Irony in El Norte

Posted by Dave Fratello on Sunday, April 13th, 2008 at 7:09am.

It's been several months since businesses and local residents in our town's northernmost parts declared an end to the "El Porto" brand for the area. (See "El Porto? No Más!")

They settled on the tamer, and geographically appropriate, moniker: "North Manhattan Beach." (MBC readers know we prefer a spicier compromise: El Norte.)

Saturday was a fabulous day of festoonery, with work crews starting early and working late to install banners (pictured) with the new branding.

They're nice enough, but there are some issues. First, those banners, placed 15-20 feet overhead, contain only one word that is easily readable by the average person: "NORTH."

Our city's name is in smaller type below and the state's name is in there somewhere, too, in microtype at the bottom. You can make out the words in our closeup pic here, but good luck reading them while whizzing by on Highland. It's a design flaw for the banners – forgivable if the logo is going to be used in other ways.

Second, the logo features a surfer. That's very kind, but that surfer is also the epitome of "El Porto," the name they're wiping out. This new business district of "North Manhattan Beach" is all about spas and sushi and handbags and Bora Bora and the (upcoming) North Manhattan Lounge. You didn't need to rename El Porto to invoke its surf-spot heritage – in fact, it's kind of rude and ironic to do so.

Surfers are quite obviously the one group of residents (and visitors) who are never going to call the area "North Manhattan Beach." The proprietor of the local surf shop recognized that and renamed his store. (See "You Can't Kill 'El Porto.'")

So there's your irony. To market the new upscale, martinis-and-massages flavor of the area, the cappuccino crowd is drawing on the area's downscale reputation as a surf ghetto.

The whole effort won't cause more omelettes to be ordered at the Local Yolk (do they have to rename Al's El Porto?) and it won't cause more loads of laundry go be done at the Washtub, but perhaps this sunny new branding will draw a few extra bucks to El Norte anyway, and who's not for more money?
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