Ron Abboud is the Executive Producer of Vu Los Angeles
Spanish Era 1769 - 1821 - In 1542 the first Europeans to visit the Los Angeles region were Captain Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew. They were sailing up the coast looking for a new passage to Asia. In 1602, Captain Sebastián Vizcaíno dropped anchor at Santa Catalina Island and near San Pedro. It would be another 166 years before another European would visit the region.
The one person most responsible for the founding of Los Angeles was the new Governor of California, Felipe de Neve.
Alta California and decided to establish civic pueblos for the support of the military presidios. Neve was a Renaissance person. The new pueblos would reduce the secular power of the missions by reducing the dependency of the military on them. At the same time, they would promote the development of industry and agriculture.
Neve identified Santa Barbara, San Jose, and Los Angeles as sites for his new pueblos. His plans for them closely followed a set of Spanish city-planning laws contained in the Laws of the Indies promulgated by King Philip II in 1573. Those laws were responsible for laying the foundations of the largest cities in the region, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, and San Antonio—as well as Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Fe, San Jose, and Laredo.
The royal regulations were based on the ancient teachings of Vitruvius, who set down the rules for founding of new cities in the Roman Empire. Basically, the Spanish laws called for an open central plaza, surrounded by a fortified church, administrative buildings, and streets laid out in a grid, defining rectangles of limited size to be used for farming (suertes) and residences (solares).
It was in accordance with such precise planning—specified in the Law of the Indies—that Governor Neve founded the pueblo of San Jose de Guadalupe, California's first municipality, on the great plain of Santa Clara on 29 November 1777.
The Los Angeles Pobladores ("townspeople") is the name given to the 44 original settlers, 22 adults and 22 children, who founded the town.
In December, 1777 Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa and Commandant General Teodoro de Croix gave approval for the founding of a civic municipality at Los Angeles and a new presidio at Santa Barbara. Croix put the California lieutenant governor Fernando Rivera y Moncada in charge of recruiting colonists for the new settlements. He was originally instructed to recruit 55 soldiers, 22 settlers with families and 1,000 head of livestock that included horses for the military. After an exhausting search that took him to Mazatlán, Rosario, and Durango, Rivera y Moncada only recruited 12 settlers and 45 soldiers. Like the people of most towns in New Spain, they were a mix of Indian and Spanish backgrounds. Croix instructed Rivera y Moncada to delay no longer and proceed north. The soldiers, settlers, and livestock were assembled at Alamos, Sonora, before departure.
They were divided into two groups. One group, under Alfèrez Josè de Zúñiga and Alfèrez Ramon Laso de la Vega, set out for the coast. They crossed the Gulf of California on launches and then travelled overland to San Diego and up to San Gabriel.
The second group, under Rivera y Moncada, took an overland route over the desert, passing by the new missions on the Colorado River, La Purísima Concepción and Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer. The group arrived at the Colorado River in June 1781. Rivera y Moncada sent most of his party ahead, but he stayed behind to rest the livestock before their drive across the desert. His party would never reach San Gabriel. The Quechan and Mojave Indians rose up against the party for encroaching on their farmlands and for other abuses inflicted by the soldiers. The Quechan Revolt was swift and killed 95 settlers and soldiers, including Rivera y Moncada.
Governor Neve had arrived in San Gabriel in April to finish his plans, El Reglamento, and select the exact location for Los Angeles. He carefully attended to every detail.
While waiting for the colonists to arrive, he visited Yaanga, the Indian village near his selected site. He selected several children for reception into the Church and baptized a young couple and had their marriage blessed. In his Reglamento, the newly baptized Indians were no longer to reside in the mission but live in their traditional rancherías (villages). Neve's new plans for the Indians' role in his new town drew instant disapproval from the mission priests.
Zúñiga's party arrived at the mission on 18 July 1781. Because they had arrived with smallpox, they were immediately quarantined a short distance away from the mission. Members of the other party would arrive at different times by August. They made their way to Los Angeles and probably received their land before September.
