As of 2015, an estimated 48.4% of Angelenos were “Hispanic of any race.” The majority of Hispanic and Latino Angelenos are of Mexican heritage but the region is also well known for being home to the largest populations of Salvadorans and Guatemalans outside of their home countries. Often overlooked are the region’s smaller Latino populations, the subject of this series of No Enclave posts written on the occasion of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Los Angeles is home to roughly 8,570 Argentines, the second largest Argentine-American community after New York City. Much of Argentina’s Anglo population left that country during the reign of right wing dictator Juan Perón, in the 1950s. The Anglo population included doctors, scientists, and other professionals, and most emigrated to Anglophonic countries such as Australia, Canada, and the US. During the Dirty War (1969-1983), right wing death squads murdered thousands of Argentines associated (or believed to be) with Socialism, prompting more emigration, with New York City arising as the most popular destination. In the 2000s, Southern California and Florida emerged as popular destinations for Argentine immigrants and as of 2010, about one in five of the nation’s documented 224,952 Argentines lived in California, and one in four lived in Florida.
Argentina is a multi-ethnic country. Common ethnicities and heritages include Arab, British, French, Italian, Jewish, German, Polish, Slavic, and Spanish. Native peoples include the Mapuche, Toba, Qulla, Wichi, and others. About 40 languages are commonly spoken in Argentina, with Spanish predominating — specifically the Rioplatense dialect. The country has produced internationally renowned writers, painters, architects, filmmakers, music composers, and athletes. In Los Angeles, the most obvious indication of Argentines’ presence is through Argentinian restaurants.
Beef is widely regarded as practically synonymous Argentine Cuisine and the average Argentine eats more than his or her weight in cow meat each year. Probably not of coincidence is the fact that the largest killer in Argentina is coronary heart disease. Although viewed as intrinsic to the national character, cows were only introduced to Argentina by the Spanish in the 16th century. Additionally, in the Americas, only the US and Canada receive more immigrants than Argentina (roughly 2 million annually) and those more recent immigrants also imprint their respective culinary influences onto the national cuisine.
Before the Spanish, indigenous peoples like the Charrúa, Guaraní, Hênîa and Kâmîare, Huarpe, Kom, Minuane, Puelche, Querandí, Selknam, Tehuelche, Toconoté, Wichí, and Yaghan lived in the region for roughly 13,000 years, variously sustained by hunting & gathering, llama farming, agriculture, and trade. Indigenous foods included various melons, squash, and super-nutritious sweet potatoes. Then as now, caffeine-rich mate was commonly consumed as a beverage.
After the European Conquest, Italians introduced pasta and pizza. The British introduced tea, a habit they’d picked up in India. Popular meat items and dishes include asado, chorizo, milanesas, morcilla, chinchulines, and mollejas. Popular meat optional items include empanadas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches de miga. Popular desserts include dulce de leche, dulce de batata, and alfajores. Popular alcoholic drinks include Quilmes (a brand of lager), aguardiente, cider, and wine — especially the Malbec varietal.
Locally, there are several Argentinian businesses which straddle the line between deli and market, offering both pre-packaged Argentinian products and freshly prepared food. These include two locations of Continental Gourmet (in Hawthorne and Lomita), Argentina Market (Pasadena), Carniceria Argentina Alex Meat Market (North Hollywood), Mercado Buenos Aires (Van Nuys), and Tito’s Market (El Monte). I believe El Gaucho Meat Market (Anaheim and Redondo Beach) is more strictly a carniceria.
In 1989, Argentine-Angeleno Adolfo Suaya founded Gaucho Grill, which in the 1990s developed into a growing chain of Argentine restaurants. However, in recent years Gaucho Grill has seemingly struggled and at the time of writing, the Laurel Canyon, Santa Monica, and Studio City locations have all shuttered. There are still locations in Brentwood, Burbank, Downey, Long Beach, and Woodland Hills but perhaps calling ahead would be a good idea before making dinner plans.
When I think of Argentinian music the two bands that first come to my mind are Babasonicos (who played the Conga Room in 2011) and Miranda! (who played Reventon SuperEstrella 2006 at the Los Angeles Coliseum).
I also love Leo Dan, who is always in rotation on Recuerdo 103.9. I can also almost guarantee a sing-along will follow anyone playing Los Enanitos Verdes‘ “Lamento Boliviano” on any local jukebox. However, the music (and dance) most associated with Argentina is Tango.
