Q. I want to get back to the park itself. Obviously there were different proposals for things that might be done with the land. The school, the Buddhist temple, a park, various things at different points. I would just be curious if you could describe before you guys beat Roski, in the midst of all this, you personally, what was your vision of what would be done with the land? What was your hope for what would be done with the land, and how does that compare to what it is now that it’s a state historic park.
I’m a simple man with a simple vision. My vision really is driven by the Olmsted Plan for parks, schools, and beaches.
We really were hoping and praying and fighting for L.A. State Historic Park to be part of a continuous parkway with what is now the California Endowment site, El Pueblo, Río de Los Angeles State Park, and the river. All of this would be continuous parkway space. That does not mean it’s all one big park. That would have been as close as we had come at the time in 2000, 2001, to the 1930 Olmsted vision of parks, playgrounds and beaches for the Los Angeles region. Along with that big park space, schools. . . .
We got our inspiration in part from the Olmsted Plan, and in part from places like the Golden Gate National Recreation area in the San Francisco Bay Area. The National Parks Service recognized years ago that there will be few opportunities to create places like another Central Park in New York City, or even L.A. State Historic Park in L.A. You need to connect park spaces through signage or streets and boulevards lined with trees, so that there’s an obvious connection.
Frankly, that was my vision. It wasn’t just mine. That was the vision of Anahuak Youth Sports Association and Raul Macías, and Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles. They are another set of unsung heroes. . . .
Let me emphasize the role of Raul Macías and Anahuak Youth Sports Association. . . . Raul was not a part of the Chinatown Yard Alliance from day one, but he did become a leader later. He was a part of the struggle for Río de Los Angeles State Park at Taylor Yard from day one.
Raul is a businessman, a successful businessman. Raul owned MGM Apparel, which was a clothing manufacturing business immediately across the street from Taylor Yard on San Fernando Road. He saw that in the local park, Cypress Park, there was no place for children to play except for a little space, almost a pocket park down the street from MGM, just big enough for one small, not regulation size, soccer field.
So he went to neighborhood kids and said, “I’ll buy your uniforms and shoes and balls, and I’ll pay for a coach and I’ll get you refs, if you agree to form a soccer team. All you have to do is come tell me once a week how you’re doing.” The kids said sure. After a few weeks, they’d come and tell him we lost to such and such a team. We lost to such and such a team. Raul got angry. He fired the coach, he started coaching them himself, and the team grew. More and more children wanted to play. He didn’t charge them anything. This is not like AYSO, American Youth Soccer Organization, where you pay 60, 70, 100 bucks, whatever. These families can’t afford that. He would, out of his own pocket, finance the team.
When we started the struggle to stop the commercial development at what is now Río de Los Angeles State Park, we met with him early on, and he became a core leader of that alliance. Just like Chi Mui had ties to the Chinese community here at L.A. State Historic Park, Raul worked in the community and the people who worked at his clothing business lived in the community. They’re immigrants, they’re Latinos, they love soccer. That’s what drove them to fight to create the park. This was the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard, and their tagline was Give our kids a place to play. Raul was a core leader.
The developer wanted to build a big box project at Taylor Yard. They went to Raul and said, “We’ll give you several hundred thousand dollars to buy equipment for your team, pay the park fees at other sites, if you withdraw from the alliance.” Raul said, “No, it’s not about me, it’s not even about Anahuak. It’s not about our members. It’s about the community and the alliance, and we’re not going to walk out on them.” That was at a time when it was unsure we would win. He might have lost everything. He might have lost the site, Taylor Yard. He would have lost several hundred thousand dollars. But he stayed a part of the struggle.
Raul Macías later became a member of the L.A. Neighborhood Council for that area. To this day elected officials, the Mayor, state officials, congressional officials, local officials, when they want to meet with their constituents, they will go to Anahuak Youth Sports Association coaches’ meetings, or they will go to the soccer tournaments and talk to the people there.
We learned this in the process of organizing. Juan Gonzales wrote the standard history of Latinos in the U.S. He writes in Harvest of Empire that new Latino immigrants in the U.S. do not organize politically. They organize soccer teams and soccer leagues. They use the human organizing skills they learn from that process, and then go on to organize politically. We saw that is true with Raul and Anahuak Youth Sports Association.
Raul is a respected community leader. . . . He is still devoted to Anahuak and the children.
Prior: Juanita Tate and Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles
The community plan with soccer fields and a school for LA State Historic Park . . .
Top photo Raul Macías and Anahuak Youths Sports Association celebrate the 10th anniversary of Río de Los Angeles State Park on Earth Day, April 22, 2017