The official date for the founding of the city is September 4, 1781. According to a written message sent by Governor Neve to report the pueblo's juridical foundation, that was when 44 pobladores, or settlers, gathered at San Gabriel Mission and, escorted by soldiers and two padres from the mission, set out for the chosen spot that Crespí had recorded twelve years earlier. According to historian Antonio Rios-Bustamante, however, the families had arrived from Mexico earlier in 1781, in two groups, and some of them had most likely been working on their assigned plots of land since the early summer.
The name first given to the settlement is debated. Historian Doyce P. Nunis has said that the Spanish named it "El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles" ("The Town of the Queen of the Angels"). For proof, he pointed to a map dated 1785, where that phrase was used. Frank Weber, the diocesan archivist, replied, however, that the name given by the founders was "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula", or "the town of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula." and that the map was in error.
At the end of the first year only eight of the original founders were still in the pueblo; three had been forced out "for being useless to themselves and the town." But the town grew as soldiers and other settlers came into town and stayed. In 1784 a chapel was built on the Plaza. The pobladores were given title to their land two years later. By 1800, there were 29 buildings that surrounded the Plaza, flat-roofed, one-story adobe buildings with thatched roofs made of tule.
By 1821 Los Angeles had grown into a self-sustaining farming community, the largest in Southern California. Its development conformed strictly to the Law of the Indies and the Reglamento of Governor Neve. The pueblo itself included a square of 10,000 varas, five and a quarter miles on each side. The central Plaza was in the middle, 75 varas (208 ft.) wide and 100 varas (277 ft.) long. On the west side of the Plaza facing east, space was reserved for a church and municipal buildings. Each vecino received a solar (lot) 20 varas (55.5 ft.) wide and 40 varas (110 ft.) long.
Each settler also received four rectangles of land, suertes, for farming, two irrigated plots and two dry ones. Each plot was 200 square varas. The farm plots were separated from the pueblo by a tract of land 200 varas wide. Some plots of land, propios, were set aside for the pueblo's general use and revenue. Other plots of land, realengas, were set aside for future settlers. Land outside the city, baldíos, included mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests, and belonged to the king.
When the settlers arrived, the Los Angeles floodplain was heavily wooded with willows and oaks. The Los Angeles river flowed all year. Wildlife was plentiful, including deer, antelope, and bear, even an occasional grizzly. There were abundant wetlands and swamps. Steelhead and salmon swam the rivers.
The first settlers built a water system consisting of ditches (zanjas) leading from the river through the middle of town and into the farmlands. Indians were employed to haul fresh drinking water from a special pool farther upstream. The city was first known as a producer of fine wine grapes. The raising of cattle and the commerce in tallow and hides would come later.
Because of the great economic potential for Los Angeles, the demand for Indian labor grew rapidly. Yaanga began attracting Indians from the islands and as far away as San Diego and San Luis Obispo. The village began to look like a refugee camp. Unlike the missions, the pobladores paid Indians for their labor. In exchange for their work as farm workers, vaqueros, ditch diggers, water haulers, and domestic help; they were paid in clothing and other goods as well as cash and alcohol. The pobladores bartered with them for prized sea-otter and seal pelts, sieves, trays, baskets, mats, and other woven goods. This commerce greatly contributed to the economic success of the town and the attraction of other Indians to the city.
During the 1780s, San Gabriel Mission became the object of an Indian revolt. The mission had expropriated all the suitable farming land; the Indians found themselves abused and forced to work on lands that they once owned. A young Indian healer, Toypurina began touring the area, preaching against the injustices suffered by her people. She won over four rancherías and led them in an attack on the mission at San Gabriel. The soldiers were able to defend the mission, and arrested 17, including Toypurina.
Because the Indians were exploited, starved, beaten, and raped in the pueblo as often as anywhere else, the officials knew they had to protect them to assure a cheap supply of labor. In 1787 Governor Pedro Fages drew up his "Instructions for the Corporal Guard of the Pueblo of Los Angeles." The Instructions included rules for employing Indians, not using corporal punishment, and protecting the Indian rancherías. As a result, Indians found themselves with more freedom to choose between the benefits of the missions and the pueblo-associated rancherías.
