How about our grandmothers? It’s high time that we focus on the politics of cultural transmission in Los Angeles, that we decolonize ourselves from the idea that L.A. is some Calvinist city on the ocean and embrace what we are: a city of grandmothers.
The concoctions of grandmothers that stem from the use of plants. Grandmothers transmitting practices of dialogue, and peace within households. It’s not just grandmothers who do it, but grandmothers represent the idea that if we do nothing then this knowledge goes away. There is a body of knowledge that has allowed Los Angeles to thrive that is not political knowledge, or an ability to write and execute policy. It is a knowledge that does not produce beauty for galleries or for museums, but sows beauty against misery and towards fortitude. It is from Michoacan, and its butterflies, from Durango, from Salvador, from Louisiana, from Japan, from Armenia, from Appalachia, from Central Europe, from Dakar, Port au Prince, from Ethiopia.
This knowledge, in LA, is not invested in. It is not considered knowledge that should be cultivated, and is not part of any policy. At most, the human beings that carry this knowledge are acknowledged in speeches etc, but as of yet, one can’t say that the Botanicas, the households all around the city can turn to a policy, an office, or any amount of political will towards the valorization and transmission of traditional knowledge.
What about how our grandmothers cook? In Cuba, a person is allowed to open a restaurant inside of their house. If we think about how Air B n B makes money, destroying the fabric of the world’s cities, why shouldn’t a person, regulated by sanitary measures, make a large amount of Pozole and sell a bowl to a neighbor at a price that will surely be set and regulated by the community.
It’s what Bill Withers means by the song “Grandma’s hands” which he wrote in the village of Watts. Grandma’s hands connote a world of her doing, and the value that it brought to him, enough to inspire what sounds like either an ode or an elegy.
The woman who came to LA in a tehuana dress and a memory of flowers, of pain yes but also of play, with a profound humanity that she can transmit was never loved as such. It is a crisis in LA. It is a human rights crisis. It is a cultural crisis. It is when this person became a laborer that LA began to take a position on her labor. Some, like me, fought and continue to fight so that her labor is valued. However, this person is more than a laborer. This person is also more than a community, and so community organizing does not completely attain it. This person is a cultivated human, a cultivator of humans and households, more often than not a cultural treasure.
So, what are we to do? It’s time that a policy affirms that Los Angeles is host to traditional cultures of peace, love, refuge, and sanity, and that cultural transmission is a priority. This priority should be articulated by different stakeholders engaged in a process that will lead to policy and policies that center this traditional culture. It should engage the different departments in Los Angeles, that should make it a point to allow this traditional culture to speak for itself. It should not seek perfection, and its siddantha, its conclusion, should be rooted in the coming together of a multitude of voices.