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Morning Brief: LA’s Veterans, Tiny Homes, And ‘The Pigmentocracy Problem’

Veterans Day honors the service of all military veterans.
(Robert Couse-Baker
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Good morning, L.A. It’s May 31.

Today is Memorial Day, and in addition to the barbecues and beach hangs, many will spend the day honoring those who have sacrificed for freedoms, here and abroad.

One local war hero, Ysabel “Mac” Arredondo Ortiz, Jr. of El Monte, was killed in the Korean War and had been missing until 2019, reports my colleague Chris Greenspon. Ortiz, Jr. was just 17 when he joined the Army, and barely 19 when a tank to which he was assigned became a target.

"Our dad would only tell us that they took a direct hit on the tank," said Manuel Ortiz, Mac’s brother, "and they never found anything."

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Then, after being identified via DNA from his siblings, Ortiz Jr.’s remains were finally returned to the U.S. in 2019, along with 55 other soldiers who had been missing.

"It was so beautiful because … our brother was in one of those 55 that was returned, after 70 years almost," Manuel said.

Ortiz Jr. was buried in Riverside National Cemetery and posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. A new affordable housing community scheduled to open in El Monte in November will bear his name, and provide 53 units of housing for homeless veterans and low-income families.

If you have the day off, enjoy your time with family and friends. The Morning Brief will be on hiatus tomorrow, and will return Wednesday.

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Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go ... A Brown Mexicano Gets Real About The Color Hierarchy

Julio at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.
Julio Vallejo at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.
(Courtesy of Julio Vallejo)

Since June 2020, we've asked for your stories about how race and ethnicity shape your life. Here, contributor Julio Vallejo writes about what he calls “The Pigmentocracy Problem”:

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“I was in my early twenties when I graduated college in Mexico with a degree in economics. I got a job at one of the country’s largest companies, based in my hometown of Monterrey.

“It was just the beginning of my career, and pretty quick I realized there wasn’t a bright future for me there. I didn’t see anyone in leadership who looked like me — a brown-skinned kid with Indigenous features. So I decided to immigrate to the U.S.”

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