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Immigrants Of The Day: Alberto Riveron of Cuba, Juan de Dios Arana of Mexico, and Maila Nurmi of Finland

by Kevin R. Johnson

Alberto Riveron (Cuba)

It is Sunday in the middle of the National Football League season.  So today's Immigrant of the Day is especially apropos. Irene Valdes, his mother, came with her son Alberto Riveron, in January 1966 when he was 5.  Alberto grew up to be the first Hispanic referee in the NFL.

Valdes and Riveron were among the roughly quarter of a million Cubans who arrived in the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s.

NFL officials are part-time employees. As a referee and crew chief, Riveron works 35 to 40 hours each week in addition to his full-time job, selling hurricane shutters

For more on Alberto Riveron, click here and here.

November 16, 2008 | Permalink

Juan de Dios Arana (Mexico)

Vet Our Immigrant of the Day is another immigrant vet who gave his life for the United States.  In this time, we could list one every day.  Here is what the L.A. Times (and here) tells us about Juan de Dios Garcia-Arana, age 27 at his death.

Army, Staff Sergeant

Based: Camp Hovey, South Korea 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom

Died: April 30, 2005 Khaldiya (near Fallouja), Iraq

Married , 1 child

Gender: Male

Hometown: Los Angeles

High School: John C. Fremont Senior High (Los Angeles)

Country of Birth: Mexico

Burial: Buried in Guadalajara, Mexico

"You would never find that guy sad or depressed. He was one of the most joyful guys around." Edgardo Garcia, brother

Garcia-Arana was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to Los Angeles in 1993. His younger brother Edgardo followed him into the military and came home from Kuwait on emergency leave when he was killed.


December 22, 2008 | Permalink

Maila Nurmi (a/k/a Vampira) (Finland)

250pxplannine_07_2 We hope that our Immigrant of the Day does not offend celebrating the holiday season.  Maila Nurmi (19222008) was an actress who created the campy 1950s character Vampira.

Maila Nurmi moved to the United States with her family at the age of 2 and grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio. Arriving in Los Angeles at age 17, she modeled and appeared in an uncredited role in a film. In the 1950s she supported herself mainly by posing for pin-up photos in men's magazines. Immediately before landing her signature role as Vampira, Nurmi was working as a hat-check girl in a cloakroom on the Sunset Strip.

The idea for the Vampira character was born in 1953 when Nurmi attended a masquerade party in a costume inspired by a character in The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams. Her appearance with pale white skin and tight black dress caught the attention of television producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr.. The name Vampira was the invention of Nurmi's husband, Dean Riesner. On April 30, 1954, KABC-TV aired a preview, Dig Me Later, Vampira, at 11:00 p.m. The Vampira Show premiered on the following night, May 1, 1954.  Each show opened with Vampira gliding down a dark corridor flooded with dry-ice fog. At the end of her trance-like walk, the camera zoomed in on her face as she let out a piercing scream. She would then introduce (and mock) that evening's film while reclining on a skull-encrusted Victorian couch. The show was an immediate hit.  When the series was cancelled in 1955, she retained rights to the character of Vampira and took the show to a competing Los Angeles television station, KHJ-TV.

Nominated for an Emmy Award as "Most Outstanding Female Personality" in 1954, Nurmi returned to films. Her most notable film appearance was in Ed Wood's camp classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space, as a Vampira-like zombie. In 1960 she appeared in I Passed for White and Sex Kittens Go to College.

In the early 1950s, she was close friends with James Dean, and they hung out together at Googie's coffee shop on the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

On January 10, 2008, Nurmi died of natural causes at her home in Hollywood, aged 85. For a tribute video, click here.

December 20, 2008 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.