Los Angeles Pobladores

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The Pobladores ("townspeople") of Los Angeles refers to the 44 original settlers and 4 soldiers who founded the city of Los Angeles, California in 1781.

When the Governor of Las Californias, Felipe de Neve, was assigned to establish secular settlements in what is now the state of California (after more than a decade of missionary work among the natives), he commissioned a complete set of maps and plans (the Reglamento para el gobierno de la Provincia de Californias and the Instrucción) to be drawn up for the design and colonization of the new pueblo.[1] Finding the individuals to actually do the work of building and living in the city proved to be a more daunting task. Neve finally located the new and willing dwellers in Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico. But gathering the pobladores was a little more difficult. The original party of the new townsfolk consisted of eleven families, that is 11 men, 11 women, and 22 children of various Spanish castas (castes).

The castas of the 22 adult pobladores, according to the 1781 census, were:

Rediscovery of the Pobladores[edit]

William M. Mason, historian of Los Angeles and early California, uncovered the ethnic richness of the Pueblo de la Reina de los Angeles through extensive research. Mason, one of three founders of the Los Angeles Historical Society, authored six books and several articles regarding the early history and cultures around Southern California and he is credited with helping to uncover the ethnic facts about the original families of Los Angeles.

The official foundation date of Los Angeles is September 4, 1781, when tradition has it the forty-four pobladores gathered at San Gabriel Mission along with two priests from the Mission and set out with an escort of four soldiers for the site that Father Juan Crespí had chosen over a decade earlier. El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles sobre el Río Porciúncula, (Spanish for The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels on the Porciuncula River) is the original, official long version of the name of the town founded by the Pobladores.

The earliest Hispanic settlers of all of California, not just Los Angeles, were almost exclusively from the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora. The author and historian, Dr. Antonio Ríos-Bustamante, has written that "the original settlers of Los Angeles were racially mixed persons of Indian, African, and European descent. This mixed racial composition was typical of both the settlers of Alta California and of the majority of the population of the northwest coast provinces of Mexico from which they were recruited." Dr. Ríos-Bustamante relates that in the century preceding the founding expedition of 1781, many Indians in this region of Mexico had been "culturally assimilated and ethnically intermixed into the Spanish-speaking, mestizo society."[2] Other settlers from Mexico, Central and South America, Asia, Europe, and the United States would follow in the decades to come.

Opportunity and social mobility in a frontier society[edit]

Racial origins changed over time[edit]

Of the 44 original pobladores [colonists] who founded Los Angeles, only two were white, […] Of the other 42, 26 had some degree of African ancestry and 16 were Indians or mestizos [people of mixed Spanish and Indian blood]. — William M. Mason, 1975 [3]

Alta California, as the province was known then, marked the northern frontier of the Spanish empire in the New World. The story of California's African heritage began in 1781, when the forty-four settlers founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, and more than half of these original pobladores—Antonio Mesa, Manuel Camero, Luis Quintero, José Moreno, their wives, and the wives of José Antonio Navarro and Basilio Rosas—had African ancestors, as was typical in the northern provinces of New Spain.[4] The descendents of these early settlers eventually developed their own culture and sense of place and became the Californios. Some became owners of large landed estates, granted to them by the Crown, others became government leaders.

Some historians and people in general have emphasized a difference between "Spaniard" and a "Mexican" in terms of race. For example, "colonial Mexicans" are "persons of mixed blood."[citation needed] The implication is, of course, that Spaniards are persons of "unmixed blood" or racially "pure" types. This is a gross oversimplification and ignores the fact that "the population of the Iberian Peninsula was anything but ethnically homogeneous." As Magnus Mörner has observed, the seven centuries prior to the discovery of the New World in Spain "witnessed extraordinary acculturation and race mixture." Furthermore at one time in the history of Mexico there were more African slaves held in Mexico than in the colonial United States north of the border. Moreover, "Mestizos" born in wedlock, at least during the sixteenth century, were accepted as "Criollos", that is, as 'American Spaniards'."[citation needed] In short, the definition of "Mexican" often confuses race with nationality in the modern period and with caste in the colonial period. In addition, by this definition of "Mexican," neither an Indian, nor a Criollo, nor a Black would be Mexican because they are, by social definition at least, of "unmixed blood."[5][6]

