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.