Battle of Chavez Ravine

The Battle of Chavez Ravine refers to approximately ten years of violence (1951-1961) over the Mexican-American community of Los Angeles' Chavez Ravine. The eventual result was the forced removal of the entire population, mainly Mexican-Americans, living in the community. The initial relocation was for the purpose of developing public housing. That public housing plan was then abandoned and ultimately followed by the dedication of Chavez Ravine as the future site of what is now Dodger Stadium.

Originally, the tight-knit Chicano neighborhood was slated for redevelopment under the National Housing Act of 1949 - which provided federal money to build public housing. The Los Angeles Housing Authority began condemning the land of Chavez Ravine in 1951. Using the power of eminent domain, the City razed nearly the entire community over the period from 1952 to 1953. The planned public housing development was entitled "Elysian Park Heights" and was to be designed by Austrian architect Richard J. Neutra.

In the midst of the Red Scare of the 1950's, a group calling themselves the Citizens Against Socialist Housing (CASH) in 1953 successfully spearheaded the election of Norris Poulson for mayor. Upon his election, the "Elysian Park Heights" development was quashed and a public referendum was passed barring all public housing in Los Angeles. Following Mayor Poulson's lead, the City negotiated a deal with the federal government to abandon the public housing project with the stipulation that the by then nearly-vacant land be used for a "public purpose." The City then used the potential development of a baseball stadium as a lure for Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley to move from Brooklyn's Ebbets Field to Los Angeles. The City ended up trading the Chavez Ravine site to the Dodgers in exchange for a much smaller parcel of land where the minor league stadium, Wrigley Field, was located.

Manuel and Abrana Arechiga (often cited as "Avrana"), with their daughter Aurora Vargas, were among the last residents to hold out. Forced removal by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on May 9, 1959, resulted in the arrest of Aurora. Aurora Vargas was fined and briefly sent to jail for her resistance. Manuel Arechiga was the final hold out, living in a tent on the site of the demolished home for months. Stories are recounted of Manuel sitting in his tent with a shotgun, defending the ruins of his former home. Many Angelenos consider the siege of the LAPD on Manuel Arechiga as "The Battle of Chavez Ravine". Arechiga eventually relented and accepted the city's offer of $10,500. After a decade, the battle was finally over.


* Hines, Thomas S. "Field of Dreams History: The Battle of Chavez Ravine." "Los Angeles Times", April 20, 1997, Opinion section, p. 1.
* McGarry, T.W. "Postscript: 'My Grandchildren Go to the Games . . . The Dodgers are my Favorite Team. But I Just Can't Go in That Stadium.'" "Los Angeles Times", July 12, 1988, Metro section, p. 3.

Footnote for researchers: Aurora Arechiga married and became widowed, hence, her surname was Vargas at the time of her arrest in 1959. In 1988 her surname was Fernandez. Researchers should thus seek information for Aurora Arechiga, Aurora Vargas, and Aurora Fernandez.

External links

* [ University of California "calisphere" Photos and Documents (keyword: Arechiga)]

* [ "Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles story" PBS documentary]

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