Pacoima Historical Society Celebrates Unveiling of Ritchie Valens Memorial Hwy
Pictured PHS President Crystal Jackson and Executive Board Member Lon Grandison
On Saturday, August 25, 2018, the Pacoima Historical Society (PHS) joined together with Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and the family of Ritchie Valens, to celebrate the unveiling of The Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway, a stretch on the I-5 Freeway between state Routes 170 and 118 freeways.
Almost 60 years have passed since Ritchie Valens’ short 17 years of life, but his presence remains alive and well in the San Fernando Valley, more specifically in Pacoima, his hometown. Hundreds of people, some as far away as Fresno came to Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima to pay tribute.
“He’s a hometown boy,” said Ritchie Valens’ sister Connie Valens-Anderson. “That’s where Ritchie lived [and] where he came from. It makes us very proud that his name will be seen daily by hundreds of commuters.”
Ritchie Valens was born and raised in Pacoima. He attended local schools and prospered as a teenager in the late 1950s. For years, Pacoima locals have held on closely to memories that connect them to Valens.
“Even though he is gone now, he is growing by the minute,” stated Pacoima Historical Society President Crystal Jackson. “His popularity never stood silent. The first Latino-rocker is an icon that is immortal at this point.”
The festival featured live performances by some of Valens’ own family members paid tribute to the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer. Valens’ brother and cousin, Mario and Ernest Valens, performed with their bands: Backyard Blues Band and Ernie Valens Band.
“It’s kind of a phenomenon, and the community holds on to that,” Valens-Anderson said.
A bill from the state Legislature, supported by former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, granted the highway’s name-change.