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Cherishing Old Times in Santa Ana's Barrio

A reunion brings together residents of the Logan neighborhood, about six square blocks that many say was like an extended family.

October 12, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

They came from all over Orange County and beyond to revisit a few square blocks they once called home. On Saturday, current and former residents of one of Santa Ana's oldest Latino barrios gathered for a reunion in a neighborhood where, for many, life began.

"We're all dying off and we needed to see each other," said Helen Parga, 77, whose family lived here from 1899 until 1991 when she finally moved away from the Logan neighborhood near downtown. "The only time we see each other is at funerals, and I don't think it's a good idea to have such a good time at funerals."

Chepa Andrade, 76, said she never planned to move. "I love my neighborhood," she said. "I was born here, I went to school here, I got married here. We look at each other as family. I could never live anywhere else."

The barrio -- about six square blocks in the shadow of the Santa Ana Freeway -- seems to engender loyalty rarely seen in more upscale neighborhoods of today.

It began taking on its ethnic character in the 1890s when some of the city's first Latino residents began calling Logan Street home.

Back then, residents say, Santa Ana was segregated. Latinos were not allowed to attend white schools or live in white neighborhoods, and rarely did members of different ethnic groups meet.

So Logan residents built a school and homes of their own. And for several generations, the neighborhood became a haven where they found spouses, reared children and helped each other survive.

"It's a ghetto," Parga said, "but it's our barrio. We worked for it, helped it -- we cherish each other. I still come here every day to visit my girlfriends."

That depth of feeling was evident among the estimated 150 people attending Saturday's reunion at Logan Park.

"We were all poor here," said Norma Cardona, 72. "We were all together, we took care of each other. We were like a family -- it was like we were glued together."

Many prominent citizens emerged from the barrio, including an Orange County judge, war heroes and successful businesspeople.

Helping to bring it all to mind Saturday were dozens of photos -- some a century old -- of weddings, families and school groups.

Some reunion participants said they fear that the neighborhood may be losing its character.

Though the neighborhood is still mostly Latino, they say, many newer occupants of the estimated 50 houses in the barrio are relatively recent arrivals from Mexico who don't know or identify with its history.

To keep the neighborhood's history alive, some of the old-timers brought along relatives born well after Logan's prime.

"I feel a connection with the history here," said Anicia Arganda, 27, born in Westminster long after her grandmother had moved. "It's important to know where you came from. The stories I heard growing up have become my own."

For most, however, the connection is more palpable and direct.

"I got married," Andrade said of her life in Logan, "jumped across the street, then moved back to the same old house. From here, it's to the cemetery -- that's it."

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