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Battling LA Histories at Father Serra Park: Who Screwed Up?

December 4th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

el-pueblo-serra-medal-wall

The city of Los Angeles is in the process of building a brand new war memorial
named the Eugene A. Obregon Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, which is to honor all those who have won the medal.

Okay, so far so good.

As the San Jose Mercury News reports:

Crews have nearly finished the first stage of the memorial, which consists of a 30-foot long, 5-foot-high plaster wall covered with tiles bearing the names of nearly 3,500 medal recipients.

The memorial’s sponsors also plan a 20-foot high pyramidal monument paying tribute to the medal’s 40 Hispanic recipients.

A statue atop the stone structure would depict the memorial’s namesake, Marine Pfc. Eugene A. Obregon, coming to the rescue of a comrade during the Korean War. The 19-year-old Obregon died during the rescue.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, it turns out—a lot.

Civil Rights Attorney Robert Garcia, who is counsel for and president of The City Project, plans to file an injunction this morning, Friday, to stop the construction. He is joined by a list of other organizations, including the state-chartered Native American Heritage Commission and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

According to Garcia (who rarely does not have all his legal ducks in a row), the memorial project “has not received proper legal review and approval by government agencies and the public, in violation of state and federal laws and principles, including protections for parks and the environment, historic preservation, equal justice, Native American sites, transparent government and the rule of law in a democratic society.”

Other than that, it’s fine.

Here’s the deal: For reasons that now seem profoundly illogical, the memorial is being built in the one acre grassy expanse that is Father Serra Park, which happens to be smack in the middle of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument—in other words, the site of the birthplace of the city of LA, not to mention the site of a historic village of the Gabrieleño indians, and the site of Old Chinatown, and the site of the so-called Chinatown massacre, where 19 Chinese men were killed in 1871.

Put another way, it’s a little like deciding to build a Vietnam memorial in the middle of the Alamo—if the Alamo was also the site of the Dome of the Rock. (Or something of that nature.) No one would dispute the importance of the Vietnam memorial, but that particular location ain’t where it should be.

On Saturday, the mayor and other city officials are supposed to attend a press conference unveiling the tile-covered wall, that is the first stage of the memorial project.

Awk-ward.

Garcia and company say there are plenty of other far more appropriate places to honor Medal of Honor recipients—including “the Western Gateway at the 16 acre Los Angeles National Veterans’ Park and the 115 acre Veterans’ National Cemetery on the mile long Veterans’ Parkway across from the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Wilshire Boulevard—and about five other alternative locations.

It is worth watching to see how this turns out.

Posted in Courts, environment, Los Angeles history | 18 Comments »

18 Responses

  1. reg Says:

    It may well be that there are better places to put up this monument or that the sponsors have short-circuited the proper vetting process, but the complicated history of that location – i.e. Father Serra, native American villagers, massacres in Old Chinatown – suggests that this is no pristine site with a singular historical significance. It seems like there’s already a complicated narrative involved – if not conflicting narratives – although Private Obregon and his comrades obviously don’t have a territorial claim to that space, their symbolic presence doesn’t seem any more jarring than contemplating the actual history of the place.

  2. reg Says:

    Uh,,,Delete the third dash, add a period and capitalize “Although…”

  3. John Moore Says:

    It sorta looks like someone with an axe to grind is looking for a stone to grind it on, and is trying this one.

    In other words, one suspects yet another “oh, the poor Mexicans” sort of sob story in the works.

  4. Woody Says:

    With liberals, there’s no appropriate place to build a memorial to U.S. soldiers, unless it’s in Hell.

  5. reg Says:

    At least you’ll be able to enjoy it…

  6. John Moore Says:

    No he won’t, Reg – you’ll be that snapping at his ankles.

  7. Gava Joe Says:

    reg said

    “Uh,,,Delete the third dash, add a period and capitalize”

    I submit most humbly: Could we maybe DELETE this third war?

    Could we add a PERIOD of peaceful sensibilities?

    Might we CAPITALIZE on what we still possess?

    Damn! That was deep. Blame it on the local dispensary.

  8. The City Project Blog » Blog Archive Says:

    [...] Read the rest of this article at Witness L.A. http://witnessla.com/environment/2009/admin/battling-la-histories-at-father-serra-park-who-screwed-u… [...]

  9. WTF Says:

    In other words, one suspects yet another “oh, the poor Mexicans” sort of sob story in the works.

    **********************

    Don’t you know about the brutal Mexican-America war of 1846, all of California belongs to the poor mexicans.

    How many times do I have to educate you people about immigrtaion, the Nazi LAPD, , and racist Euopean Anglo-Saxon people who stole this land called AmeriKKKa !!!!!!!!

  10. Gava Joe Says:

    All us patriotic xenophobes of lesser pigmentation speak with forkkked tongues. It was implanted in our DNA at Ellis Island those many years ago by the VISITORS posing as Immigration officials. They viewed rightly so, that differences in our skin tones could be a defining portal to our self-destruction as a people. You can’t blame the entities mentioned above for our eventual downfall. The assholes don’t know no better.

  11. Nooneimportant Says:

    Unfortunately, there are those that take themselves way too serious amongst us. In an attempt to give props to the vets that deserve it and sacrificed their comfort, life, limb and liberty, in order we all may benefit, here comes a whiner to make all people that have similar alleles and surnames look incredibly bad. Bloodshed and history are synonymous. There are no wrong sites to build a memorial, especially of this nature. Shut up.

  12. RobThomas Says:

    Woody Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    With liberals, there’s no appropriate place to build a memorial to U.S. soldiers, unless it’s in Hell.

    ……………..

    Problem is, Satan doesn’t want them in Hell, either. He’s said that too many wars declared by the U.S. were even too evil for him.

  13. RobThomas Says:

    Gava Joe Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    All us patriotic xenophobes of lesser pigmentation

    ………………..

    Thank you for making the distinction. Because there are a lot of patriotic xenophobes of dark skin color.

  14. WTF Says:

    Problem is, Satan doesn’t want them in Hell, either. He’s said that too many wars declared by the U.S. were even too evil for him.

    **********************

    I agree, why is Obama sending more evil American soldiers to Afghanistan to kill more innocent women, children and fathers?

    The people resonsible for 911 are no longer in Afghanistan !!!

  15. Gava Joe Says:

    My problem is with this “Satan” critter, and if he really is a force? If so is Rob Thomas his point man, issuing all his political views? But then, it might very well be a strong beacon for CHANGE. So entre vous Rob Thomas, speak for Satan.
    PS. French is the official language of Hades.

  16. RobThomas Says:

    WTF, they don’t call Obama the anti christ for nothing. It’s time to start cashing in on that political capital. So, are you going to get behind him, or are you going to blame America first?

    Gava joe, relax. Satan doesn’t really even exist. And hey, I’ve noticed, we didn’t get any of your Calo slang on this thread. Que Pasa with that?

  17. Gava Joe Says:

    Yo Robbie, Mantengo mis comentarios exclusivos al tema, pero si usted quiere discutirlo más detalladamente usted sabe adónde ir. And that aint no Calo, ese.

    My rudimentary Spanish comes from 3yrs of Spanish in HS, then of course there was the 5 yrs. institutional post-grad study which I found extremely useful.

    Thanks for the update on the “Satan” issue. I wasn’t sure of his existance and shall take your learned opinion as fact, pal. Thanks a heap.

  18. The City Project Blog » Blog Archive » Save History and Green Space at El Pueblo Father Serra Park News Updates Says:

    [...] Battling LA Histories at Father Serra Park: Who Screwed Up? Witness LA, December 4, 2009 [...]

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