Early settlers want to say hello ~ Evergreen Cemetery ~ East Los Angeles
“By the late 1880s, the boom had peaked, and some of the dream of a new city East of Los Angeles had given way to concessions to certain other kinds of settlers. The black labor force settled into the East side, as did Italians, who would build much of the houses during the time, Germans and French, followed by the Russian Molokans and Armenians, who were fleeing the horrors of terror and repression in their respective homelands. The small pockets of Chinese and Japanese families that didn’t live in Little Tokyo or new Chinatown were also in East L.A., and Mexicans who had survived the push east were still very much a growing presence. Several years before, during the height of the first wave of xenophobia, the city fathers found it appropriate to move the local graveyard, far too close to the civic center, and for sanitation purposes, out to a then remote locale in East Los Angeles. Thus, the Evergreen Cemetery was established, and remains the resting site of many of the new settlers of East L.A.” From www.pbs.org/americanfamily/eastla.html.
It’s Sunday afternoon and I feel called to walk among our brave “early settlers” at the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles County as if one of them extended a personal invitation in my sleeping hours. As soon as I get out of my car and follow the paved road I wonder what I’m doing here. Suddenly I feel ashamed of my own oddity when I realize there is no one around., except a few young men who park themselves around a tomb with folding chairs and stereo. I say hello but I shy away from my desire to connect with the 3 in a city of millions who, like me, choose to spend their Sunday afternoon in a place which feels at this moment terribly empty when you have no living or dead one with whom to share it.
I want to take a closer look at this beautiful statue I see in the background. I yearn to console and be consoled too. Whoever called me in to visit this place didn’t stay to welcome me.
I’m afraid to walk on the grass. Is it forbidden? Not like there’s anybody around to stop me. Yet I stay on the paved road, feeling lost and on the outside, a too familiar sentiment. Like him, stuck in the sky. Does he ever feel like coming down?
These people are on the grass! Of course, how else can you get to the graves? Why am I being so blind? Why is it so hard to take the first step? I can’t help feeling I’m doing something wrong, like entering the world of the dead. I take a deep breath and I step in… and almost on…
Once I bring down the wall between us and them a feeling of joy and belonging overwhelms me and for the next hour I can’t get enough of immortalizing our dead.
It’s getting late, I look around for a glimpse at the paved road but it’s gone missing. What if I can’t find my way back? Do I want to?
“In 2006, during the tunneling and excavation near Evergreen Cemetery in preparation for the Gold Line Eastside Extension, MTA workers came across the remains of 108 Chinese immigrant laborers who died over a century ago.” www.chscc.org/MTAchinesegraves.html.
For more on Evergreen:
http://http://www.yelp.com/biz/evergreen-cemetery-los-angeles for fun and insightful comments from neighbors and visitors.
www.cityprojectca.org/ourwork/heritageparkscape.html for historical information.
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