Remembering Rey Dominguez 1944-2012
September 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
I had the bittersweet pleasure of attending yesterday’s memorial service for Rey Dominguez, a community leader in Elysian Valley, whom I knew from our work together to restore and revitalize the Los Angeles River through his community. If readers want more information, there’s a full Reymundo Dominguez obituary at Echo Park Patch. I just want to record a few of my recollections of my interactions with Rey, who was someone I had and still have a great deal of respect and admiration for.
I met Rey and his wife Ceci around 1999 (or 2000) when plans were underway for Marsh Street Park. There was some conflict between neighbors and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Elysian Valley residents were interested in creating a skate park at the site; the MRCA invested in their mission of creating natural parks.
I should mention that Elysian Valley, also called Frogtown, is a somewhat isolated community. It’s bounded by three miles of riverfront with no crossings. It was further isolated when the 5 freeway cut it off from its commercial strip. Residents there, predominantly Latino but also Vietnamese and Chinese, are wary of outsiders. When white environmentalists come in and say “we’re going to the make the river nicer” many Frogtown residents, who love the river, are skeptical about motives. The last time outsiders wanted to improve the neighborhood, the 5 Freeway took out Elysian Valley’s commercial strip on Riverside Drive.
Compounding this, there’s even more history. Many Frogtown residents relocated there after being uprooted from homes in Chavez Ravine, now the site of Dodgers Stadium. Rey spent his early childhood living in Chavez Ravine.
Rey and Ceci, though sticking up for their community, were nice to me. They listened to my river stories and told me theirs. They were warm to me, but were clear about what they expected. I think we earned each others’ trust.
Rey and Ceci were a great couple – doing their own things, supportive and respectful of each other.
When Cornerstone Theater Company began work on the play that became Touch the Water, I was interviewed by playwright Julie Hébert. I told her a lot of my stories about the river and about Elysian Valley. When she asked for contacts for community folks who lived along the river about experience with play, I connected her with Rey and Ceci. Ceci ended up acting in the play, as did their grandson Ricky. During preparation and performances, Rey was around a lot, supporting Ceci and Ricky. He and I painted the art car that was part of the set. It was great to spend time with Rey and his family through the course of Touch the Water.
Rey was a cyclist, and brought Ceci (who doesn’t bike all that much) to the first CicLAvia, which I’d helped organize.
Rey Dominguez was involved in a lot more efforts to make his community a better place. I think he was a community activist rooted in a place – which I think is one of most important things that any of us can aspire to. We miss you Rey and we celebrate your life well lived.
(I did some sketches at the memorial service – see them at my art blog)