Posted in Around Town

Pasadena’s Costa Chicans

In case you missed it (I did; a friend told me about it) the Los Angeles Times last Sunday featured an article about Costa Chicans in southern California, and spotlighted an extended family living in Pasadena. The people of Costa Chica, an area south of Acapulco, have both Mexican and African heritage. In fact, (via

The early African presence in the Americas is normally associated with the slave trade in the United States, the Caribbean, Brazil, Central America, Colombia and Peru. Not generally taught in history textbooks is that Mexico was also a key port of entry for slave ships and consequently had a large African population.

In fact, during the colonial era, there were more Africans than Europeans in Mexico, according to Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán’s pioneering 1946 book, “The Black Population in Mexico.” And he said they didn’t disappear, but in fact took part in forging the great racial mixture that is today Mexico.

“Because of race mixture, much of the African presence is no longer discernible except in a few places such as Veracruz and the Costa Chica in Guerrero and Oaxaca,” wrote Aguirre Beltrán.

The part of the Times’ article that brought tears to my eyes was the story of 20-year old Fortino Acevedo, who moved to Pasadena from a dangerous area near Mexico City “to escape the lure of drugs and violence.” Talk about your false advertising. Acevedo was shot in the face in Pasadena on August 27, 2006. According to the Times, Acevedo saw three men surround one guy, and he intervened. There was a fight, a shot, and hours later Acevedo was dead.

There are several interesting elements of this story. According to the article:

  • Acevedo had been drinking. This may (or may not, it’s not clear) have motivated him to step into a dangerous situation.
  • The Pasadena Weekly says he was found in the street just before 4:00 a.m. It should be safe to be on the street anywhere at any time, but we have not achieved that in Pasadena yet. If a bullet wants to find me at that time, it’ll have to come through the wall or window. Still, I am not a fan of the self-imposed curfew.
  • Acevedo was reportedly a “waiter at a country club in La Canada Flintridge.” Who’s hiring undocumented workers up there? (Based on the article’s POV, I assume he was.  He may have been documented.  The article is unclear.) I hear there are some previous employees at Annandale who are looking for jobs thanks to a social security crackdown at that moneyed-members-only Pasadena club.
  • Speaking generally about Costa Chicans, the article says “…many don’t have driver’s licenses…” Actually, some from immigrant families born here don’t have licenses either.

That last one bugs me. Car accidents are preventable. If we’re all operating on a basic set of driving rules, it’ll improve safety. The California DMV publishes the vehicle code in many languages.

Getting a driver’s license has been something of a rite of passage in our culture, ranging from the 12-year-old who starts driving on the farm to the 27-year-old who leaves New York City and finally learns to drive. The Scout was once broadsided by an uninsured, unlicensed driver. Not fun. That helped inspire me: I’ve helped a kid or two get a license by letting them use my fully-functioning vehicle with insurance.

Other links:

African Roots Stretch Deep Into Mexico (the article from Mexico Connect quoted above)

Africa’s Legacy in Mexico: Mexico’s Third Root (via Smithsonian)

Mexico in the Context of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (via Dialogo)


This is a personal blog. Expect a potpourri of stuff.

5 thoughts on “Pasadena’s Costa Chicans

  1. “………….Acevedo was reportedly a “waiter at a country club in La Canada Flintridge.” Who’s hiring undocumented workers up there? ……….” was Acevedo undocumented or in this country legally I can’t tell from your post, is it just an assumption?

  2. Hi Howey,

    Thanks for noticing my assumption. You’re right, the article didn’t explicitly say he was undocumented. I inferred that from the rest of the Times’ article. I amended my post. Thank you for your careful attention.

    Just last night, The Scout himself went all ballistic about political correctness (something to do with that ‘bitter’ and ‘cling’ deal). I think that pointing out assumptions, or at least checking them out, is worth doing. As you know, that helps us be better thinkers.

    The income disparity in this country is getting bigger, not smaller. Hmmm, I just remembered “Ain’t We Got Fun” which I played on the alto sax in 6th grade. “The rich get rich and the poorer get poorer” is how I remember the lyrics, but first glance at one lyrics website says “The rich get rich and the poorer get children.”

    My issue is perception. People see me and make assumptions. That happens more or less depending on where I am, and who people think I am in that context. As an example, I’m one person in Trader Joe’s, and another person on the bus.

  3. Political correctness is a funny thing. Sometimes it is a hyper sensitivity which leads to unneeded self censorship and other times the statement “I’m not politically correct…” is usually followed by some cringe inducing statement.

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