddaughters Samantha and Sabrina had a lively conversation about their love of literature.

Samantha, Rueben and Sabrina

Rueben became a barber shortly after moving to Los Angeles from a small mining town in Arizona. At the barber shop Rueben gave reading lessons to parents so they could go home and read aloud to their children. Many years later, a man visited Rueben’s bookstore to thank him for teaching his parents to read, a tradition he had kept up with his own children. Rueben works to keep his philosophy alive. “Books are el mejor regalo en el mundo (the best gift in the world),” he says.

3 Responses to “Bienvenidos a East Los Angeles”

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  • Barbershops in Latino and African American communities has traditionally been a hub of communication. This barbershop serves an even greater purpose. Thank you for the blog.


    Comment from nzingha Garner on February 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • These Japanese internment stories always break my heart, but it is so important that it is known that this actually happened.

    Comment from nzingha Garner on February 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • There is a very well done Japanese Internment Memorial in Washington, DC:

    I believe there is a quote from Norman Mineta, former Transportation Secretary, who was in the Heart Mountain Camp as a kid…

    Comment from Andy on February 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm - Reply to this Comment

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