One of the things I love about living in Southern California, is our racial, national and religious diversity. I have the choice of food and culture from possibly every country in the world. I can listen to conversations about the news of global hometowns, and I can share in celebrations of holidays and events from countries I will probably never get the chance to visit.
Scattered over the vast miles of the LA Basin and surrounding counties are statues and plaques celebrating people and events that were or are important to the variety of immigrant populations, who now make this area their home.
Like this: a bust, located on the warm, sunny grounds of Griffith Park commemorating the discovery of America by the Viking Icelander, Leif Erikson!
I stumbled upon it last Saturday, while taking a walk at the bottom of Griffith Park. I am a huge Viking fan—the People, not the football team—and quite an Icelandophile. I was happily surprised to see this larger than life-sized bust of the famed explorer overlooking Los Feliz Blvd., but I was also intrigued and puzzled. He would be appropriate, it seemed to me, in the Midwest or the East where large communities of Scandinavians settled earlier in the last century.
So, I was very surprised to learn of the large Scandinavian community here—80,000 people by 1936 when the bust was dedicated, according to an LA Times article on October 4th of that year. And apropos of this gift presented by the Nordic Civic League, the California governor proclaimed October 9, 1936, Leif Erikson Day.
Events at this inaugural* celebration included a Norwegian quartet singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ and a group of ancient Icelandic songs. Congratulatory messages were sent by the governments of Denmark and Norway, and included this one sent by radiogram and cable from the Icelandic government to the mayor of Los Angeles which read:
“On the occasion of your celebration of Leif Erikson Day by unveiling a statue in his honor, we extend to you and your city our heartiest congratulations and felicitations upon your recognition of our famous countryman, the discoverer of America.”
Do you have any statues or celebrations of Leif Erikson where you live?
* Apparently we still celebrate!