In 1784 California's first three ranchos were granted to soldiers, all in Los Angeles County. Rancho San Pedro was given to Juan José Dominguez, Rancho San Rafael to José María Verdugo, and Rancho Los Nietos to Mañuel Nieto. The grants stipulated that Indian employees stay clear of San
Gabriel, further drawing them away from the missions and closer to the life of the pueblo.
In 1795, Sergeant Pablo Cota led an expedition from the Simi Valley through the Conejo-Calabasas region and into the San Fernando Valley. His party visited the rancho of Francisco Reyes. They found the local Indians hard at work as vaqueros and caring for crops. Padre Vincente de Santa Maria was traveling with the party and made these observations:
All of pagandom (Indians) is fond of the pueblo of Los Angeles, of the rancho of Reyes, and of the ditches (water system). Here we see nothing but pagans, clad in shoes, with sombreros and blankets, and serving as muleteers to the settlers and rancheros, so that if it were not for the gentiles there would be neither pueblos nor ranches. These pagan Indians care neither for the missions nor for the missionaries.
Not only economic ties but also marriage drew many Indians into the life of the pueblo. In 1784—only three years after the founding—the first recorded marriages in Los Angeles took place. The two sons of settler Basilio Rosas, Maximo and José Carlos, married two young Indian women, María Antonia and María Dolores.
The construction on the Plaza of La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles took place between 1818 and 1822, much of it with Indian labor. The new church completed Governor Neve's planned transition of authority from mission to pueblo. The angelinos would no longer have to make the bumpy 11-mile (18 km) ride to Sunday Mass at Mission San Gabriel. In 1820 the route of El Camino Viejo was established from Los Angeles, over the mountains to the north and up the west side of the San Joaquin Valley to the east side of San Francisco Bay.
Although many Indians benefited from assimilation into the life of the pueblo, traditional Indians remained at the bottom of the social ladder and were exploited as workers.
Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821 was celebrated with great festivity throughout Alta California. No longer subjects of the king, people were now ciudadanos, citizens with rights under the law. In the plazas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and other settlements, people swore allegiance to the new government, the Spanish flag was lowered, and the flag of independent Mexico raised.
Independence brought other advantages, including economic growth. There was a corresponding increase in population as more Indians were assimilated and others arrived from America, Europe, and other parts of Mexico. Before 1820, there were just 650 people in the pueblo. By 1841, the population nearly tripled to 1,680.
During the rest of the 1820s the agriculture and cattle ranching expanded, as did the trade in hides and tallow. The new church was completed, and the political life of the city developed. Los Angeles was separated from Santa Barbara administration. The system of ditches which provided water from the river was rebuilt. Trade and commerce further increased with the secularization of the California missions by the Mexican Congress in 1833. Extensive mission lands suddenly became available to government officials, ranchers, and land speculators. The governor made more than 800 land grants during this period, including a grant of over 33,000-acres in 1839 to Francisco Sepulveda which was later developed as the westside of Los Angeles.
Much of this progress, however, bypassed the Indians of the traditional villages who were not assimilated into the mestizo culture. Being regarded as minors who could not think for themselves, they were increasingly marginalized and relieved of their land titles, often by being drawn into debt or alcohol.
In 1834, Governor Pico was married to Maria Ignacio Alvarado in the Plaza church. It was attended by the entire population of the pueblo, 800 people, plus hundreds from elsewhere in Alta California. In 1835, the Mexican Congress declared Los Angeles a city, making it the official capital of Alta California. It was now the region's leading city.
The same period also saw the arrival of many foreigners from the United States and Europe. They would play a pivotal role in the U.S. takeover. Early California settler John Bidwell included several historical figures in his recollection of people he knew in March, 1845.
