Historian Kelly Lytle Hernández Teams Up with New LA City Councilors to Review City's HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: California, Los Angeles, labor history, radical history, mexican revolution, Latino/a history
In front of a row of mannequins, newly elected Los Angeles Councilmembers Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez pondered the city's radical past, present and future.
They looked over photocopies of the secret codes of the Magonistas — activists whose writings and organizing helped spark the Mexican Revolution and forever changed the course of Mexican and U.S. history, especially in Southern California.
Hounded by authorities from the two countries, the Magonistas landed in L.A. in the 1900s. They lived and worked and rallied across the city, from skid row to Silver Lake to here in the Fashion District, where Soto-Martinez and Hernandez met me on a chilly Friday morning.
With us was UCLA history professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez. Her recent book "Bad Mexicans" tells the Magonista saga in cinematic detail. She explained how in 1907, the location where we stood was a hideout for Ricardo Flores Magón, the brilliant but problematic leader who lent his name to the Magonistas.
Lytle Hernandez, a MacArthur "genius" grant winner, was about to take us on a two-mile walk through Magonista L.A., ending at City Hall. I had asked her for a tour in the summer, but we couldn't align our calendars.
In the wake of the elections of Hernandez and Soto-Martinez, unabashed progressives who beat incumbents with promises to bring people power to City Hall, I suggested that we try again. This time, we'd go with the incoming council members so Lytle Hernandez could share the Magonista story as both inspiration and cautionary tale.
"You see the resurgence of Latinx organizing right now, and Hugo and Eunisses come from that," she told me shortly before the council members arrived. "They're helping to change the city."
The profe had an hour and a half for us — the typical span of an undergraduate lecture — before she caught a plane.
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