Like the original settlers of other parts of California and the American Southwest in general, the Pobladores reflected varied backgrounds: Peninsular (born in Spain), Criollo (born in the Americas of Spanish ancestry), Indian, Black, Mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry), Mulatto (of Spanish and African ancestry), and Zambo (of mixed Indian and African ancestry), among other combinations. Most of the colonists were of mixed racial backgrounds, and the process of mestizaje (racial mixing) continued in California, to include mixing with the various California Indian societies. Many Mestizos and Mulattos strove, sometimes successfully, to become identified as pure-blooded Spaniards, and many Indians and Black became Mestizos and Mulattos, because racial identity affected and reflected socio-economic mobility. At least seven of the 22 original, adult settlers managed to do this in the 1790 census of Los Angeles. In general, this meant that the descendents of the original settlers came to identify themselves as either Mestizo, or among the more socially prominent, as Spaniards.

From settlers to civic leaders, alcaldes and governors[edit]

The descendants of the settlers and soldiers naturally played a prominent role in developing the Los Angeles area. As colonial soldiers retired, the government granted them vast "ranchos" as partial or full payment, or in gratitude, for their services. Other settlers also acquired ranches. Compared to the size of the pueblo, these land grants were massive in size and rivaled the land holdings of the missions. They were instrumental in developing a local economy based on cattle ranching and their owners, later referred to as "rancho dons," became the predominant figures in Southern California's society. Among those exercising considerable political and economic power were Andrés Pico, and Alcaldes Francisco Reyes and Tiburcio Tapia. Pío Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule and the builder of the Pico House, was a large landowner and businessman. Grandchildren of Luis Quintero included Eugene Biscailuz, who served as sheriff of Los Angeles, and María Rita Valdes Villa, whose 1838 land grant is now Beverly Hills. Throughout the nineteenth century, the "rancho dons" and their families would intermarry with each other and with immigrant, Anglo-American merchants from New England, who arrived to trade in hides, creating strong family alliances.

Contemporary commemoration and controversy[edit]

Historic Walk of Los Pobladores[edit]

"Los Pobladores Historic Walk to Los Angeles" occurs each year over the Labor Day Weekend, which coincides with the September 4 anniversary of the city's founding. It is organized by the Los Pobladores 200, an association of the descendants of the original forty-four settlers and soldiers that accompanied them. The cities of San Gabriel and Los Angeles join to celebrate Los Pobladores' last nine-mile trek to the city center. Claremont columnist and administrator T. Willard Hunter and the descendants of the original founders of the city began the tradition of the walk in 1981.

Olvera Street Monument[edit]

The original plaque at Olvera Street commemorating Los Pobladores had for many years omitted any reference to the African heritage of the Pobladores. Eventually, scholars from the Los Angeles area, including professors from the University of Southern California and California State University at Dominguez Hills, were part of a subcomittee formed during a citywide effort to commemorate the Los Angeles' 200th anniversary and they helped to erect the current plaque which accurately depicts the multiracial makeup of the founders.

Names of Los Pobladores on plaque

Telling the history of the original families, known as Los Pobladores (the settlers), turned out to be “a political hot potato,” according to Doyce Nunis, the USC professor of history who asked his former student Hata to chair the subcommittee.

“The descendants of Los Pobladores were very sensitive to the prospect of being revealed as having African roots,” Nunis says. “But history is history, you can’t change it. And the subcommittee found the evidence.”

Also serving with Hata on the subcommittee was Miriam Matthews, the first African American to earn a degree in library science at USC, and who went on to have an illustrious career as a librarian and archivist of African American history in Los Angeles. The group also included David Almada, a Los Angeles Unified School District administrator serving at a time when few Latinos served in such positions, and Leonard Pitt, an emeritus professor of history at California State University, Northridge and author of Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890. […]

The multiracial ethnicity of Los Pobladores had been rejected as rumors by the scholarly establishment, according to Hata, and never accepted until explicit census information was found in an archive in Seville. Documents confirmed that 11 families recruited by Felipe de Neve, the first Spanish governor of California, arrived from the Mexican provinces of Sinaloa and Sonora.[7]

Founding Families of El Pueblo de la Reina de los Ángeles[edit]

From the original, November 19, 1781 Padrón of the Pueblo[8][9][10]

