Essential California: A Venice monument to Mexican American railroad workers
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, April 15. I’m Robert J. Lopez, writing from Petaluma in Sonoma County.
For several decades beginning in the late 1800s, Mexican and Mexican American laborers were instrumental in building rail lines in Los Angeles and across the West. Known as traqueros, these workers performed the back-breaking task of laying the track and rails essential to our supply chain infrastructure.
To commemorate their accomplishments, the Los Angeles City Council has approved the process of installing a monument that would be prominently displayed in Venice’s Windward Circle near the beach and boardwalk.
“We have the opportunity to celebrate the Traqueros and the broader Mexican-American community on the Westside of Los Angeles,” said a motion presented last year by Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents the area, and seconded by Councilmember Kevin de León.
I recently spoke to members of the Venice Mexican American Traqueros Monument Committee at Oakwood Park, not far from where the monument will be located. They stressed the importance of acknowledging the contributions of the laborers whose hard work is intertwined with the development of Los Angeles.
“This is a part of history that is not in our history books and not taught in schools,” said Laura Ceballos, 51, who was raised in Venice and is active in the local Latino community. “It’s very important to educate the community and leave something for our children and grandchildren.”
The bronze sculpture, designed by accomplished Mexican artist Jorge Marín, will depict a traquero on the railroad as he grasps his daughter’s hand, with his son on his shoulders and his wife at his side.
The monument is supported by organizations and people including the Mexican Consulate and labor icon Dolores Huerta, co-founder with César Chávez of the United Farm Workers.
The City Council directed officials from several departments to work together on ways to install the monument, which supporters hope will be in place by 2024.
For longtime Venice resident Joe Preciado, 73, the monument is personal.
His grandfather came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico, in the 1890s and helped build rail lines in Oklahoma. He met his wife there at a traquero camp, where women would cook and bring baskets of tacos and other food for the laborers.
“This means a lot to me,” Preciado said. “Latinos contributed to this country and they need to be recognized.”
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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California pauses plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the mandate for immunization upon full federal approval of the shots, which would have gone into effect by July 1, will be pushed back to at least July 1, 2023, because the FDA has not yet fully approved the vaccine for children. The announcement came hours after state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said he would pull a bill that would have added COVID-19 vaccines to California’s list of required inoculations for attending K-12 schools. Los Angeles Times
“Real Housewives” scandal leads to scathing audit of California State Bar. The State Bar has failed to effectively discipline corrupt attorneys, allowing them to repeatedly violate professional standards and harm the public, according to an audit. The Legislature ordered the audit after an investigation that documented how the now-disgraced attorney Tom Girardi cultivated close relationships with the agency and avoided discipline despite scores of complaints and lawsuits from cheated clients. Girardi is a top plaintiffs’ attorney and prominent Democratic Party donor who gained reality TV fame alongside his third wife, Erika, on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Los Angeles Times
Cracking down on illegal dumping. For years, illegal dumping has plagued some neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Everything from construction rubbish to old boats to dead animals has been discarded in alleys, streets and vacant lots. The Los Angeles City Council is taking steps to combat this perennial problem, passing two measures that would increase the number of sanitation workers and rely on other preventive measures. LAist
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
CSU provost faced retaliation after reporting sexual harassment complaints against husband of campus president. California State University paid $600,000 this year to settle a claim with a Sonoma State provost who reported retaliation and sexual harassment allegations involving the campus president and her husband, according to records in the case obtained by The Times. Former Provost Lisa Vollendorf reported to Cal State system officials that several women alleged they were sexually harassed by Patrick McCallum, a prominent higher education lobbyist who is married to Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki, a legal claim filed with Cal State shows. Los Angeles Times
Prop. 13 benefits homeowners in wealthier, white neighborhoods. Homeowners in wealthy, white neighborhoods in Oakland received thousands of dollars more in property tax breaks than their counterparts in neighborhoods with large Black, Asian and Latino populations, according to a new report. The report was based on a study by the Tax Fairness Project and the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Assn. Passed by voters in 1978, Proposition 13 limits how much governments can tax property and has been criticized by policy experts for effectively offering longtime homeowners hefty tax discounts relative to new buyers. CalMatters
Cats having a ‘field day’ at Bay Area sports stadium. The venerable Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which once proclaimed itself “Home of Champions,” is now home to feral cats and kittens — lots of them. “Feral cats have multiplied since the coronavirus and the kittens are running wild,” Henry Gardner, executive director of the Coliseum Authority, told the commissioners who oversee the sports complex. San Francisco Chronicle
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
Former Democratic donor gets 30 years in drug, sex-crime case. Ed Buck, who was a prominent figure of West Hollywood’s political scene, was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison for drug and sex crimes that led to the overdose deaths of two vulnerable men. For nearly a decade, the Buck, who is wealthy and white, lured young Black men at the lowest points in their lives into what he called “party and play” sessions, prosecutors said. The victims were unhoused, addicted and resorting to subsistence-level sex work. Los Angeles Times
Feds to return $1.1 million in pot proceeds. The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to return the money, which came from licensed cannabis sales and was seized last year by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies during two roadside operations. The law enforcement actions were criticized by advocates for the cannabis industry and others, who noted that the proceeds were from pot businesses that hold state and local licenses to operate in California. San Bernardino Sun
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
L.A. waterways awash in sewage. In the last decade, 42 million gallons of sewage ended up in Los Angeles County waterways that connect to the Pacific Ocean, according to an analysis of public data. The records from the county Department of Public Health show that a vast majority of the sewage was inadvertently released last year. Officials said two incidents last year — flooding at the Hyperion Water Reclamation plant in Playa del Rey and failure of a sewer in Carson — were responsible for the discharge of more than 20 million gallons of sewage. Daily Breeze
Exploring L.A.’s indie bookstores. The Times has prepared an interactive guide to dozens of independent bookstores across Los Angeles. Among the more than 60 stores are historic hotspots of literary culture from Watts to Brentwood that readers can search by categories including genre, neighborhood and specialty topics. The guide was prepared ahead of The Times’ Festival of Books, which is scheduled for April 23-24 at USC. Los Angeles Times
Mexican food in Santa Monica. Santa Monica might not be the first place you think about when you’re looking for good Mexican meals. But several new restaurants have popped up on the Westside food scene. Find out where you can enjoy tacos, tostadas and horchatas next time you’re in the bayside city. L.A. Taco
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Los Angeles: Sunny and 70. San Diego: Partly cloudy and 66. San Francisco: Mostly sunny and 55. San Jose: Partly cloudy and 70. Fresno: Partly cloudy and 77. Sacramento: Partly cloudy and 69.
Today’s California memory is from Charles South:
I grew up in a small desert town in New Mexico, but I was sent every summer to California, first with my grandmother and then with my father during my teen years. It was an eye-opening experience. From the ocean, to visits to Pacific Ocean Park and other attractions, California to me was one big Disneyland, teaching me there was more to life than just the sleepy town I came from. The lure was irresistible and drew me to UC Berkeley and then UCLA, and ultimately a permanent life here in the Southland.
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