During the Great Depression, Mexican Americans were deeply affected. In contrast to the employment crisis and food shortages facing all U.S. citizens, Mexicans and Mexican Americans are faced with an additional threat: deportation. When poverty ravaged the U.S., hostility to immigrant workers grew, and a campaign to repatriate immigrants to Mexico was initiated by the government. Immigrants were offered free train rides to Mexico, and some accepted, but many were either fooled or coerced into repatriation, and some U.S. citizens were deported on suspicion of being Mexican.
The Los Angeles example shows how different government entities, ranging from social workers to elected officials and police officers, worked together to create a hostile atmosphere for Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans under specific economic circumstances. During the Great Depression, Los Angeles was one of the Mexican communities ‘ most popular places for repatriation, detention, and intimidation. At first, to push Mexicans south of the border, welfare authorities and private groups raised funds. The system became more aggressive when they learned that some immigrants did not want to leave (Hoffman, 1973). Hoffman argues that much of the impetus behind the repatriation initiative at the federal level began when the Hoover administration announced its intention to expel illegal immigrants.
There have been several searches and arrests, almost exclusively in immigrant communities in Mexico. More than 300 people have been interrogated and convicted in El Monte (Hoffman, 1973). The Mexican Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles was born out of these efforts to combat the detrimental effects of immigration raids on immigrants ‘ social and economic lives. There was another big search at La Placita, detaining 400 people and arresting only a handful of people. Hoffman supported Balderrama and Rodriguez’s statement of illegal immigration detention, pointing out that aliens were held ‘without representation and telegraphed for an arrest warrant after a proven case was made’ (Hoffman).
Houses were torn down without consent and families were lost. The whole field of the Dodgers stadium was home to generations of families, most of whom were Mexican Americans. The Los Angeles authorities have used eminent domain and other political machinations to steal the land from their owners after the Dodgers made the decision to abandon Brooklyn. It was extremely violent and remains that part of the living history that former and current residents of Los Angeles don’t want to remember nor acknowledge.
Semi-rural communities had emerged in the early 1900s on steep ground, mostly on the ridges between the Sulfur and Cemetery neighboring ravines. She had a grocery store, church, and elementary school of her own. Most people grow their own food and raise animals such as pigs, goats, and turkeys. Chavez Ravine was home to many Mexican-American families, red-lined and discouraged from moving to other neighborhoods. Residents of the tight-knit group also left open their doors. Outsiders often saw the city as a slum. City officials have decided that Chavez Ravine has been underused and ready for restoration, initiating a ten-year land battle. We named it ‘blighted’ and developed a plan for a massive public housing project known as Elysian Park Heights. Designed by the architects Robert E. Alexander and Richard Neutra, the project would include more than 1,000 apartments— two hundred of 13-story buildings and 160 two-story townhouses— as well as several new schools and playgrounds.
In the early 1950s, the city started trying to persuade Chavez Ravine homeowners to sell. Notwithstanding intense pressure, it was opposed by many people. Residents received immediate cash payments from builders for their buildings. Further money was given to the remaining homeowners, worrying residents that they would not get a fair price if they held out. In other cases, the state used eminent domain power to seize land plots and push people out of their homes. Typically, when they did, they lowballed buyers, giving them much less money than their property’s value.
Residents of Chavez Ravine were also told that the land would be used for public housing and that the displaced persons would be able to return to housing projects. Through necessity or coercion, one way or another, through 1953, when the construction of Elysian Park Heights collapsed, most inhabitants of the three neighborhoods finally left Chavez Ravine. In 1957, the town had been a ghost town. Just 20 families still lived in Chavez Ravine, holdouts who fought to buy and regain their land from the government. In June 1958, voters approved a referendum to sell the Brooklyn Dodgers chairman, Walter O’Malley, 352 acres of land at Chavez Ravine.
Next year, the city started clearing the land for the stadium. Bulldozers and sheriff’s officers arrived on Friday, May 9, 1959, to forcefully evict the last few families in Chavez Ravine. The residents of the area called Black Friday. Sheriff’s deputies have kicked the Arechiga family home door. Movements carried the house’s furniture. The tenants were forcibly escorted. Crews finally knocked down the hill and lined the Sulfur and Cemetery ravines, destroying the Palo Verde elementary school in the process.
Overall, Mexican Americans are resilient and have endured the injustices that America serves but that doesn’t stop them from pursuing their life. The construction that operates in most of southern California is completed by Mexican Americans. The roads are because of them. About 74% of construction workers are Mexican Americans. Our fruits and vegetables are produced by Mexican Americans and Mexicans. About 70% of the top restaurants in Los Angeles are Mexican based. Despite the horrid treatment that they were given, they stood their ground and kept going. They didn’t let anyone wipe them out. They pursue their passions whether it was becoming teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. In general, Latinos will surpass any other race including the whites. Our state and the city of Los Angeles are becoming more diverse than ever. Bad events did occur in the past but we are only becoming stronger. If this were to happen today, Mexicans and Mexican Americans would win. California has grown into a loving acceptance state and no one deserved to be less treated because they are a certain race/ethnicity. This is not what Los Angeles is all about.