Death of the Tamale Lady

She was 52, a mother and grandmother, a vendor of tamales. She lived quietly on the east side of the L.A. River, in an ugly stucco apartment house with concrete all around. Then one Sunday night, as she came home after delivering an order of tamales, she was attacked in the street, stabbed twice and left to die just steps from her home. She was found quickly, but it was too late for any aid. Doña Rosa died, and no one but the killer knew who had done it, or why. Oh, there were rumors, there always are, but for most people on her street, life went on just as it had, just without Doña Rosa’s tasty tamales or her soft smile.

This is not a story from 1927. "Doña" Rosa Cruz, wife of Joel Mejía, mother of Nancy, native of El Salvador, was murdered in Lincoln Heights on Sunday, July 22. As of today, this crime has received no coverage in the English language newspapers or broadcast media. It has not appeared on the LA Times’ Homicide Report Blog. Detectives were in the neighborhood yesterday, asking questions and looking for an answer. And on the corner of Albion and Avenue 20, the people who loved Doña Rosa continue to gather, bringing fresh flowers and seeking comfort in community, on the open sidewalk where she walked on that last night.

On this blog we remember the forgotten dead from long ago, people who came to Los Angeles and found, not whatever improved life they were seeking, but too often an anonymous or notorious death. We should never forget that these people left families and loved ones, and that these crimes resonate in large ripples out over the decades, in those who knew the victim and far beyond. RIP Doña Rosa, and we hope peace can be found by those who loved her.

dona rosa memorial

Forget About the Law

volubleMay 12, 1927
Los Angeles

Archie Quinzey appeared as his own defense today before Superior Judge Stephens, on the charge of unlawfully entering a local home, proceeding to the cupboard, and gorging himself on the comestibles therein.  

Normally, it is said, he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, but such was not the case with Mr. Quinzey.  Stephens heard and considered Quinzey’s plea, glanced out the window at a restaurant, considered and cogitated a spell, and stated that while he could impose a heavier sentence, he would not, and felt that a mere six months in County would teach Quinzey to ignore the savory odors emanating from other persons’ kitchens.

Quinzey’s plea, a mixture of erudition and ignoratio elenchi, is printed in the Times with all the characteristic argot endemic to the Good Olde Days:


Mr. Wrong, Edendale-Style

October 3, 1907

It’s 2006, and Edendale is the quaintest durn area of Silver Lake, where you may dine at the Edendale Grill and think back on when Edendale was full of Keystone Kops and horses from Tom Mix’s Mixville Studios.  You can mull over Edendale’s history as the birthing-place of identity politics, where gay rights began and Communists cruised the hills and bohemianism was actually daring.  And now, next time you’re in Edendale, I hope you think of Mr. A. B. Wright.

Mrs. Jennie Gamble bought a lot in Edendale when it was laid out in 1903, and built a nice little four-room cottage.  She decided to sell in 1907, and did so, to the aforementioned Mr. Wright, the $1200 deal was closed, and Mrs. Gamble deposited her deed with a trust company.  All fine and good, except for one thing:  A. B. Wright is black.

The neighborhood went nuts, threatening “dire things” and making uncomplimentary remarks to Mrs. Gamble.  A great banner was raised, announcing a mass meeting set for tonight to protest against the incursion.  

But the protest was averted, as R. R. Carew, original promoter of Edendale and a resident therein, “proved to be the Moses in the present difficulty, and led his people out of trouble.”  And he would have been in trouble indeed, in that he had personally assured prospective homemakers that no black family would be allowed to settle in the community.  What Carew said to Wright is unknown, but Wright did ultimately decide not to move his family into Edendale.


There still aren’t a lot of black people in Edendale. 

Alcoholiquality During Fiesta

May 6, 1907
Los Angeles

The rough-necked gentry of the Seventh Ward are known for the signs in their saloon windows that read “No Colored Persons Served Here” or just “No coons wanted.” When the City Council decided to abolish race discrimination during Fiesta, the removal of these signs was of primary importance, so the powers that be got to work on the matter without the usual requisite public discussion. This made those in the bartending profession feel persecuted, and the number of these signs, especially in the many bars along East Main Street, greatly multiplied.

In response, black leaders began organizing “runs” on various white bars, wherein black patrons would mob selected establishments as an example and warning. One of our trademark race riots seemed imminent. Luckily, instead, black delegates from the Sixth and Seventh wards mobbed City Hall, where Mayor Harper and City Attorney pushed through an official legal ordinance banning race discrimination and making the signs unlawful.

Theaters, of course, remain segregated.

White Wife of Celestial Deports Self

March 27, 1907
Los Angeles 

After visiting her Chinese husband in the County Jail, Mrs. Yee Lung (also called Mrs. Frank Chew) spoke of her intention to join her beloved as he was deported, and to travel with him in the train car packed with forty other Chinese deportees for the trip up to San Francisco.

Special permission has been granted by the U.S. Marshall for her to ride with her husband. They will immediately board a boat to Hong Kong, and the woman may never again see her white friends relatives in this country.

Mrs. Lung’s friends have pleaded with her to reconsider, but she insists "I trust my husband implicitly… he wouldn’t go without me, and I wouldn’t be so cruel as to ask him to."