It then had probably two hundred and fifty people, of whom I recall Don Abel Stearns, John Temple, Captain Alexander Bell, William Wolfskill, Lemuel Carpenter, David W. Alexander; also of Mexicans, Pio Pico (governor), Don Juan Bandini, and others.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles in 1831, Jean-Louis Vignes bought 104 acres (0.42 km2) of land located between the original Pueblo and the banks of the Los Angeles River. He planted a vineyard and prepared to make wine. He named his property El Aliso after the centuries old tree found near the entrance. The grapes available at the time, of the Mission variety, were brought to Alta California by the Franciscan Brothers at the end of the 18th century. They grew well and yielded large quantities of wine, but Jean-Louis Vignes was not satisfied with the results. Therefore, he decided to import better vines from Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon blanc. In 1840, Jean-Louis Vignes made the first recorded shipment of California wine. The Los Angeles market was too small for his production, and he loaded a shipment on the Monsoon, bound for Northern California. By 1842, he made regular shipments to Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco. By 1849, El Aliso, was the most extensive vineyard in California. Vignes owned over 40,000 vines and produced 150,000 bottles, or 1000 barrels, per year.
In May, 1846, the Mexican American War broke out. Because of Mexico's inability to defend its northern territories, California was exposed to invasion. On August 6, 1846, Commodore Robert F. Stockton anchored off San Pedro and proceeded to march inland to occupy Los Angeles. On August 13, accompanied by John C. Frémont, Stockton marched into the Los Angeles Plaza with his brass band playing "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia." Stockton's troops occupied the headquarters and home of Governor Pico, who had fled to Mexico. After three weeks of occupation, Stockton left, leaving Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie in charge.
Subsequent maltreatment by Gillespie and his troops caused a local force of 300 locals to rise up in protest, led by Captain José María Flores, José Antonio Carrillo, and Andrés Pico. Flores demanded the Americans surrender and promised safe passage to San Pedro. Gillespie accepted and departed, ending the first phase of the Battle of Los Angeles.
Full-scale warfare came to the area when Los Angeles residents dug up a colonial cannon that had been used for ceremonial purposes. They had buried it for safe-keeping when Stockton approached the city. They used it to fire on American Navy troops on 8 October 1846, in the Battle of Dominguez Rancho. The victorious locals named the cannon el piedrero de la vieja (the old woman's gun). In December, the Mexicans were again victorious at the Battle of San Pascual near present-day Escondido.
Determined to take Los Angeles, Stockton regrouped his men in San Diego and marched north with six hundred troops, along with U.S. Army General Stephen Watts Kearny and his guide Kit Carson. Captain Frémont marched south from Monterey with 400 troops. After a few skirmishes outside the city, the two forces entered Los Angeles, this time without bloodshed.
Confronted with overwhelming force, Andrés Pico, who had succeeded Flores as military commander and acting as chief administrative officer, met with Fremont. At a ranch in what is now Studio City, they signed the Treaty of Cahuenga on 13 January 1847. That formally ended the California phase of the Mexican–American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on 2 February 1848, ended the war and ceded California to the U.S.
According to historian Mary P. Ryan, "The U.S. army swept into California with the surveyor as well as the sword and quickly translated Spanish and Mexican practices into cartographic representations."
Under colonial law, land held by grantees was not disposable. It reverted to the government. It was determined that under U.S. property law, lands owned by the city were disposable. Also, the diseños (property sketches) held by residents did not secure title in an American court.
California's new military governor Bennett C. Riley ruled that land could not be sold that was not on a city map. In 1849, Lieutenant Edward Ord surveyed Los Angeles to confirm and extend the streets of the city. His survey put the city into the real-estate business, creating its first real-estate boom and filling its treasury. Street names were changed from Spanish to English. Further surveys and street plans replaced the original plan for the pueblo with a new civic center south of the Plaza and a new use of space.
The fragmentation of Los Angeles real estate on the Anglo-Mexican axis had begun. Under the Spanish system, the residences of the power-elite clustered around the Plaza in the center of town. In the new American system, the power elite would reside in the outskirts. The emerging minorities, including the Chinese, Italians, French, and Russians, joined with the Mexicans near the Plaza.
In 1848, the gold discovered in Coloma first brought thousands of miners from Sonora in northern Mexico on the way to the gold fields. So many of them settled in the area north of the Plaza that it came to be known as Sonoratown.
