Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights memorializes remains found during Metro construction

A memorial wall at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights, Calif., was unveiled March 8, 2010 in a ceremony attended by elected officials, community leaders and Metro executives.
A memorial wall at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights, Calif., was unveiled March 8, 2010 in a ceremony attended by elected officials, community leaders and Metro executives. thesource.metro.net

Almost five years ago, Los Angeles County Metro construction crews were excavating to widen First Street in Boyle Heights to build the Gold Line Extension. They discovered human remains and more than 150 unmarked graves near Evergreen Cemetery. On Monday, Metro and government officials unveiled a memorial wall in the cemetery to honor the dead whose remains were found.

Many of the remains discovered were of Chinese immigrants, and some of the graves dated back to the 1880s. At that time, Evergreen Cemetery did not allow Chinese people to bury their dead inside its gates, only in a nearby potter’s field for the indigent or people with no known next of kin.

Metro Board Chairman Ara Najarian said when construction crews found the human remains and artifacts in the forgotten potter’s field, the transit agency did the right thing.

"We immediately stopped work, then painstakingly preserved what we found, tried to find the descendants, and we did find some of them," he said at the ceremony to dedicate the new memorial wall. About 174 graves will now be re-buried near the wall inside the cemetery.

Congresswoman Judy Chu was also among the elected officials who attended the dedication ceremony

"It is so significant that those early immigrants who suffered so many indignities in life will now not have to suffer indignities through death," she said.

Chu said the day has taken a long time to arrive.

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