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News Link • Economy - Economics USA

Waking Up in the 1930s

It’s as if those contentious, post-ironic Shepard Fairey “Hope” stickers that remain plastered across the nation continue to radiate hypnotic beams convincing the viewer that prosperity is just around the corner. And so here are some voices of that doubt, disillusion and hope, culled from a region especially hurting: the megalopolis of Los Angeles. Sylmar, Calif., as distant geographically from downtown L.A.’s Skid Row as you can get and remain within Los Angeles County, is visually too a sea change from Skid Row’s piss-stained concrete pavement. Hard up against the Angeles National Forest, the rugged ridgeline of the San Gabriel Mountains spreads majestically from east to west along the horizon, and here on a recent summer afternoon a breeze fragrant with citrus cools a crowd of people who sit quietly beneath the shade of churchyard trees. But this is no church picnic. There is no Frisbee being tossed around, no music being played; no one has prepared his or her favorite potato salad to share. They are here to get a box full of donated food from the First Baptist Church food pantry, a situation with which many of them have only recently become familiarized, and an overwhelming sense of apprehension prevails among the crowd, some 200 strong, akin to that among displaced persons in the aftermath of a building fire. They know this is not the normal order of things and fear the future. A horseman wearing a white straw Stetson trots past astride a palomino and waves lazily, his hat contrasting strongly with his skin, and a scene straight out of Steinbeck is complete. He is brown, a campesino like the wiry, muscled young men in work clothes speaking quietly in Spanish among themselves in the bread line. There are mothers, too, trying to keep their place while controlling kids, a thin man with a military posture in GI desert boots, and a few sullen and obese cholo types sporting shaved heads and the “M13” inked into forearms displaying allegiance to the Mexican Mafia street gang. There’s also a clean-cut man with a pink face, the clean-shaven face of a banker.

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