Assimilating, L.A. Style

When Antonio Villaraigosa takes office in July as the new mayor of Los Angeles, he'll have much to live up to.

Simply by winning a big election victory last week, Mr. Villaraigosa showed how a Latino can easily assimilate into American society at a high level. But he'll need to do more than just lead by example. He promised to draw all the ethnic groups of America's most diverse city into the political mainstream. That means he'll especially need to make sure the city's huge Mexican migrant community and their descendants follow the tradition of other immigrants and adapt more quickly to American civic life.

This son of Mexican immigrants was able to avoid the usual ethnicity-tinged campaign pitches of urban politics. While he won an estimated 84 percent of Latino votes, he was widely supported by other groups.

Villaraigosa won largely because more Latinos have learned how to become active citizens. Over the past 12 years, the percent of L.A. voters who are Latinos has risen from 10 to 25. That's a hopeful sign that perhaps they might rise above their enclaves to swim more widely in American democracy.

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