In South L.A., a name lost in trans­la­tion

A pro­posal to re­brand the neigh­bor­hood leaves some res­i­dents feel­ing left out.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By An­gel Jen­nings

Two months ago, Los An­ge­les City Coun­cil­man Bernard C. Parks pitched “SOLA” as a hip-sound­ing nick­name for South Los An­ge­les. He said other com­mu­ni­ties had been rein­vig­o­rated with “con­tem­po­rary names.”

But there was just un prob­lema: In Span­ish, “sola” means a woman who is alone. Or lonely. A woman wear­ing a “hip” SOLA shirt might ac­tu­ally ap­pear to be look­ing for love.

At meet­ings at Los An­ge­les City Hall this week, some res­i­dents of South L.A. said the SOLA pro­posal was a sign that Lati­nos — who are now the ma­jor­ity in once pre­dom­i­nantly black neigh­bor­hoods — were over­looked.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said Mari Mer­cado, a South L.A. teacher. “It’s like, ‘I brand you alone and now I’m leav­ing you alone.’ ”

Parks said he hoped to usher South L.A. into a new era where ab­bre­vi­ated neigh­bor­hood names ex­ude a cool fac­tor. Down­town Los An­ge­les, which went from a tired stretch of blight to a boom­ing dis­trict filled with art gal­leries, trendy restau­rants and pricey lofts, be­came DTLA.

As he pre­pares to step away from the dais at the end of his term, Parks said, pol­i­tics are get­ting in the way of ap­prov­ing one of his fi­nal mea­sures. Any word, he con­tends, can get lost in trans­la­tion.

“If you re­ally search hard, al­most any word that you have in English and you trans­late it into another lan­guage could have another mean­ing,” Parks said. “I think we’re still in Amer­ica and we’re speak­ing English. So that’s what we tried to come up with.”

But Jaime Re­gal­ado, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal science at Cal State L.A., said the SOLA is­sue shows how im­por­tant it is for lead-

ers to stay con­nected with the de­mo­graphic shifts oc­cur­ring in their dis­tricts.

“It sounds like Parks was f ly­ing solo on this,” Re­gal­ado said. Sola, in Span­ish, could sug­gest “a woman in sex­ual need. It’s not a proper word to use to de­scribe any sec­tion or com­mu­nity of Los An­ge­les. It re­ally is not wise at all, and it means vet­ting re­ally has not taken place at the com­mu­nity at large.”

Other city of­fi­cials won­dered how much sup­port there was in the com­mu­nity for Parks’ pro­posal. Coun­cil­man Cur­ren Price, who rep­re­sents the 9th Dis­trict, said he re­ceived calls and emails from res­i­dents who feared that the City Coun­cil was slap­ping a new la­bel on the com­mu­nity with­out their in­put. Price moved to ta­ble the mea­sure un­til more out­reach could be con­ducted.

“It has some neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions,” Price said. “It’s not the pow­er­ful acro­nym that ev­ery­body read­ily em­braces.”

In 2003, res­i­dents said the South­side, lumped to­gether then as South-Cen­tral, had de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion in pop­u­lar cul­ture as an area no­to­ri­ous for crime, gangs and drugs. They pe­ti­tioned the City Coun­cil to re-chris­ten it South L.A., hop­ing to re­move the stigma. That com­mu­nity dis­cus­sion did not hap­pen this time around, res­i­dents said.

Gen­eral Jeff Page, who was born and raised in South L.A., said there is com­mu­nity pride at­tached to a place’s name and that res­i­dents should be con­sid- ered when a change is made.

“Whether it’s South-Cen­tral L.A. or whether its South L.A., we need to be clear ex­actly what we’re do­ing as a com­mu­nity,” he said. “And it should not be City Hall dic­tat­ing how com­mu­ni­ties are de­fined.”

Katie Falkenberg Los An­ge­les Times

COUN­CIL­MAN Bernard C. Parks says the nick­name “SOLA” would give South L.A. a “hip” iden­tity.

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