No. Settler Head of Household Age Casta Birthplace Wife and children
1 Manuel Camero 30 Mulatto Nayarit María Tomasa García, 24, Mulata
2 Antonio Mesa 38 Black Sinaloa María Ana Gertrudis López, 27, Mulata
María Paula, girl, 10
Antonio María, boy, 8
3 José Cesario Moreno 22 Mulatto Sinaloa María Guadalupe Gertrudis Pérez, 19, Mulata
4 José Antonio Navarro 42 Mestizo Sinaloa María Regina Dorotea Glorea de Soto, 47, Mulata
José Eduardo, boy, 10
José Clemente, boy, 9
Mariana, girl, 4
5 Luis Manuel Quintero 55 Black Jalisco María Petra Rubio, 40, Mulata
María Gertrudis, 16
María Concepcíon, girl, 9
María Tomasa, girl, 7
María Rafaela, girl, 6
José Clemente, boy, 3
6 Pablo Rodríguez 25 Indian Sinaloa María Rosalia Noriega, 26, Indian,
María Antonia, girl, 1
7 José Alejandro Rojas
(son of José Antonio Basilio Rosas)
19 Indian Sinaloa Juana María Rodríguez, 20, Indian
8 José Antonio Basilio Rosas 67 Indian Durango María Manuela Calixtra Hernández, 43, Mulata
José Máximo, boy, 15
José Carlos, boy, 12
María Josefa, girl, 8
Antonio Rosalino, boy, 7
José Marcelino, boy, 4
José Esteban, boy, 2
9 Jose María Vanegas 28 Indian Jalisco María Bonifacia Máxima Aguilar, 20, Indian
Cosme Damien, boy, 1
10 José Fernando de Velasco y Lara 50 Spaniard Cádiz María Antonia Campos, 23, Indian
María Juan, girl, 6
José Julian, boy, 4
María Faustina, girl, 2
11 Antonio Clemente Félix Villavicencio 30 Spaniard Chihuahua María de los Santos Flores Serafina, 26, Indian
María Antonia, girl, 8

Escoltas[edit]

The four Soldiers (Escoltas), accompanied by their families, who escorted the Pobladores to El Pueblo de Los Angeles.

1. Corporal Jose Vicente Feliz, born about 1741, at Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, where he married Maria Ygnacia Manuela Pinuelas in 1758, and where their six children were born. He came to Alta California with the Anza Expedition in 1775. On the way to California near Tubac, Mexico, on the Anza Trail, their son, Jose Antonio was born, but his wife, Maria Ygnacia died in childbirth. She was buried in November 1775 at San Xavier del Bac Mission, Sonora Mexico. The child, Jose Antonio arrived safely along with his brothers and sisters with the Expedition at the San Gabriel Mission on January 4, 1776, but he died nine months later. Another son, Jose de Jesus Feliz, born about 1764, at Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, married Maria Celia Bonifacia de Cota,(daughter of Roque Jacinto de Cota and Juana Maria Verdugo) born about 1759, at the Royal Presidio of Loreto, Baja California.

2. Private Roque Jacinto de Cota, born about 1724, at El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico, the eldest son of Andres de Cota and Angela de Leon. He married Juana Maria Verdugo, born about 1740, at the Loreto Mission a small fishing port in Baja, Ca. He died on September 29, 1798, in San Fernando, Alta California, she died May 13, 1835, in Los Angeles, California. Roque Jacinto de Cota served as an escort for the Pobladores from the San Gabriel Mission to El Pueblo de La Reina de los Angeles on September 4, 1781. He is the founder of the older Cota family in Alta California.

3. Private Antonio de Cota, brother of Roque and Pablo Antonio Cota. Antonio married Maria Bernarda Chigila (Indian) on August 30, 1778, at Mission San Juan Capistrano. They had two children: Maria Antonia Marcela, born June 1, 1780, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Matilde. In the 1790 census they are shown as residing in the Presidio of San Diego and later as residents of Los Angeles. Antonio died on June 12, 1815, and was buried at Mission San Gabriel. Maria Bernarda died August 23, 1821, and was buried in the Plaza church.

