Downtown Los Angeles is changing rapidly. Still gritty underneath, it can be tough to recognize the shift without comparing the past to the present. But this is something photographer Rafael Cardenas captures every day.
"I grew up in East L.A., close to Rowan and Cesar Chavez if you’re familiar. It’s what I call the Tri-City area, where Boyle Heights meets East L.A. meets City Terrace," says Cardenas.
Though many attribute Downtown’s development to inevitable progress, the upswing has displaced many families that lived in neighboring Boyle Heights for generations.
"It’s difficult to see the changes. It’s difficult to see them happen in front of your face with a complete disregard for the people that already live here. You know, this bridge here is a giant symbol of that. I’ve feared this change since it started," says Cardenas.
On his block, he's seen four families forced out this year alone.
"It's a pretty aggressive violent move, you know to get people out of our neighborhoods and just really change the demographic, I think," he says.
Since picking up a camera, Cardenas has taken photos every day in this neighborhood. Neighbors, workers, commuters, he captures it all. Including the changes he feared most.
When his friend Lilia Ramirez called and asked if he wanted to take any of her succulents, he learned she was being forced out of her rented home so he took her photo instead.
"I remember being tired in this picture. Not only physically tired, but emotionally tired," says Ramirez.
But she didn’t leave without a fight. With the help of the Eviction Defense Network and the L.A. Tenants Union, they were able to score a big win, a right of return, so Ramirez is hopeful she’ll get to go back home once the building is complete. Until then, her memory of her home will live on in Cardenas' photographs.