Skip to main content

“A Travesty of Justice” at Unearthed Graves El Pueblo Campo Santo

by Richard Guzmán

When the long-in-the-works LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes [LPCA] opens on Saturday, April 16, officials with the new Mexican American cultural center plan a day-long celebration. The $27 million attraction will be feted with live music, art workshops and tours.

But not everyone who shows up at the building at 501 N. Main St. will be there to party or applaud the opening of the project.

Under the banner “Save La Plaza Cemetery,” members of the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians are organizing a protest during the grand opening of the project for what they say is the desecration of L.A.’s “most historic cemetery,” according to an email sent last week by the Gabrieleno Band. A protest was also scheduled for an April 9 . . . fundraiser honoring First District County Supervisor and project champion Gloria Molina. The controversy stems from the October discovery of [118 sets of human remains] in the center’s 30,000-square-foot garden. Although initial requests to halt construction to determine the origin of the bones were rebuffed, in January the pressure from various groups prompted . . . officials to halt work on that part of the garden. It was fenced off and progress continued on the rest of the 2.2-acre facility.

In total, remains from 118 bodies were found on the land that was the site of a former cemetery next to La Placita church on Main Street. Officials with the tribes believe some of the bones were of Native Americans.

“Please come to support our Tribe and fight for the ethical treatment of our ancestor’s remains,” reads the email from Christina Swindall Martinez, secretary for the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians.

The remains are now in storage at the Natural History Museum while . . . officials, Molina and others try to determine what to do next. . . .

Robert Garcia, executive director and counsel for The City Project, who represents Johntommy Rosas, a member of the Tongva-Gabrieleno Native American tribe and a descendant of the first settlers of Los Angeles, said they wanted all construction and the opening to be halted until the issue is resolved.

“We think it is a travesty of justice, and it tramples the memory of their ancestors and further denigrates the site,” Garcia said of the planned opening celebration and the April 9 gala. “We’ve asked them to postpone the opening since it’s disrespectful to Native Americans and their ancestors to be partying on the site.”

Read the rest if this article in the Downtown News . . .

Visit for regular updates.