Ustedes already know that SanTana is one screwy city, but Los Angeles Times readers generally don't (readers of Jennifer Delson excepted). In my continuing effort to tell the Orange County story to the world, read my opinion piece regarding Santa Ana's war on human billboards. The piece has already elicited a couple of responses, none more telling than the one below written by a former Orange County Register reporter that shall remain nameless. . . .
I read your piece on Santa Ana with great interest. I worked at The Orange County Register in the mid-1980s as the reporter for the city of Santa Ana (only Mexican on staff at the time!). The run-down city was undergoing redevelopment at the time, and the exclusively gringo city council was holding sessions to get public input on how the redevelopment should proceed (required procedure, as you know).
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Of course, in an effort to remain in control, there was minimal publicity for these hearings. I decided to meet with individual downtown business owners to ask them what they thought of the process as part of my reporting. That is when I met the Pulidos. They were unaware of the hearings, as were 90 percent of the Mexicans I spoke with and they began to mobilize to make themselves heard. Ultimately, the Pulidos retained their muffler shop and, along with other Mexicans, eventually wound up ousting the white leadership.
Before the Mexicans gained power, however, Santa Ana went through a very interesting period in which Mexican nationalism dominated. The Mexican leadership engaged in creative public dissent. The city, for example, would stage an annual Golden City Days Parade, complete with high school bands, the mayor, chamber of commerce leaders and the local beauty queen, riding in convertibles and waving to the happy Mexicans. One year, to demonstrate their growing sense of power, the Mexican business leaders declared a boycott of the parade and staged their own counter “Golden Brown City Days.” The owner of the big Mexican theater downtown (don’t recall the name) [Gustavo's note: that would be the Olivos clan] brought in major national singers from Mexico to a stage they constructed on vacant land downtown that had previously housed businesses that had been razed by redevelopment. Thousands of Mexicans rallied to the event, and the city-sponsored events had to be called off. I wrote about this during my period at the OC Register, and there was a major story that ran in the local section above the fold on “Santa Ana’s Golden ‘Brown’ City Days.”
It is unfortunate that the Pulidos have forgotten how alienated and isolated they were at one time and that they were nearly voted out town by a city council that tried to simply ignore its Mexican population.
All right, Santaneros: Do you remember these Golden "Brown" City Days? Leave comments below!