Los Angeles ranks as the second-largest city in the nation; its citizens hail from 140 countries and speak 86 different languages. In fact, Los Angeles is one of only two U.S. cities without a majority population.

But unlike many of the world's greatest metropolitan destinations, L.A. is seen more in the context of the present -- even the future -- than the past. This young city is all the more intriguing because that past is fresh and easily excavated (both figuratively and literally); the sense of simultaneously having one foot in yesterday and one in tomorrow is part of what makes discovering L.A. so rewarding. In this section, we give you a little rundown on the history of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles (the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels), along with some other useful background on the local views and customs that give an insight into the city and its inhabitants.


Having survived a long, leisurely pioneering infancy and a slightly uncouth adolescence, Los Angeles has blossomed into one of the world's major cultural centers. The movies, TV shows, and music produced here are seen and heard throughout the world; the pop products of the city's efforts govern who we are, how we spend our time, and how we think more than we like to admit.

As Los Angeles hurtles through the 21st century, the city is going through some drastic changes. Intense growth and increased ethnic diversity have fueled a climate of political and philosophical change; in many ways, there are two L.A.s, existing in parallel universes. There's the beautiful showbiz town, home of starlets and hunks who cruise palm-tree-lined streets in sleek convertibles on their way to the studio. The other universe is a multiethnic Pacific Rim metropolis, swelling uncomfortably from the influx of new residents, yet enriching the city with cultural diversity. In this other L.A., you'll encounter Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Russian, and Salvadoran enclaves in formerly run-down parts of town. You'll find a city straining to grow technologically into a new century, right next to the town eager to preserve its golden (and sometimes isolationist) roots.

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