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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 of Mexican-Americans (Chicanos) living in the community. The initial relocation was for the purpose of developing public housing. That plan was abandoned and followed by the dedication of Chavez Ravine as the future site of what is now Dodger Stadium.

Originally, the tight-knit hispanic neighborhood was slated for redevelopment under the National Housing Act of 1949. The Los Angeles Housing Authority began condemning the land of Chavez Ravine in 1951. The 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) successfully spearheaded the election of Norris Poulson for mayor who was against the development. Upon his election, the "Elysian Park Heights" development was quashed. The city then successfully 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.

Manuel and Avrana Arechiga, 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 of Chavez Ravine was finally over.

Sources:

  • 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.

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