Review: Whitewashed Adobe

I’m still trying to get a handle on how this place I call my home came to be what it is.  That leads me to histories of the area, like William Deverell‘s Whitewashed Adobe.  As with Before LA, Deverell focuses on the change in demographics that occurred here after the Mexican War.  The steady dilution of Mexico’s influence on the area is surprising, but evidently difficult to characterize.

Deverell focuses on several key events and environments that give a flavor, but root causes remain slippery.  He describes the brickyards where Mexican-descended laborers literally built LA from Los Angeles.  That’s telling and powerful, but there’s no watershed here.  Brickwork slowly went away for everyone – especially in the face of earthquakes.  It’s easy to feel the workers being engulfed by the emerging American city they laid the bones for, even when both sides would claim not to have participated in the assimilation.

Other events and iconography are also well chosen, including the Fiesta de Los Angeles and the Mission Play.  Both are interesting mergings of the social and commercial that reflect the prevailing mindsets of the time.  Either could be and probably have been the basis for books of their own.

I did learn a lot from Whitewashed Adobe, but I can’t say that it was an irresistible page-turner.  The writing is clear and informative, but not inspiring.


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