LOS ANGELES — Standing less than a mile from Dodger Stadium on a recent Saturday afternoon, Vincent Montalvo could hear the roar of the crowd inside the stadium.
It was Jackie Robinson Day and more than 50,000 fans huddled in their seats for a matchup against the Chicago Cubs. However, Montalvo was not scheduled to attend.
It’s been over 30 years since he set foot in Dodger Stadium. In his 1980s when he was a child, his father took him to the ballpark during “Fernandomania,” the epidemic surrounding Mexican star pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.
But the seemingly harmless act of attending the game deepened the wounds of the Montalvo family and the city’s Latino community. Considering that hurt has been a challenge for the Dodgers, as the team has tried to maintain a balance between acknowledging it and expanding the team’s broadly Latinx fanbase.
Long before the Dodgers won their first World Series at Dodger Stadium in 1963 and Sandy Koufax pitched the team’s first perfect game in 1965, the land on which the ballpark was built included Palo Verde, La Loma, Hundreds of families lived in communities called bishops. .
These areas and their residents were evicted by the City of Los Angeles in the 1950s due to plans to build affordable housing. However, after the team moved from Brooklyn to the Dodgers in the late 1950s, the land was eventually given to the Dodgers to build a ballpark. The area is now called Chavez Valley, synonymous with Dodger’s stadium.
Montalvo’s grandfather and grandmother were born and raised in Palo Verde. Montalvo’s father didn’t know about it before going to that game in the ’80s, but Montalvo’s grandfather resented their visit to the replaced ballpark in his neighborhood.
“We never went back,” said Montalvo.
The story of this migration is well documented in books, news articles and videos. In recent years, however, descendants of marginalized communities in California have successfully sought compensation in the form of money or land returns for the land that was taken from them. The descendants of one community see an opportunity to seek justice for themselves. They say the land on which Dodger Stadium was built should be returned.
bought or extruded
Montalvo’s grandfather has long been hesitant to talk about life in Palo Verde. However, Montalvo has slowly gathered information about the community over time. This includes the fact that many residents support their livelihoods by growing their own food.
“It was like their little oasis,” said Montalvo.
However, in the early 1950s, the City of Los Angeles planned to relocate residents of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop through voluntary purchases and eminent domain and build housing projects in the area.
It was never built, and eventually, after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, the team acquired a land deed.
The process of evicting 300 families from the area was long and painful for many residents. Many sold their land to the city, but others held on.
The last family was forcibly evicted by a sheriff’s deputy in May 1959. A woman named Aurora Vargas, better known as Lola, was infamously photographed being taken out of her home by her sheriff.Article los angeles times On May 9, 1959, he described the scene as “a long skirmish.” Vargas was kicking and screaming and the children were “hysterically crying,” the newspaper reported.
Years later, 48-year-old Melissa Arechiga learned about the eviction from her mother and learned that Vargas was Aunt Laura. She said Aretiga found her hard to believe.
“It sounded like something out of a movie when she told me,” Aretiga said.
the beginning of the movement
Montalvo and Alessiga met in 2018 to found Buried Under the Blue, a non-profit organization that seeks to raise awareness of the history of displacement of residents of Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop.
With the so-called land restitution movement gaining momentum, Montalvo and Aretiga have worked to define what compensation means to them and how to get it.
“We know it’s going to be uphill,” said Montalvo. “But we also know this. Now, both up and down the state, it’s time to get political about compensation.”
Reparations seekers in California have been encouraged by the story of Bruce Beach, which was purchased in 1912 by black couple Charles and Willa Bruce. Bruce denounced it on the grounds of eminent domain, which he claimed in 1924 that city officials needed a public park.
Last year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided to transfer ownership of this land to the great-grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Charles Bruce and Willa Bruce. They sold the land back to the county for his $20 million.
Buried Under the Blue and descendants of the displaced have political support, including Los Angeles City Council member Eunisses Hernandez.
“We often find ourselves in situations like this because businesses, corporations, millionaires feel that other communities are disposable,” Hernandez said. “We are still facing such moments today, and that is why we must demand that these companies, the communities they have robbed, give back.”
But Hernandez said he would like to see a concrete plan from the organizers of what the reparations will look like before moving forward.
Buried Under the Blue leaders have also met descendants of the indigenous people who once lived in the Los Angeles Basin. In a true land-return effort, land should be returned to the indigenous groups that were the original residents, they say.
“There can be no true roundback without first being an indigenous people,” said Arechiga.
