Yesterday’s mass burial of the ashes of 1,689 unclaimed and unidentified people at the Los Angeles County Crematorium Cemetary is generating headlines and coverage across the country. As it should.
The notion that so many individuals, deceased through the end of 2007, would have no next-of-kin or way of being properly identified is spookier than any Hollywood horror film. One of the more interesting perspectives on Wednesday’s event comes courtesy of D.J. Waldie at KCET.org. He notes the history of the practice in LA and how full remains were once involved.
Parts of northern downtown overlay the old burial ground on what was Fort Moore Hill. Parts of Chinatown and the playing fields of Cathedral High School cover the older cemetery further north…
In 1880s, booming Los Angeles set about segregating its dead even more rigorously. Catholics went to Calvary, outside the city limits; Protestants went to Evergreen and Rosedale (just west of Vermont Avenue). Jews eventually went to Home of Peace (also outside the city limits). The poor and the forgotten of Los Angeles were buried in a separate section at the edge of Evergreen Cemetery.
In death then as in life now, it seems, the City of Angels is one of invisibly demarcated lines of neighborhood segregation.