Importing Real football | Beckham adds his share to U.S. trade imbalance

In this case, Beckham is following a well-traveled course, not building a bridge himself. Given the large Latino population in South Los Angeles, the site of the first Spanish land grant in California, Simon Jenkins of the Guardian concludes that Beckham “will be preaching to the already converted” (“Even Beckham Can’t Compete with the Fanatical Conservatism of Sport,” Jan 19). Beckham’s stated desire to reach out to youth through his soccer academies in Carson and Greenwich, England, similarly covers familiar ground. Nothing on the David Beckham Academy website suggests that the approach is especially innovative; there is no indication, for example, of special programs for the underprivileged or for Latinos often excluded from the financially straining elite club-and-academy cycle that creates the pipeline for top U.S. players.

A view toward the Bunny Dip restaurant in Carson, ca. 1967, a year before the town’s incorporation as an entity separate from Los Angeles County. The city of Carson’s own website describes the area at the time as a “landscape pockmarked with the dozens of refuse dumps, landfills, and auto dismantling plants which none of [Carson's] neighbors would have in their own cities.” (larrywminor | Flickrâ„¢)

Rather than studying the Beckham transfer, one learns more about the contexts of American soccer by reading about the Dominguez Hills area that includes Carson, 16 miles south of Los Angeles proper. Chris Ayres makes the point in the Times of London that to many Hispanic residents in the area, who have the choice of supporting the Galaxy or Chivas USA, “football is already a mainstream sport in America” (“How an Ageing Galactico Can Be the Brightest Star in LA Galaxy’s Firmament,” Jan 13). With broadcasting giant Univision ubiquitous on terrestrial television and the Mexican national team and sides from Mexico’s top division making frequent visits across the border, speaking of a fixed “big four” (gridiron football, baseball, basketball and NASCAR) in American sport seems outmoded.

The history of this 75,000-acre land grant, in fact, challenges simple narratives of American identity. The future of the land, ranging from the Los Angeles River in the east to the Pacific Ocean, was charted in the 18th century, granted in 1784 to Juan José Dominguez by King Carlos III of Spain. Dominguez had participated in the Gaspar de Portolí  expedition some 15 years earlier, aimed at beating Russia to territorial claims in what then was known as Upper California, north of Baja California, still part of Mexico. The land has remained in the possession of Dominguez relations, although oversight of the territory has moved from Spanish to Mexican and ultimately to American control. Having dwindled over time to less than one-third its original size, the parcel still contains an original Dominguez homestead, preserved as the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum. It holds status as California Historical Landmark Number 152.

During the 1968 referendum to gain city status and to name the new municipality, the name “Carson” prevailed over “Dominguez” by a mere 318 votes. Its population of some 90,000, according to the 2000 census, represents the “melting pot” of fantasy, with Hispanic/Latino residents, numbering 31,000, holding a plurality over the remainder, almost evenly divided among white, black and Asian groupings.

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