Sunday, April 13, 2008

5351: Costa Chica.

From The Los Angeles Times…

An unusual blend of cultures: Mexican and black
Immigrants from Costa Chica share an ancient ethnic heritage and culture that few outsiders know about.

By John L. Mitchell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Every Sunday, on a chewed-up soccer field in Pasadena, Mexican immigrants play a game they learned barefoot in the dusty pueblos along a remote stretch of the Pacific coast.

The Costa Chica team -- named for the picturesque coastline south of Acapulco -- has cut a winning path through the heart of an immigrant-dominated league in Pasadena, capturing three championships in two years.

Its players are agile and swift. And they’ve quickly earned the respect and admiration of opponents who at first didn’t know what to make of their talented adversaries.

“Are you really Mexican?” they are sometimes asked.

Their skin is dark. They look Honduran, Dominican or even African American.

Black Mexicans?

“No existe!”

But Costa Chicans -- many dark in complexion with puchunco (curly or kinky) hair -- are Mexicans with cultural and racial histories going back hundreds of years to the Spanish conquistadors and the African slave trade.

As part of the massive wave of Mexican immigrants who began fleeing the economic hardships of their homeland in the 1980s, black Mexicans from the coast settled in communities throughout the United States, in Winston Salem, N.C., Joliet, Ill., and Salt Lake City, among other places.

Some 300 Costa Chicans live in Pasadena, and thousands more can be found in San Bernardino, South Los Angeles, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana, all enclaves characterized by close family and community ties.

The story of their journey and survival includes familiar subplots: immigrant families -- some here legally, some not -- struggling to adjust to a new country, establish livelihoods and avoid the perils of urban life. And for Costa Chicans, the unique cultural and racial identities add another layer of complexity as they try to make their way in a new land.

Like all immigrants, this group came here looking to scratch out a better life than the one offered in the small coastal towns of Guerrero and Oaxaca where most were born. Many seemed to have found what they were looking for -- and then some.

[Read the full story here.]

No comments: