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Intersections: Float celebrated the diverse Armenian story

Intersections: Float celebrated the diverse Armenian story
The American Armenian Rose Float Association's float Cradle of Civilization, winner of the President's Trophy, in the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena on Thursday, January 1, 2015. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

In 1915, a man named Moses (M.S.) Pashgian became the grand marshal of the Pasadena Rose Parade.

Moses and his brother, John, were the first Armenian immigrants to settle in the Pasadena area at the turn of the 20th century, and the rug business they established is still going strong today.

In a now 100-year-old photo from the Rose Parade, Moses Pashgian can be seen sitting on a regal horse, with a top hat, bow tie and black gloves, as the crowd watches from behind.

This year, a century after Moses Pashgian's involvement in the Rose Parade, a float celebrating Armenian heritage was unveiled at the 2015 Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

Decorated with a stunning pomegranate tree inspired by the breathtaking art work of local Glendale artist Seeroon Yeretzian, an Armenian woman in traditional folk wear, peacocks, an intricate rug, the Armenian alphabet and more, the "Cradle of Civilization" float ended up winning the President's Trophy for "effective floral use and presentation," a major testament to the work everyone involved with the American Armenian Rose Float Assn. put into making a once-inconceivable dream into a reality.

On Jan. 1, Armenian Americans of all backgrounds watched along with everyone else as the float came down Colorado Boulevard.

The folk music blared, the crowd cheered and the float moved along flanked by dancers in beautifully designed costumes. It was a proud, goose-bump-inducing moment, one that became a symbol not just for our presence in this country, but our history in it, too, which runs back 400 years, not just 40.

It was a chance to be in the spotlight for all the right reasons, not just the ones which contribute to the warped and unbalanced opinions of some, and lead to a sense of dread and embarrassment for others.

With thousands of roses, it told the story of an over 3,000-year-old history, encompassing more than our rather brief stint in Glendale and the tragic events of 100 years ago that often gets the most attention and press time.

It said we are more than just whatever corner we've been pinned in from both the inside and outside. We are diverse, with layered, far-reaching and mixed identities and our contributions can be and are meaningful. It's a testament to collective resilience and survival despite pretty depressing odds.

This is an important year for the international Armenian community, as 2015 marks the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

This float appropriately ushered in the year and perhaps created an important turning point, one in which we can finally feel like we've found a permanent home after centuries and decades of constantly being on the move.

After so long, it's an appropriate year and way to finally feel like we are part of this diverse landscape, too.

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LIANA AGHAJANIAN

is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at liana.agh@gmail.com.

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