An Excavation of East Hollywood, Part I

This is the first of a three part series.

All photos are specific to a particular pocket of Los Angeles known as East Hollywood, and are courtesy of publicly available collections at the University of Southern California Libraries and California Historical Society, as well as at Los Angeles Public Library with the exception of two: The first, taken at LACC by L.A. Times photographer B.I. Oliver on March 13, 1969, and the second, taken by J. Benton Adams at Vermont & Santa Monica, circa 1998.

Before Los Angeles was called so by Spanish settlers,“the city” is supposed to have been known as Yaangna village by aboriginal Tongva people, with respect to what we now refer to as the L.A. river. This is according to Cindi Moar Alvitre, a descendant of the Tongva and Cal State L.A. lecturer of Indian American studies. An excerpt from Alvitre’s essay, “Coyote Tours,” from Latitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas (2015) reads:

“Yaangna was the principal ancestral village that moved along the Los Angeles River for countless generations, before the water was confined and silenced in a concrete sarcophagus, separating the people from that which gives life. In pre-contact times people moved slowly, with the seasons, the food, and ultimately, the water.”

Alvitre also points out that Spanish invasion of the land in the late eighteenth century, which would eventually lead to “Los Angeles,” continually pushed out native or indigenous people farther away from their ancestral lands. For a time, the dispossessed communities found refuge along their ancestors’ storied riverbed. In Alvitre’s words:

“Colonization and missionization accelerated the pace of relocation as native people tried to outrun the colonizers, always clinging to the river…Yaangna became a refugee camp for tribal families seeking some sense of tradition.”

Finally, Cahuenga, the name first given to our special little library on Santa Monica boulevard in 1916, is Tongva for “place of the hill.” And since Cahuenga is also supposed to be related to Kaweewesh, describing “fox,” one can think of Cahuenga as “hill of the foxes.” Of course, more people think of the “Cahuenga pass” in Hollywood when that word comes up, but hey, I guess that does show the link between Humphrey’s Hollywood and our “East Hollywood.”

A few archival images of the area show hilly farsides, both before and up to the area’s time as a major site of lemon groves, hence Lemon Grove Park and such. The rest is history, as they say, although in a past that’s not yet past for our communities. At least, not if we’ve got anything to say about it.


Here and There in Downtown Los Angeles

For a young photographer still finding their way, downtown Los Angeles offers just the right concoction of abstract architecture and solo night-goers to capture L.A., ‘the strangeness’.
I’m luck y to have a camera in my hand to try and reflect for viewers just what this feels like. More often than not, walking through Los Angeles is like walking through an abandoned would-be city, or a world made of movie sets whose features give one the strange sense that they’ve seen ‘it all’ before, even if they can’t quite trace where.
Downtown L.A. is a quintessential example of this process. Of course, the area has been featured in a number of different films for decades, but even so, there’s always something new about it, if not something off, even.
Metro Red Line, Civic Center terminal; Los Angeles, California