Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
A Los Angeles blog
from Echo Park

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Bastille Day? It's a coincidence. The Echo Park Lake fireworks this weekend are in celebration of the lotus festival. I'd say they were in celebration of the lotus themselves, but the lotus didn't show up the party this year. They simply neglected to grow. Except for a very small fraction on the guest list (I'd say one for every forty). But the fireworks will crackle nonetheless. Which makes me think once again of the fireworks of week gone past: a reader named Darren Sirkin emailed me with an account of watching both the fireworks at the lake and a neighbor hosing down his roof in the midst of festivities.

According to Sirkin:

Echo Park [Lake] - July 4, 2007: probably the best, longest free fireworks show ever witnessed.

Well, not if you're a goose or duck or palm tree.

Here's a portion of Daniel Hernandez's LA Weekly account of 4th of July, a la Echo Park.

You would think, given the risk levels of handling fireworks, that police and fire squads would blanket Echo Park Lake every July 4, but the exact opposite is true. They just stay away. When a tall palm on the east side of the lake caught fire two years ago, a lone LAFD engine showed up to put it out. The very crowds who were lighting the fireworks cheered on and applauded the firefighters who fought the flames with a hose, while little boys kept lighting bottle rockets on the sidewalk, directly in front of the engine. Everyone was having a blast. I remember the firefighters, after they doused the burning palm tree, posing for photographs with proud mothers and their small children, a reminder that immigrants, more than they’re given credit for, really love and admire the most classic icons of American heroism, cops and firemen.
Even as Echo Park changes into a more high-income area, enforcing L.A.’s fireworks laws at the lake on the Fourth will never really be feasible. The big secret about law enforcement in Los Angeles is that if a certain code or statute contradicts the social traditions of the massive Mexican and Central American work force that keeps the city running, it simply isn’t enforced. Look at street vendors, or the gardeners with their blowers. And in the grand American tradition of fusion, the Fourth of July in particular has evolved into an immigrants’ holiday. Fireworks, widely used in Latin American religious and patriotic festivals, are reminders of home. And the fact that the tradition is illegal is hardly a hindrance. We’re celebrating liberty here, remember? Lighting illegal fireworks is basically an expression of American independence, in the raw.

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