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Chavez Ravine - A Sad But Astonishing Chapter In Los Angeles History


Two children walk up a dirt road in Chavez Ravine in 1950. Photo Leonard Nadel, courtesy of the Southern California Library for Social Studies & Research.

There is an absolutely fascinating article about a lost chapter of Los Angeles history on KCET's website, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.  KCET is the Los Angeles-based community television station for southern and central California.

Chavez Ravine, now known best as the hillside above which Dodger Stadium perches, was once the site of a thriving Mexican-American community, dating back as far as 1844, when Julian Chavez acquired 83 acres encompassing a narrow valley northwest of the city center.

Chavez was a native of New Mexico who had arrived in Los Angeles in the 1830s, and who promptly became a leading political figure.

The story of how the community developed (actually as three distinct neighborhoods: Bishop, La Loma and Palo Verde), with goats grazing on hillsides and residents raising domesticated animals from pigs to peacocks, is vividly told on the KCET website.

Bridesmaids and best man at a wedding in Chavez Ravine, 1929. Courtesy of the Shades of L.A. Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Sadly, due to various attempts to redevelop the land (at the expense of the local community), by 1957 only 20 families remained, and on May 9, 1959 - a day that came to be known as "Black Friday" - sheriff's deputies evicted those who resisted and bulldozers razed the remaining homes to the ground.

Dodger Stadium opened nearly three years later on April 10, 1962.

The full story, beautifully illustrated with many exceptional photographs, can be read on KCET's website. It is a chapter of Los Angeles history, and of LA's Mexican-American community, that should never be forgotten.

More information can also be found in the book Chavez Ravine: 1949 - A Los Angeles Story, by Don Normark, a photographer who chronicled the "ramshackle Mexican-American neighborhood" that he regarded as "a poor man's Shangri-la."

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