The Place We Now Call Los Angeles

LAFC’s last regular season home game of their inaugural MLS campaign brought together the sights, sounds, and smells of this unique new community.

The 3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Alcohol, barbecue, custom banners and apparel, percussion instruments, songs, smoke screens and flares. The universal elements of fútbol aficionado culture were all here.

Jaime Calvillo, left, and his son Huitzilin Chris Calvillo, haul their huehuetl drums into the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

The aficionados themselves arrived by mid-morning for a game that didn’t start until the mid-afternoon. They stayed for a rally that went into the early evening. They sang. They laughed. They marched. They cheered. It was the last home game of the regular season.

Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

As I collected contact information from the LAFC supporters I spoke with, I started to notice I was inadvertently collecting the area codes of Los Angeles. There were people from the east, south and north; downtown, East L.A., the San Gabriel Valley, the San Fernando Valley, southeast L.A. and both north and south Orange County. (Curiously absent was the west side: I collected no 310 numbers.) I don’t know another place were I might encounter that same assortment of neighborhoods.

3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

There are other unique elements to the first season of not just the Los Angeles Football Club, including its independent union of supporters, the 3252. The name is a potent symbol: supposedly the amount of seats in the North End, the stadium’s designated fan area with North America’s first safe standing section; the number added together makes 12, the role of the fan with an 11-man squad.

The 3252 section fans celebrate a Los Angeles Football Club score against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

The politics, both subtle and explicit, were inescapable. Ben Skolnik of Relentless grilling al Pastor, a Mexican barbecue specialty. Tigers Support Group, LAFC’s Koreatown support squad. And Lxs Tigres del Northend – their name at once a statement to gender equity (inserting an X where there would otherwise be an O, delineating the male in Spanish direct object pronouns), a nod to their place in Banc of California Stadium and a play on a names of one of the most famous Mexican groups of all time – whose banners – Yaangna Football Club and Still Tongva Land – are reminders of the original indigenous people and place we now call Los Angeles. Among the 3252, a Democratic Socialist of America was the one who unfurled a simple Abolish ICE banner at the second El Metro clash between my Los Angeles Galaxy and LAFC. Lxs Tigres have since designed and sold DIY shirts in the image of the LAFC jersey with “Los Angeles Abolish ICE” silkscreened across the chest.

Shirts for sale outside the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Then there was the huehuetl: a sacred drum of the Mexicas, otherwise known as the Aztecs. Pronounced way-wet, the drum is used in cultural and sacred ceremony and is believed to have its own power or spirit. Offerings of tobacco are made and permission sought before the drummer pounds the first beat. Huitzilin Chris Calvillo hand-carved a huehuetl with the LAFC logo. He plans on creating at least three more to replace the ceremonial huehuetls with ones intended for the 3252.

A hand-carved huehuetl drum with the LAFC logo, made by Huitzilin Chris Calvillo, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Herein lies the difference: fans incorporating a team into their culture and not a sports franchise incorporating customers into its business plan. There is a signature and stamp here that could not have come from the multi-million and billionaire owners of LAFC because these symbols are ultimately not from their culture, communities or home. To borrow a phrase from the Galaxy, this is L.A.

Ozomatli and fans form a drum circle at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

More from LAFC vs Vancouver, with photos by Michael Owen Baker.

Ben Skolnik wears a shirt that makes a dig at the L.A. Galaxy as he cooks taco meat before the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club fans have fun before the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Jaime Calvillo with his huehuetl drums before the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Gil Torres, president of the Cuervos support group, before the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Drums ready to be brought into the Banc of California stadium for the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Jaime Calvillo, left, and his son Huitzilin Chris Calvillo, haul their huehuetl drums into the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, at Banc of California in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Ken Miknuk, LAFCÕs in-house falconer, swings a falcon bait with the logo of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC for Olly the LAFC mascot. Olly is named after Olvera street, the birthplace of Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Pregame flames before the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Pregame heatwaves from flames before the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club, back, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
The 3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
3252 section capo leaders at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
The 3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
The 3252 section fans celebrate a Los Angeles Football Club score against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
The 3252 section fans celebrate a Los Angeles Football Club score against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Jaime Calvillo beats his huehuetl drum in the 3252 section at the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
3252 section capo leaders at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
3252 section fans at Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Banc of California with a view of downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Banc of California with a view of downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club attend a rally after the game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Ozomatli performs at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Ozomatli bassist Wil-Dog Abers performs at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Smoke at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Ozomatli and fans form a drum circle at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Ozomatli bassist Wil-Dog Abers has fun at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Fans at a rally outside the stadium for Los Angeles Football Club fans after the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Shirts for sale outside the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
A political banner at the Lxs Tigres del Northend tent outside the Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC game, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Football Club vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
A hand-carved huehuetl drum with the LAFC logo, made by Huitzilin Chris Calvillo, Oct. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

George Sánchez-Tello wrote about Zapatista Fútbol for Howler Issue #15. Follow him @SanchezTello.

Michael Owen Baker is a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles.