Children play soccer in Lafayette Park.

Diverse in ethnicity and in culture

Westlake is a place where people come together.

With the third highest percentage of foreign-born residents out of all of the neighborhoods in the city according to the Mapping L.A. project by the Los Angeles Times, Westlake is home to one of the city's ethnically diverse communities.

The United States has welcomed immigrants to its shores since its founding days, and with a foreign-born population of more than one million people, according to the 2011 American Community Survey, Los Angeles shares in the country's tradition.

This variety in ethnic backgrounds in the area fosters a diversity of cultures in Westlake.

Although the diverse members of the Westlake community live together in the neighborhood, many still retain elements of their cultural backgrounds from their countries of origin. These different identities blend together to create a culturally rich place where all of these people can coexist in harmony.

One can walk through one of the neighborhood’s parks on a sunny afternoon and see street vendors speaking Spanish to each other and selling their native cuisine, a Korean American family playing basketball and Latino and African American teens skating together and cracking jokes in English.

They may not all understand one another, but they dwell together to make up one of Los Angeles's most culturally diverse neighborhoods.

Precious Blood Catholic Church

A multicultural place of worship

Precious Blood Catholic Church is located blocks away from Lafayette Park and offers services in both English and Spanish.

Many Westlake residents are religious and look to the neighborhood's churches and religious centers as places to practice their faith.

Several of the churches serve multiple cultural communities- and multiple languages. Some local places of worship have writing in Korean and Spanish on their edifices.

Precious Blood Catholic Church, located on Occidental Boulevard, has weekly services in both English and in Spanish so people of all different backgrounds can worship under one roof.

On Sunday mornings, many white, Latino and Asian parishioners file out of the church after English Mass, as Spanish-speaking worshipers trickle in for the next hour's Spanish service.

Leonardo Razon attends the English service. Razon came to Los Angeles from the Philippines in 1992. He retained his Catholic faith upon coming to the country and served as a Eucharistic minister at the church.

Razon said that the multicultural religious community is one of mutual respect for others in which church members often join together and support one another.

“If they have some project, we give special help,” Razon said of the relationship between the Spanish and Filipino Catholic communities. “If they have some social occasion, we attend…especially the cooking, international food. They cook Spanish food, and they cook Filipino food.”

Felipe de Neve Branch Library

A community resource

Library patrons spend the day using the building's many resources. Librarian Cathie Ehle says many patrons enjoy using the library's free computer access.

The City of Los Angeles must address the needs of its diverse communities through its resources.

The Felipe de Neve Branch Library contains a whole section dedicated to Spanish-language materials for adults and children, in addition to a Korean section and resources dedicated to educating patrons about U.S. citizenship.

According to librarian Cathie Ehle, the library provides a citizenship training class that meets twice a week and teaches participants of different cultural backgrounds the skills necessary to pass the citizenship test. Ehle said the library has seen about a half-dozen patrons become citizens.

"My favorite part about working at this library are the patrons, because there's a lot of people that need a lot of help and have trouble finding, for instance, city resources- how to get housing, how to get shelter," the librarian who has been at the branch for more than three years said.

Frida Kahlo Theatre

A cultural center

Frida Kahlo Theatre is a bilingual theatre and cultural center in the Westlake neighborhood. Video link here

Some see the United States as a "melting pot" in which foreigners from across the world can come to the country and adopt the American cultural identity. However, some Westlake residents, like Ruben Amavizca-Murua, believe in the concept of multiculturalism.

Amavizca-Murua is a playwright and a founder of the Frida Kahlo Theatre, which resides near MacArthur Park in the Westlake neighborhood. The Mexican immigrant moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in theatre.

Amavizca-Murua said the Westlake neighborhood is unique because it is changing constantly, with different groups moving in and out of the area.

"It's very open, the community," Amavizca-Murua said. "You can go to MacArthur Park, and you see families in the grass or playing soccer. The community is accepting. It's very relaxed about other people."

Amid the shifting cultural makeup of the neighborhood- and the country, Amavizca-Murua said he does not agree with the reasoning of those who say that immigrants should drop their heritage and assimilate to a new cultural identity.

"We cannot be fully American, because we have a culture that is not completely American. We are not rejecting one. We're trying to make something new out of it," Amavizca-Murua explained. "We take from the culture, but also we put in."

The playwright and director expressed the importance of retaining cultural identity through the arts.

"If we are going to be remembered through our art, why do we remember the Greeks? Why do we remember the Egyptians? The Romans? The Aztecs? Because of their culture," Amavizca-Murua said. "Because that made them human, and that's what we are attracted to. That's why we love them."

EXPLORE: Take a look at Westlake on the map and find more of the neighborhood's cultural gems.