Montalvo said displaced homeowners and renters deserve financial compensation for their investments in their communities, even if the land is returned to the descendants of indigenous tribes.
Buried Under the Blue has not yet decided what to do with the land if it is returned, and it is unknown if that will happen or how long it will take.
at dodger stadium
Chavez Valley is home to one of baseball’s most iconic ballparks, nestled between the San Gabriel Mountains and downtown Los Angeles. Dodger’s stadium hosts dozens of games a year, as well as concerts and other events. He’s one of the richest teams in Major League Baseball playing there.
It might seem unimaginable for the Dodgers to be effectively kicked out.
“It will take a lot of time,” Hernandez said. “They are not only against small companies. This is a brand and a company that is known throughout the country and around the world. For that reason, I think we need to organize and get as many people, strength and support as possible.”
Stepping into Dodger Stadium these days, fans are almost instantly met with the sounds of Spanish in different forms.
Some fans speak Spanish, some speak Spanglish. Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias from Mexico takes the field to Gerardo Ortiz’s “Soi Sinaloense” (I’m Sinaloan). Throughout his stadium, fans wear “Los his Dodgers” jerseys and shirts, and restrooms and other parts of the ballpark are labeled in English and Spanish.
The Dodgers have built the largest Latino fan base in Major League Baseball through their long history of having Latinx players such as Valenzuela and Adrian González.
However, it took time to gain Latino support after so many Mexican-American families were displaced in the late 1950s. Adrian Burgos, a professor at the University of Illinois who teaches about race, sports and society, said expelling locals “created a very bad relationship between the Mexican-American community and the Dodgers.”
“Not much has changed until Fernando,” Burgos said of Valenzuela. “He started to admit that Mexicans root for the Dodgers.”
Margaret Salazar Porzio, curator of the National Museum of American History, who has worked on initiatives such as “Latinas and Baseball: In Barrios and the Big Leagues,” said Valenzuela’s arrival with the Dodgers was a sort of “symbolic reconciliation with many Latinos. ” said. in LA at the time.
“He looks like your uncle or brother,” said Salazar Porzio. “Fernando Valenzuela gave the Angelenos of Mexico a reason to celebrate and attend the match.”
The Dodgers also brought the first full-time Spanish-language broadcast in MLB under announcer Rene Cardenas, joined by Jaime Yarin.
“He quickly became one of the most recognizable voices in LA Latino households,” Salazar Porzio said of Jarin. “He brought the Dodgers into our home.”
Since the 1980s, the Dodgers have continued to grow their Latino fan base with the help of players like Urias. The team’s 2020 World Series Finals win.
However, the team, who did not comment on this article, are still working out how to compensate the displaced residents and their descendants.
In 2000, team officials, including former president Bob Graziano, joined former residents and their families for a ceremony at the church. The Los Angeles Times reported One former resident even hugged Graziano at the ceremony and they took communion together.
The eviction history of residents of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop is news to some Dodgers fans, especially younger fans. Some find it hard to believe that a team that has built up such a large Latino fan base is playing on land once owned by so many Latinx families.
Some fans, like 23-year-old Manny Trusio, say, “I know the basics.” Others, like 29-year-old Louis Montez, say they know nothing of history.
“If it wasn’t your family that was deported, it’s easier to forgive,” Burgos said. “The reality is that most of the Dodgers fans you see in the ballpark today are much younger and it may have been something their grandparents heard and knew.”
Salazar-Porzio, for example, said he didn’t know the story of Paloverde, La Loma, and Bishop until he entered college. That history inspired us to learn more about the layers of evacuation, starting with the city’s plans to build affordable housing.
“Some people understand the difference,” Salazar Porzio said. “The Dodgers had a role to play, but they didn’t drive out the people of Chavez Canyon.”
Learning that history made Salazar-Porzio struggle with how he views the team, having grown up watching Dodgers games.
“It’s very complicated,” she said. “All this happened, but so did everything else. I am really proud of the memories I have with my father, Fernando Valenzuela. It’s a layer of my history that I chose.”
Most of the former residents of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop are now in their 90s. Arechiga and Montalvo said that as they get older, their grandparents are still often hesitant to talk about that time.
Montalvo said correcting their “painful history” motivates them to work for reparations.
Reclaiming land to effectively push the Dodgers out is next to impossible. But Aretiga said her family has hope.
“They’re wondering too. Is it possible? Is it available?” Aretiga said. “We believe so.”