4. Private Francisco Salvador de Lugo, born about 1740, at Villa de Sinaloa, Sinaloa, Mexico. He married Juana Maria Rita Martinez, born about 1745, at Villa de Sinaloa, Sinaloa Mexico. She was the daughter of Jose Maria Martinez and Maria Josefa Vianazul. He died on May 16, 1805 in Santa Barbara, she died on March 23, 1790, in Santa Barbara. His daughter, Rosa Maria de Lugo, born about 1760, at Villa de Sinaloa, Sinaloa, Mexico, married Pablo Antonio de Cota on November 30, 1776, at the Mission San Luis Obispo, Alta California. He was recruited by Captain Rivera in 1774 and arrived at the San Gabriel Mission in 1775. He was stationed in San Luis Obispo and the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara until 1781, when he served as an escort from the San Gabriel Mission to El Pueblo de Los Angeles on September 4, 1781.

The Los Angeles Census of 1790[edit]

Carried out as part of the Revillagigedo Census of 1793[11]

No. Head of Household Occupation
or Civil Status
Casta Birthplace Age Family
1 María Ignacia Alvarado Widow Spaniard Loreto 28 Four children, Spaniards: José María Osuna, 12; Francisca Osuna, 7; Juan María Osuna, 6; Juan Nepomuceno Osuna, 3.
2 Juan Alvarez Cowboy Coyote Yaqui River 49 Wife Bernarda Silvas, Spaniard, (Villa Sinaloa) 17.
One child from his first wife, Mestiza, Gertrudis, 3.
One child from his present wife, Mestiza, María Rufina, two months.
3 Manuel Ramírez de Arellano Weaver Spaniard Puebla 46 Wife María Agreda López de Haro, Spaniard, (Álamos), 30.
Four children, Spaniards: Teodoro, 7; Rosalía, 5; Martina, 3; Rafaela, seven months.
4 Joaquín de Armenta Farm worker Spaniard Villa Sinaloa 55 Wife María Loreta de Vega, Coyota, (Culiacán), 40.
One orphan child, Spaniard: María Manuela Lisalde, 12.
5 Domingo Aruz Farm worker Spaniard Girona 43 Wife Gertrudis Quintero, Mulata, (Álamos), 26.
Mestizo sons from his first marriage: José, 14; Domingo, 12.
Son from his present wife: Martín, 7.
6 Manuel Camero Farm worker Mestizo Chametla (Sinaloa) 38 Wife Tomasa García, Coyota, Rosario, (Sinaloa), 32.
7 María Ignacia Carrillo Widow Spaniard Loreto 65 Her adult son, Leonardo Verdugo, Spaniard, farm worker, Loreto, 29; her grandson: José Antonio Góngora, Spaniard, 12.
8 Roque de Cota Farm worker Spaniard El Fuerte 66 Wife Juana María Verdugo, Spaniard, (Loreto), 47.
Four children, Spaniards: Guillermo, 22; Loreta, 18; María Ignacia, 11; Dolores, 7.
9 Juan José Domínguez Cowboy Spaniard Villa Sinaloa 53 Single.
10 Manuel Figueroa Cowboy Spaniard Villa Sinaloa 35 Single.
11 Felipe Santiago García Muleteer Spaniard Villa Sinaloa 40 Wife Petra Alcántara de Lugo, Spaniard, (Villa Sinaloa), 34.
Ten children, Spaniards: Juan José, 16; Carlos María, 14; José Julián, 11; María de Jesús, 9; Felipe Santiago, 8; María Antonia, 7; Pascual Antonio, 6; Gerónima Antonia, 4; José Antonio, 2; Pedro Antonio, 1.
12 Joaquín Higuera Farm worker Mestizo Villa Sinaloa 35 Wife María Teresa Cota, Spaniard, (Loreto), 24.
Two children, Spaniards: Juan José, 3; Ignacio, 2.
13 Juan José Lobo Muleteer Spaniard Villa Sinaloa 47 Wife María Nicolasa Beltrán, Spaniard, (Horcasitas), 33.
Seven children, Spaniards: María Rita, 14; María Antonia, 12; Pedro José, 9; Timoteo, 6; José Cecilio, 4; María Dionisia, 2; José Marcial, two months.
14 María Pascuala de Lugo Widow Mestiza Villa Sinaloa 40 Three children surnamed Silvas, Spaniards: Gertrudis, 11; Teodoro, 10; Rafael, 6.
15 José Moreno Farm worker Mestizo Rosario, (Sinaloa) 34 Wife María Guadalupe Pérez, Coyota, (Rosario, Sinaloa), 27.
