It’s immediately apparent that Monterey Park is unlike any other place in California.
The small town of around 61,000 is eight miles east of downtown Los Angeles, but could be a different country, with its Chinese supermarkets, dumpling restaurants and signs written in Chinese alongside from English.
Over 65% of the people who live here are Asian American. It is, as one researcher described it, “an ethnic enclave in the suburbs that thrives because it refuses to assimilate, instead catering unabashedly to its own immigrant community.”
Yet she is not immune to the most American of tragedies. But even as Monterey Park accepts 10 people killed during a ballroom dance class, there is a calm and peaceful resolution.
In front of a police cordon on the street where the massacre took place, a group of people kneel and pray, asking their God for strength.
Chinese New Year was on the weekend and just hours before filming, the street was packed with thousands of people listening to live music or buying meat skewers from food stalls.
“It’s so awful, it’s like it happens to a lot of people on Christmas Eve or something, it’s just awful,” Robert Chao Romero, professor of Asian American studies at UCLA, tells me. .
Families with children dressed in traditional Chinese dresses traveled from other parts of Los Angeles to Monterey Park on Sunday, expecting the second day of the Lunar New Year festival to be underway, but arrived to see stalls and signs being dismantled and police blockades.
When they learned the reason, they were horrified.
A local woman came to lay flowers but broke down in tears when she considered the contrast of what this weekend should have looked like for the Monterey park.
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“I was so excited to celebrate,” says Deanna Trujillo, who is part of a large Hispanic population in Monterey Park.
“It is extremely painful, it kills me that this is happening to these families. It is one of the most united, kind and friendly communities.
“I may not party, but I wanted to be a part of it to let the Asian community know that they are so special to me.”
An evening press conference announced that a 72-year-old suspect was found dead in a white van 30 miles away in the town of Torrance with self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
The immediate danger had passed for Monterey Park, bringing relief to people who had been terrorized for hours, but gun violence is the unending scourge of life in America.
It’s the deadliest mass shooting since the deaths of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last May, but it’s far from the only one.
Since the start of the year, there have been 33 mass shootings – defined by Gun Violence Archive as when four or more people, not including the shooter, are injured or killed – in the United States.
Police believe the Monterey Park shooter used a semi-automatic murder and maim rifle, possibly obtained illegally.
California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, but that wasn’t enough to deter a determined killer.
Another mass shooting has sparked another chorus of calls for tougher gun controls, especially on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, which are designed to kill.
But the long list of mass shootings in the United States tells us that any significant change is unlikely in the near future.