This project is very personal to me. I was born across the street at White Memorial Hospital and went to elementary school a few blocks away at Bridge Street School.
My family came to Boyle Heights a generation ago because of my Abuelito, Timoteo Arevalos, who just celebrated his 89th birthday this week. He traveled from Zacatecas, Mexico as a bracero and brought his wife Guadalupe and his six children to Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks away from here. They raised their ten children in that home along with dozens of grandchildren like me.
My Abuelita was the kindest women I have ever met. Her home was the safe place where many stopped on their immigration journey from Zacatecas to the United States. She gave them food and clean clothes, despite having so many of us to feed. She also made every member of our large family feel like we were her favorite. I choose to tell myself that I really was her favorite, of course.
Because there were so many of us, I didn’t get a chance to spend too much time alone with my Abuelita. I do remember one particular summer day though, sometime in 1986. I remember it was summer because the plastic covering on my Abuelita’s brown velvet couches irritated my legs. I was probably nine years old but I will remember that conversation forever.
You see, I was, and still am, a nerd who was always reading or drawing as a child. That difference made me embarrassed and ashamed growing up. But that summer day my Abuelita told me that my differences were unique and would help me achieve many opportunities in my life. She said, though, that I had to make her a promise that day that I could never forget. She said I had to promise to use those opportunities to help others, like she tried to do. I was young and didn’t necessarily understand what she was trying to tell me that day, but she was my Abuelita, so of course I promised. That remains one of the only conversations I ever got to have with my Abuelita alone because she died four years later.
But I never forgot that I made that promise to her and this project is the fulfillment of that commitment to her. Abuelita – I promised you I would come back and help others in the Community and we stand here today decades later on the project site that will carry your name.
This project is dedicated not only to my Abuelita but to the countless women in Boyle Heights that spend their lives selflessly supporting their family and loved ones. My Abuelita never received any special awards or recognition for the work she did or the love she gave but she changed lives. Her name on this building will be a reminder to its residents and to the Community that anyone can make a lasting impact. I never imagined I would one day grow up to develop a project like this but the memory of my Abuelita carried me through all the difficult moments in life to this wonderful ceremony this morning. For that, I am eternally grateful to my Abuelita and profoundly thankful to everyone who has helped make this project a reality.
Before I conclude, I would like to thank all the members of my loving family who are here today. First, my daughter, Isa, who has had to share her life with my many development projects and my political activities. My Abuelito, Timoteo Areavlos and his partner Mary Helen who drove here from Bakersfield to be with us today. My Mom and Dad, Roselia and Jesus Delgado who put up with all my crazy ideas all these years. My sister and brother, Carla and Ariel Delgado for their continued support and my aunts, uncles and cousins who could be with us today. And to my bus girls sisters whose unconditional love I could not be without. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
And now, I would like share one final memory of my Abuelita with you – her favorite song. Here to perform Paloma Blanca is Mariachi Los Dorados de Villa, led by Arturo Ramirez. Thank you.