What's in a Name? Los Angeles Embraces Its Hispanic Heritage

As Midwesterners flocked to Southern California in the first decades of the last century, place names associated with the region's Spanish settlers were anglicized. A return to proper pronunciations reflects the area's changing demographics.

1 minute read

May 8, 2013, 10:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"Many of the names that dot the maps of Southern California originate with the Spanish settlers of the 17th and 18th centuries and the Native Americans before them," explains Marisa Gerber. "The English-speaking people who eventually developed the region loved the romantic feel of the Spanish place names but brought a decidedly Midwestern way of pronouncing them."

"Rancho Los Feliz became Los FEE-lus. La bahía de San Pedro, San PEE-dro. El Segundo, Elsie Gunndo."

"These days, though, Spanish pronunciations are making a comeback," she notes. "A younger generation — perhaps more sensitive to the region's history — favors truer Spanish pronunciations. L.A.'s growing Latino population helps propel the new pronunciations too: Univision Radio's "Piolin por La Mañana" often outpaces its English-language competitors, and a Latino runs City Hall."

"It's part of the re-Latinization of Los Angeles," said historian William Estrada. "Intersections of culture come about in cuisine and in spoken word — in the changing movement to the correct, authentic pronunciation."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 in Los Angeles Times

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