Bulldozer razes last standing home in Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles (Calif.) May 9, 1959 Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

I’ve been a Dodger fan since 1955. My friends and I were really excited when the Dodgers announced they were moving to Los Angeles and that they’d play the 1958 season in Los Angeles. My father took me to see them play in the Coliseum, and I saw Duke Snider hit a home run.

There was a dark side to the Dodgers’ move to L.A. that I didn’t understand until the following year. On May 9, 1959, I watched the TV in horror as L.A. Sheriff’s deputies dragged Manuel and Abrana Arechiga and their daughter Aurora, out of their home. That black-and-white image was burned into my memory.

As part of the deal that brought the Dodgers to Los Angeles, they were offered various parcels of land. Dodger President Walter O’Malley had seen Chavez Ravine from the air, and decided that’s where he wanted to build his ballpark.  

Here is some background on Chavez Ravine. In 1951 it was slated for redevelopment, to build public housing with federal money. The Los Angeles Housing Authority began acquiring the land in Chavez Ravine, both through voluntary purchases and the exercise of eminent domain.  The City of Los Angeles acquired almost all of the land in Chavez Ravine and razed nearly the entire community from 1952 to 1953. Other Chicano neighborhoods suffered similar fates.

The San Bernardino, Pomona and Long Beach freeways all run through East L.A., breaking up historic neighborhoods. Social critics of the era have argued that the urban renewal efforts of the 1950s, under the National Housing Act of 1949 often included significant and even dominant elements of racial and ethnic oppression, sometimes reflected in the dispossession of minority landowners in “renewed” areas.  

I was familiar with eminent domain because when they built the Pomona Freeway through Boyle Heights and East L.A., my aunt, uncle and my cousins were forced to move from their Boyle Heights home. All of my friends from Hoyo Mara, the Belvadere section of East L.A., had to move. After all, they were just poor Mexicans. There’s a reason no freeways run through Beverly Hills.

The evictions from Chavez Ravine were for me, and for a lot of Chicanos who grew up in L.A. in the 50s, the first ember that nine years later would burst into flame as the Chicano Movement, El Movemiento. It was a subtext for the organizing and consciousness-raising that took place in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Any Chicano old enough to remember Chavez Ravine will acknowledge that.

I was part of the first wave of Chicano student activists in the ‘60s. In the ‘70s 

Chavez Ravine Remembered

I was part of first group of Latinos who penetrated the media. I worked in radio as a news reporter, and later as a TV documentary producer.  During that time I met Frank Del Olmo, then a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. I lived for ten years on Innes Street, a stone’s throw from Dodger Stadium, in the shadow of the stadium.  As we worked our way through the parking lot, I told Frank, “I was never comfortable coming here.”  He turned to look at me and said, “Chavez Ravine, right?”  He understood.  

I remained a Dodger fan, however. I cheered them on when they swept the hated Yankees in the 1963 World Series, and again in 1965 when they beat the Minnesota Twins. I passed on tickets to see the Beatles in ‘66 because they were performing in Dodger stadium. I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl in ’65.

For 15 years I refused to set foot in Dodger Stadium, the vision of the Arechigas being dragged out of their home haunting me.  Finally in the fall of 1977, one my friends dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a Dodger game in the Ravine. My boycott was over. I’ve been back a number of times since then but I’ve never really felt comfortable.

Dodger Stadium, for all its beauty, still holds some ugly memories for me.

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