Tehrangeles is a portmanteau deriving from the combination of Tehran, the capital of Iran, and Los Angeles. It is used when referring to the large number (estimates range from 700,000 to 800,000) of former Iranian nationals and their descendants residing in the Los Angeles metropolitan area; it is the largest such population outside of Iran. In common usage, it usually refers to the proportionally larger Persian-American subset of Iranian immigrants, many of whom are second generation citizens. This area is now officially recognized by the City of Los Angeles as “Persian Square
The Persian community in the L.A. area originally centered in the Westwood neighborhood of west Los Angeles, particularly Westwood Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and the UCLA campus, often referred to as Little Persia or Persian Hills/Persian Square. It is between Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles. Immigration to the area increased several-fold due to the events surrounding the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Westwood Boulevard became known for its many Persian shops and restaurants; and the Persian expatriate community of Los Angeles entered all forms of media including magazines, newspapers, radio and television stations.
As the population grew, many Iranians have moved all over Los Angeles, with other large neighborhoods forming in the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Woodland Hills and Encino in the San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills, California ; the city of Irvine as well throughout Orange County and Persians also made their homes in San Diego and the Palm Springs area (Coachella Valley). The Persian population of Beverly Hills may be as high as 40% of the total population. The vice mayor of Beverly Hills, Jim Delshad, is Iranian-born.
Tehrangeles in pop culture
The large Persian population in Los Angeles, particularly in and around Beverly Hills, has found its way into several media:
- In the 1995 comedy film Clueless a Persian student at the fictionalized Bronson Alcott High School curses out a teacher in Persian and a later scene where the protagonist explicitly describes the “Persian Mafia”:
- “And that’s the Persian mafia. You can’t hang with them unless you have a BMW.”
- In the 1994 action-comedy film Beverly Hills Cop III, an automated gate at the Beverly Hills Police Department offers a selection of languages that include Persian.
- The 2005 Oscar Best Picture winner, Crash, dealt with racism, stereotyping, hypocrisy, and crime in the L.A. area and among the central characters, all of whom are of different races, one is a Persian, stereotyped as one who doesn’t trust others. Also, the film points out how the terms Arab and Persian are often used interchangeably, albeit incorrectly, by others in society (“They think we’re Arab. When did Persian become Arab?”). The film contains some dialog in Persian.
- In the new 90210, there is a main character named Navid Shirazi, who plays a Persian character.