A Tale of Two Cities: Boston and Los Angeles
In the northeastern part of the United States lies Boston, capital of the state of Massachusetts. The city (pop. ca. 575,000) is the historical, cultural, commercial and industrial center of New England.
Established in 1630, Boston is among the oldest settlements in the United States. The city played an important role in the formation of the new nation and is clearly aware of its historical heritage. The Freedom Trail is just one of many tourist attractions highlighting the city’s background. This 2.5 mile strip is painted on the sidewalk starting at the Boston Common and connects 16 historical sites, all of which were significant in the country’s early struggle for freedom. A walk down Freedom Trail is not only a walk through history but also a walk from the past to the present.
In a country known for its use of cars, it is significant that one of the unique aspects of Boston is that it is a walking city (although there are days in January and February when you'll want to stay inside). In some ways it is a very European place – very compact, with narrow streets that invite you to explore them.
However, Boston can also boast of having the first subway system in the country for those of you who are interested in hopping quickly from one neighborhood to another.
For those interested in education, the Boston area has a large number of colleges and universities, including Harvard University (1639), Radcliffe College (1879) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1861) – just to mention a few.
So whether you go to Boston to rediscover the past or whether it is Boston as a contemporary center of finance and higher technology that attracts you, this city has something of interest to everyone.
On the west coast of the country, in southern California, lies the giant metropolis of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States (pop. ca. 3,722,500 in the city of LA, 9,503,300 in the county of LA). As its name indicates, the city was originally a Spanish-Mexican settlement founded in 1781 whose full name was El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles (The Town of the Queen of the Angels).
Los Angeles became a US city in 1846 when it was taken over bloodlessly by American forces in the Mexican War. The lawless cow town prospered after the California Gold Rush of 1848–49, and it has grown ever since.
Perhaps more than any other American city, LA – as it is affectionately called – holds a certain fascination for Europeans. This is most certainly due to the city’s role as the entertainment capital of the world. This is the city where Hollywood still lures ambitious young people hoping to fulfil their dreams of stardom and fame. And, of course, once that goal is achieved, buying a home in Beverly Hills is the next step up the ladder of social mobility.
However, not everyone lives on the sunny side of the city, and nowhere is the contrast between “the haves” and “the have-nots” more glaring than in Los Angeles. The poor, black neighborhood of Watts is just one example. During a few, briefs days in August 1965, this black neighborhood gained national attention when violent riots broke out. Provoked by long-standing discrimination, thousands of blacks rioted, burned stores and looted the area. Before order was restored, 34 people had been killed and thousands more injured. In more recent years, the crowded, black urban slums of South Central and the Mexican-American (Chicano) neighborhoods of East LA have received the media’s attention due to similar disturbances.
Los Angeles is the city of the car. Once one of the nation’s wealthiest farming areas, LA sacrificed several thousand acres of farmland to freeways and housing between 1950 and 1965. This had to be done because of the area’s dramatic population growth. In a city of this size, public transportation can, at best, be characterized as “poor” although a modest subway line opened in 1993.
The climate in LA is famously sunny and wonderful, and many people dream of going to Venice Beach and Sunset Boulevard to "see and be seen". However, in spite of the gentle climate, Los Angeles has other and more serious problems: Large earthquakes have shattered the city more than once.
Tourists to the city can also rediscover the past and visit the plaza where the city first started, the city’s first church and Olvera Street, an important tourist attraction that has many Mexican shops and cafés. Or perhaps a trip to Disneyland holds more attraction? Whatever your interests, this city has something for everyone.