Tango developed in the 1880s along the Plata River, which forms the border between Argentina and Uruguay. It later flourished in the working class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. My own interest in tango has almost everything to do with the music and next to nothing to do with the dance but I get the impression that I’m nearly alone in this view and that the local milongas are less focused on exposing Angelenos to the likes of Alfredo de Angelis, Miguel Caló, or Miguel Montero than they are teaching dance — although I could be completely wrong. Whatever the case may be, local venues include Isabelle’s Dance Academy (Santa Monica); Living Tango (El Segundo and Redondo Beach); Los Angeles Tango Academy (North Hollywood); Makela Tango (Sawtelle); Oxygen Tango (Mar Vista); Tango Academy of Pasadena; Tango 4U (Beverly Grove); Tango Lessons in LA (Tehrangeles); The Tango Room Dance Center (Sherman Oaks); and Tango San Pedro.
There are several Argentine-Angeleno musicians of note. Albert Hammond Jr., member of The Strokes, was born in Los Angeles to singer-songwriter Albert “It Never Rains in Southern California” Hammond and Argentine beauty pageant winner, Claudia Fernández. Kim Deal’s replacement in The Pixies, is Mar del Plata-born bassist, Paz Lenchantin. Lenchantin moved with her family to Los Angeles in the 1970s, and later played in the bands Entrance, A Perfect Circle, Zwan, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Gustavo Santaolalla is probably best known in the US as a film composer. He scored Brokeback Mountain, Babel, and the documentary series, Making a Murderer. In 1967 he co-founded in the rock nacional group, Arco Iris, in Argentina. He quit the band in 1975 and moved to Los Angeles in 1977, where he formed Wet Picnic with Anibal Kerpel, former member of Argentine prog band, Crucis. Meanwhile, the rest of Arco Iris moved to Southern California and the band’s flautist, Ara Tokatlián, and spiritual guide, Dana (né Danais Winnycka), formed a hippie commune and continued to record make with American musicians. In the 1980s, Santaolalla recorded solo music and has also produced prominent rock en español acts like Los Prisioneros, Maldita Vecindad, Fobia, Molotov, Café Tacuba, Julieta Venegas, Juanes, Morrissey, and others.
ARGENTINE FILM & TELEVISION
There are a few Argentine-Angelenos involved in the entertainment industry, including actors Alexis Bledel, Carlos Alazraqui, Fernando Lamas, India Eisley, Jacqueline Obradors, and Lorenzo Lamas. Television personality Kat Von D and filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley are also Argentine-Angelenos.
Anyone who watches football knows that Argentina has strong ties to the sport. Football was introduced to Argentina by British immigrants in the 1867, the same year the Buenos Aires Football Club was founded — the oldest football club in South America. An estimated 90% of Argentines declare allegiance to a football club, of which there are 3,377. Retired footballer Marcelo Balboa grew up in Cerritos. Sportscaster Andrés Cantor was born in Buenos Aires but moved as a teen to Los Angeles, where he attended San Marino High. Even those who’ve never watched a football game are familiar with his signature exclamation, of “gooooooooooooooooooooooool,” shouted whenever one is scored. The parents of basketball player Diana Taurasi, born in Glendale and raised in Chino, are also from Argentina.
Architect César Pelli designed several important structures in Los Angeles. After his apprenticeship in New York City, Pelli was the Director of Design at Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall and, later, Partner for Design at Gruen Associates — both of which are based in Los Angeles. One of his first works was Los Angeles International Airport‘s Worldway Postal Center, undertaken in 1966. In 1969, with Anthony J. Lumsden, he designed the Century City Medical Plaza. In 1975 he designed West Hollywood‘s Pacific Design Center (aka the Blue Whale). In 1991, he designed the Financial District’s 777 Tower (also known as Pelli Tower). In 2000 he designed the new offices of KABC-TV in Glendale.
OTHER ARGENTINE ANGELENOS
Other prominent Argentines include Gerardo L. Munck, a professor of international relations for the School of International Relations of the University of Southern California; and Nancy Sutley, the former deputy mayor for Energy and Environment in Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s appointment to the board of directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The non-profit Argentine Association of Los Angeles is located in Burbank. It was founded in 1967 to keep “the Argentine culture alive, stimulating the development of friendship and mutual assistance among Argentines.” Toward that goal they offer food, tango, and card nights. The offices of the Consulate General of Argentina are located, like so many, on Wilshire Boulevard, in the Hancock Park neighborhood.
Finally, there’s apparently a bust of José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras (an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire) located on a traffic island on Burton Way, between La Cienega Boulevard and North Le Doux Road. Apparently, its installation was largely thanks to the efforts of one Hugo Rodriguez and the San Martin Society of the San Fernando Valley.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam.
Brightwell has written for Angel Walk LA, Amoeblog, Boom: A Journal of California, diaCRITICS, Hidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, the book Sidewalking, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery.
Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College.
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