Los Angeles, California

Encyclopedia Article


A large culturally and racially diverse city located in southern California. Los Angeles is the second most populated city in the U.S., after New York City. The name Los Angeles means “the angels” in Spanish and is hence known as the “City of Angels.” Prior to the 20th century, Los Angeles was not the center of movie-making, leisure, or cultural capitalism that we think of today. The city began as a small village that, in order to distribute the water supply from the Los Angeles and Owens Rivers, consolidated a number of neighboring communities to create one large city. It is for this reason that there are a number of distinct city districts within Los Angeles including: Hollywood, San Pedro, Chinatown, Watts, Boyle Heights, Encino, and Little Tokyo. Before the mid-20th century, agriculture thrived within the city as there were many farms, orchards, and greenhouses. When the film industry moved from the East Coast to California, largely due to the availability of natural light and cheap property values, Los Angeles became a cultural and economic hub of the West Coast. Theater, music, and visual art have proliferated since the 1960s, creating an urban renaissance that corresponded with the physical growth of the city. Its warm climate, beaches, and mountains also make it a popular world-wide tourist destination. The city is also known for its major freeways, traffic, and car culture.

This sprawling city is home to many ethnicities, career options, and socioeconomic classes. There are also a number of Navajo peoples living in Los Angeles as a direct effect of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956. This act encouraged Native Americans to leave their reservations and settle down in large cities by offering vocational training, moving expenses, and some economic help when they first arrived in the cities. The act relocated approximately 750,000 Native Americans into major cities, such as L.A., where they often faced cultural isolation, poverty, discrimination, and other adverse effects.

Photo Credit: 

"Downtown Los Angeles from behind the Hollywood sign, February 2, 2013" by James Gubera is licensed under CC BY.