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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AN INSIGHT INTO ARMENIAN-AMERICANS IN THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY

BUILDING A GREAT MUSEUM FOR THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY

The following is an interview with Madlen Avetyan by her fellow CSUN student Monica Corpuz:

"Madlen Avetyan is a Masters student in the anthropology department at California University, Northridge. Madlen is doing an oral histories project for The Museum of the San Fernando Valleywhere she’s interviewing Armenians who live in the San Fernando Valley to understand their perspective on their cultural identity and how they build that identity and interact in the diverse cultural environment of Los Angeles. Madlen is in a particularly good position for this research since she is Armenian herself and was part of the diaspora of Armenians into the San Fernando Valley (she’s lived here for 22 years!).

 Madlen Avetyan - Graduate Student California State University Northridge

Glendale has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, population of Armenians in the United States. Madlen says that language and music are cultural tools used by Armenians in the San Fernando Valley to stay engaged and connected to one another. She says, “Families are the central focus of it all”, especially because of the diaspora. Christianity is also a large part of the culture for many Armenians and, because of this, churches are important congregating places. She has specific memories of the Glendale Central Church,  (one of the oldest Armenian churches in Glendale) during special events, like Easter Sunday, the church is so full that people have to wait outside for hours before they can even go in! This was a blessing in disguise since it provided an opportunity to see friends and to meet extended family that under different circumstances, they would not have met. These religious and social events provide a sense of community and involvement for Armenians of the diaspora in the San Fernando Valley.
Madlen says that Armenian culture in Glendale is so visible and palpable that after she moved from the city, she used to make special trips to drive through every once in a while just to feel that instant connection with the community. Many of the restaurants, shops and small independent stores are brimming with Armenian culture.
During her research, Madlen found that one way in which Armenians built and changed their culture after the diaspora to the San Fernando Valley, was for older men to gather at Maple Park to play backgammon and spend time with one another. She says that traditionally in Armenia, elderly parents would go to live with their eldest son, but that practice is not common in the United States. Instead, these men go to the park to catch up on familial happenings and to re-create their place in the community.
Madlen’s work on the oral histories of the Armenians of the San Fernando Valley is a beautiful way of recognizing and learning about the different cultures, and their different perspectives, of the greater Los Angeles area. Madlen says, “Being part of the Armenian Diaspora in the San Fernando Valley is all about connecting with family through Armenian food, language and the community”.
For more information on what it is to be Armenian, please check out this website: Armeniapedia.org.

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