Boyle Heights

‘This is Sacred Ground': Boyle Heights Honors Fallen, Protests Roundabout Near Cinco Puntos Memorial

On Memorial Day 2022, community members in Boyle Heights and East LA are paying tribute to Mexican Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice, and fighting to stop construction of a traffic circle around a beloved memorial.

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One of the most historic of Southern California's Memorial Day ceremonies, honoring U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice, is set to happen at Cinco Puntos, an intersection where Boyle Heights ends and East LA begins.

But along with the quiet, solemn honor paid to those service members comes new controversy in the nearby community, as residents protest a traffic circle planned for an area of the neighborhood they see as sacred ground.

The solemn spot pays tribute to Mexican American soldiers who died in World War II.

On Memorial Day, members of a small-but-mighty army of volunteers stand silent guard in 15-minute shifts next to the column in the memorial square, for a 24-hour period leading up to the annual ceremony for those soldiers later in the day.

"Someone has to keep the memory of the people that suffered, and the people that died as a result of maintaining our freedom," Ruben Treviso, a Vietnam War veteran, told NBC4 after his shift wrapped up. "That's what it's about."

Another volunteer at the memorial, Rudy Garcia III, was there to honor his father, Rudy Garcia, a Purple Heart recipient and member of the 82nd Airborne.

Toni Guinyard/NBCLA
Rudy Garcia III honors his father, Rudy Garcia, near Cinco Puntos in the East LA/Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles on Memorial Day 2022.

Memorial Day 2022 marks the the 75th year that Mexican American veterans who gave their lives for the U.S. are being honored at Five Points, or Cinco Puntos. The memorial was dedicated in 1968.

But this year, the site is also the center of some controversy.

The memorial square is considered sacred ground for many in the community. There are plans to build a traffic circle around the column and memorial square, and residents opposing the idea are holding a community meeting and protest at 10 a.m. on Monday.

Toni Guinyard/NBCLA

"This is sacred ground," said Sofía Quiñones, part of the East LA /Boyle Heights coalition. "We come here, we pray here. And they want to build a huge roundabout! We don't want a roundabout."

City Councilmember Kevin De Leon posted the artists's rendition of the roundabout on social media.

The depiction has the traffic circle surrounding the column of the memorial.

De Leon also posted a video message in Spanish, explaining the name of the memorial will not change, and the monuments will be included in the new designs.

Residents against the changes have been holding a petition drive against the construction.

Several of the veterans participating in the annual 24-hour vigil at the monument spoke with NBC4 off-camera, expressing frustration with the movement.

While they know other veterans want to stop the roundabout, overall, they feel the protests taking place on Memorial Day takes away the focus from those fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the U.S., and feel the effort should have taken place another time.

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