Down on Academy Road at the Elysian Park recreation center, the parking lot is at capacity. The arriving cars look for a spot to unload their tables and chairs. Along the road, street parking quickly fills up as family and friends continue to arrive. Here on a mid summer day, a small compressed space is reserved for the former residents of Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop. Every inch of space is used on a small concrete pad.
The elders of these communities set up their individual spaces with canopies. Some proudly displaying banners with their family surnames. Each space transformed and arranged with treasured photographs from the past. Each family with their own memories, experiences and stories, not for sale.
On this particular summer day, the community members and families reunite. A day of reconnecting and remembering what was lost. Despite some bitter memories, the reunion is also an opportunity for the new generations to meet and greet. However, for children like Irving Arechiga, age five, the day is hot and “the bugs are everywhere.” He disapproves of the park and utters, “this is no park, there is no playground” when told to go play. It isn’t long before his mom, waves him down to go play with the other children. Soon those tears of frustration are filled with joyous laughs and water balloon fights.
The surrounding families embrace everyone, sharing their baked goods and delicious food. According to attendees, “Unity, inclusiveness and support were the foundational roots of Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop.” The reunion is also a chance to acknowledge a piece of Los Angeles history that’s been labeled Chavez Ravine. But when speaking to the former residents and living descendants of these communities, they never reference Chavez Ravine. The question consistently asked is what community their families were from; Palo Verde, La Loma or Bishop. Yet, somewhere on the historical timeline, the blanket name of Chavez Ravine was assumed, with the intention of erasing these communities. An attempt for a new legacy to over shadow the injustices these Latino families and communities experienced.
Although, some members have passed away, their living descendants continue their legacy. The younger generation, together with their elders, are organizing themselves through Buried Under the Blue to correct false misconceptions and claims that are told and taught in schools.
Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop were not slums as reported, documented and told. Instead, these were thriving Latino communities, coveted because of its hilltop location. The living descendants remember stories of how city officials demanded residents to sell and vacate their homes for whatever scraps were deemed sufficient. For those who didn’t want to comply, they were led to believe they would receive no compensation for their confiscated properties. These stories, experiences, families and communities are still relevant today. As articles continue to be written about these communities in connection with gentrification. So while some want to remove the politics from the reunion, it is impossible. The motives of city officials past and present must be continuously questioned. For any gesture made has never benefited the community or the people. The preservation of the true history of Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop is vital to these families and the Latino History of Los Angeles.