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L.A. introduction

Off the beaten track L.A.

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How Los Angeles Became So Unique
A Brief Cultural History of L.A.

Looking out from the entrance to Union Station toward the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, with LA City Hall in the forefront. The palm and other trees to the right are where Los Angeles was founded.

There is no other city like Los Angeles. It deserves the word unique.

This situation results from L.A.'s history—both from how it was located and from the settlement patterns that came after American rule.

Early California coastal cities under Spanish rule grew up adjacent to Roman Catholic mission churches with one notable exception.

Los Angeles located itself some 12 miles to the west of the spiritual influence of the San Gabriel Mission and it has thumbed its nose at conventional behaviour ever since. That is part of what makes Los Angeles so interesting to visit.

Once Los Angeles came under United States rule, order and stability still did not trump personal freedom, situation that never completely changed. L.A. was to a large degree lawless in its early days and compared to some more puritanical cities remains somewhat so.

By this, we do not mean that there is more violent crime than in other large cities. It's just that there has been less government intrusion into individual lives.


Party time

After the exhausted Mexican Army defenders of California lost their final battle to a mixture of American soldiers and American undocumented (not invited) settlers, the Mexican residents of Los Angeles threw a multi day party—for both sides. This party to some extent has continued ever since.

As time passed, the arrival of the first transcontinental railroad to reach southern California brought a boom of transplants who stayed for the mild winter climate and opportunities in new industries.

Without the roots and the conventional behaviour fostered by lifetime neighbours, Southern California culture became as open to change as any place in the world, and has remained so.

Unlike in the more staid eastern U.S., a remarkable tolerance for differences developed in the Los Angeles area. Here, to a large degree, one was able to do her or his "own thing" as long as it did not interfere with others.

(There are exceptions. For example, in the immediate Los Angeles area, you will not find the clothing-optional public beaches so commonly found in Europe.)

Moreover, the economic and social class differentiation that ruled daily life in the eastern United States, Canada, and Europe had a much weaker influence here. People tended to group together because they shared interests—not because they had similar size bank accounts. You see this today in Silicon Valley, as well as in Southern California, although sadly this may be changing somewhat.


California to the world

Above: A California cultural trend that spread nearly worldwide.

Today, of course, California values and behaviour are disseminated throughout the world by its entertainment industry, called "the industry" in Los Angeles.

As the Southern California poet Richard Armour once wrote,

"So jump for joy
Be blithe and gay,
Or weep my friends with sorrow
For what California is today
The rest will be tomorrow"

Richard Armour may have been right. This can be frightening to some at times, but you have to know that a future based on California culture will always be interesting.

Dr. Voyageur guarantees that you will never be bored in Southern California, one of the most fascinating urban areas in the world.

For more introduction to your L.A. area visit:

Go to >> Introduction to your visit
Go to >> Choosing your base
Go to >> Santa Monica
Go to >> San Gabriel Valley - the area most L.A. travellers overlook Go to >> Finding the perfect beach

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