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The Complicated Feelings of Going ‘Home’ To Mexico

A brown-skinned Latino man stands in front of colorful flags.
How to LA host Brian De Los Santos in Laguna Nogales, next to his father’s hometown in Veracruz, Mexico.
(Brian De Los Santos
LAist )
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For many of us living in Southern California, traveling to Mexico is just a hop, skip and a jump away. We can enjoy our spring break vacations in Cancun, Cabo or Tulum without necessarily questioning who we are as people.

A Journalist Grapples With Identity In His Homeland

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But for thousands of Mexican-born DACA recipients like How To LA podcast host Brian De Los Santos, traveling back to Mexico is neither easy nor stress-free.

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Starting last week, Brian has been taking us on a three-part journey as he navigates the process of going “home” and discovering his Mexican heritage.

Last week, we learned about what motivated Brian to apply for advance parole, a travel document that allows some DACA recipients to travel outside the country and return without a visa (as DACA, Brian can get a driver's license but not an American passport). This week, we traveled through Mexico with him — Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, and Ciudad Mendoza in Veracruz, where he was born.

In Mexico, he feels at home but also an outsider. New friends call him gringo and Chicano. He argues he’s not that. He doesn’t exactly feel American.

It’s all because he’s undocumented.

One thing I found so fascinating while reading his article and listening to his podcast is how he begins to embrace his pochismo, his identity as an “Americanized Mexican”.

Sometimes, this includes a lack of ability to speak articulately in Spanish or a lack of knowledge of Mexican culture. But Brian comes to understand that being a Mexican who was raised in America comes with a wealth of privilege.

“I've never felt truly Mexican, but I'm also not American, at least not in the way that many people think,” Brian said in the podcast. “I've always felt like I'm somewhere in between —- a person always looking for their true home.”

This trip marks the first time Brian has left the U.S.

And finally, at 32, he gets to visit his roots, spend time and break bread with his family — his grandmothers, tias and primas for the first time since he was a toddler.

He was home.

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Read and listen to the rest of Brian’s trip back home to Mexico for the first time in 30 years. (BTW: At the end of the podcast episode, you can also hear other DACA recipients’ stories about traveling back to their countries of origin.)

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

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  • For all of us not going to Coachella, I have a list of fun events that we can do instead. Are you into street racing? Check out the Grand Prix of Long Beach at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center this weekend.Where are my art foodies at? If you fit the bill, the All Consuming: Art and Essence of Food exhibition at the Norton Simon Museum showcases  how food was portrayed way back in the day in Europe. Or listen to stories about embarrassing childhoods at Mortified’s Best Of at the Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation on Saturday (Storytellers who have a habit of oversharing their personal stories, unite!) 
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Wait! One More Thing...

One Benefit Of A Rainy Season? An Abundance Of Wildflowers

a purple-pink away of flowers in sprouting from the ground
Wildflowers at Theodore Payne Foundation, a nonprofit advocates for the role of native plants in Southern California.
(Brian De Los Santos
LAist )

Sometimes, when I’m having a challenging day and I’m feeling down, I like to reflect on what I’m grateful for. One of those things is the ability to see so I can gaze upon the vibrant array of wildflowers growing all over Southern California this spring. Thanks to all of the rain we’ve had these past few months, I am ready for a road trip to see some poppies, sun cups and California Fuchsia.

In the latest How To LA podcast episode, the team went out to Sun Valley to chat with some experts who know their way around wildflowers. Evan Meyer from the Theodore Payne Foundation, an organization that educates people about native plant landscapes, told host Brian De Los Santos that California is one of the few places in the world that experience the kind of super blooms we are seeing now (South Africa, Chile and Southwestern Australia are a few of the others). But, he says, wildflowers were even more abundant in pre-colonial times here.

“The landscape was being actively managed by indigenous people to produce flowers because those flowers ultimately become seeds and those seeds are edible,” Meyer said. “So you can imagine L.A., prior to any roads or any buildings, you would have seen a region, in a wet spring like this, with millions and billions of flowers that were being cultivated.”

He added: “The relationship between wildflowers and people is a deep one.”

Listen to the rest of the conversation here.

We hope you can get out and see these beautiful landscapes this weekend, but please be careful. This is a sensitive ecosystem. Avoid trampling the flowers. If you do, Meyer tells us, they may struggle to grow back.

With that in mind, here’s the hook up on where you can view wildflowers this weekend:

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