During the Gold Rush years in northern California, Los Angeles became known as the "Queen of the Cow Counties" for its role in supplying beef and other foodstuffs to hungry miners in the north. Among the cow counties, Los Angeles County had the largest herds in the state followed closely by Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties.
With the temporary absence of a legal system, the city was quickly submerged in lawlessness. Many of the New York regiment disbanded at the end of the war and charged with maintaining order were thugs and brawlers. They roamed the streets joined by gamblers, outlaws, and prostitutes driven out of San Francisco and mining towns of the north by Vigilance Committees or lynch mobs. Los Angeles came to be known as the "toughest and most lawless city west of Santa Fe.
Some of the residents resisted the new Anglo powers by resorting to banditry against the gringos. In 1856, Juan Flores threatened Southern California with a full-scale revolt. He was hanged in Los Angeles in front of 3,000 spectators. Tiburcio Vasquez, a legend in his own time among the Mexican-born population for his daring feats against the Anglos, was captured in present-day Santa Clarita, California on May 14, 1874. He was found guilty of two counts of murder by a San Jose jury in 1874, and was hanged there in 1875.
Los Angeles had several active Vigilance Committees during that era. Between 1850 and 1870, mobs carried out approximately 35 lynchings of Mexicans—more than four times the number that occurred in San Francisco. Los Angeles was described as "undoubtedly the toughest town of the entire nation."
The homicide rate between 1847 and 1870 averaged 158 per 100,000 (13 murders per year), which was 10 to 20 times the annual murder rates for New York City during the same period.
The fear of Mexican violence and the racially motivated violence inflicted on them further marginalized the Mexicans, greatly reducing their economic and political opportunities.
John Gately Downey, the seventh Governor of California was sworn into office on January 14, 1860, thereby becoming the first Governor from Southern California. Governor Downey was born and raised in Castlesampson, County Roscommon, Ireland, and came to Los Angeles in 1850. He was responsible for keeping California in the Union during the Civil War.
In 1836, the Indian village of Yaanga was relocated near the future corner of Commercial and Alameda Streets. In 1845, it was relocated again to present-day Boyle Heights. With the coming of the Americans, disease took a great toll among Indians. Between 1848 and 1880, the total population of Los Angeles went from 75,050 to 12,500. Self-employed Indians were not allowed to sleep over in the city. They faced increasing competition for jobs as more Mexicans moved into the area and took over the labor force. Those who loitered or were drunk or unemployed were arrested and auctioned off as laborers to those who paid their fines. They were often paid for work with liquor, which only increased their problems.
Los Angeles was incorporated as an American city on April 4, 1850. Five months later, California was admitted into the Union. Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo required the U.S. to grant citizenship to the Indians of former Mexican territories, the U.S. did not get around to doing that for another 80 years. The Constitution of California deprived Indians of any protection under the law, considering them as non-persons. As a result, it was impossible to bring an Anglo to trial for killing an Indian or forcing them off their property. Anglos concluded that the "quickest and best way to get rid of (their) troublesome presence was to kill them off, (and) this procedure was adopted as a standard for many years."
When New England author and Indian-rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson toured the Indian villages of Southern California in 1883, she was appalled by the racism of the Anglos living there. She found they treated Indians worse than animals, hunted them for sport, robbed them of their farmlands, and brought them to the edge of extermination. While Indians were depicted by whites as lazy and shiftless, she found most of them to be hard-working craftsmen and farmers. Jackson's tour inspired her to write her 1884 novel, Ramona, which she hoped would give a human face to the atrocities and indignities suffered by the Indians in California. And it did. The novel was enormously successful, inspiring four movies and a yearly pageant in Hemet, California. Many of the Indian villages of Southern California survived because of her efforts, including Morongo, Cahuilla, Soboba, Temecula, Pechanga, and Warner Hot Springs.
Remarkably, the Gabrielino Indians, now called Tongva, also survived. in 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were 2,000 of them still living in Southern California. Some were organizing to protect burial and cultural sites. Others were trying to win federal recognition as a tribe to operate a casino.
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