Four children, Mestizos: María Gertrudis, 7; María Marta, 5; Juan, 3; María Lorenza, one week old
16 José Antonio Navarro Tailor and
Widower (absent)
Spaniard Rosario, (Sinaloa) 53 Three children, Mestizos: José María, 19; José Clemente, 18; María Mariana, 11.
17 José Ontiveros Cobbler Mestizo Rosario, (Sinaloa) 43 Wife Ana María Carrasco, Mulata, (Rosario, Sinaloa), 36.
One child: María Encarnación, Mulata, 7.
18 Santiago de la Cruz Pico Cowboy Mestizo San Javier de Cabazán 60 Wife Jacinta de la Bastida, Mulata, (Tepic), 53.
Two children, Mulattos: Xavier, 23; Patricio, 21.
19 Francisco Reyes Farm worker Mulatto Zapotlán el Grande 43 Wife María del Carmen Domínguez, Mestiza, (Villa Sinaloa), 23.
Three children, Mulattos; Antonio Faustín, 4; Juana Inocencia, 3; José Jacinto, 2.
20 Martín Reyes Muleteer Mestizo Villa Sinaloa 58 Single.
21 María Simona Rodríguez Widow Mestiza Cosalá 33 Three children, Mestizos: Francisca López, 7, José Antonio López, 3; José María López, 2.
22 Pablo Rodríguez Farm worker Coyote Real de Santa Rosa 40 Wife María Rosalía Noriega, India, (Rosario), 33.
Four children, Indias: María Antonia, 10; María de Jesús, 8; María Patricia, 4; María Margarita, 2.
23 Pedro José Romero Farm worker Coyote Guadalajara 32 Wife María García, Spaniard, (Alta California), 13.
24 Basilio Rosas Mason Coyote Nombre de Dios 72 Wife María Manuela (Hernández), Mulata, (Rosario, Sinaloa), 47.
Six children, Mulattos: José Máximo (a widower), 23; Antonio Rosalino, 12; José Marcelino, 11; Juan Estevan, 10; Diana María, 7; Gil Antonio, 4; orphan grandchildren, Mulattos: José Antonio, 3; María de la Ascensión, 7.
25 Efigenio Ruiz Cowboy Spaniard El Fuerte 43 Wife María Rosa López, Spaniard, (El Fuerte), 37.
Five children, Spaniards: José Pedro, 16; Hilario, 10; María Dolores, 7; María Cirilda, 5; José María, 1.
26 José Sinova Blacksmith Spaniard Mexico 40 Wife María Gertrudis Bojórquez, Mestiza, (Villa Sinaloa), 28.
Four children, Spaniards: Josefa Dolores, 12; Casilda de la Cruz, 9; María Julia, 4; María Seferina, 1.
27 José Vanegas Shoemaker Mestizo Real de Bolaños 47 Wife María Máxima Aguilar, India, (Rosario, Sinaloa), 28.
One child, Coyote: Cosme Damien, 9.
28 Mariano Verdugo Farm worker and
Interim Alcalde
Spaniard San Javier 44 Wife Gregoria Espinosa, Spaniard, (Villa Sinaloa) 28.
Four children: (daughter from his first wife) María Concepción Verdugo, Spaniard, 12.
(Three children from her first husband), Mestizos: José Salazar, 8; María Marta Salazar, 5; María Teodora Salazar, 2.
29 José Villa Farm worker Spaniard Pitic 43 Wife María Paula Martínez, (Horcasitas), Mestiza, 30.
Four children, Mestizos: Vicente Ferrer, 19; María Estéfana, 8; María Antonia, 6; José Francisco Antonio, 2.
30 Félix Antonio Villavicencio Cowboy Spaniard Chihuahua 50 Wife María de los Santos, India, (Batopilas), 37.
31 Faustino José de la Cruz (Zúñiga) Employee Mulato San Blas 18 Single

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nunis, Doyce B., Jr. The Founding Documents of Los Angeles: A Bilingual Edition, 73-109 and 117-129.
  2. ^ Rios-Bustamante, Antonio. Mexican Los Ángeles, 43.
  3. ^ William Mason, Op-Ed, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1975, cited in Mason, William M. Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag: Spain's New World
  4. ^ Alfred "Ed Moch" Cota, of The Los Pobladores 200, an organization of descendants of the founding families of Los Angeles, agrees that they "were mostly mixed" back then, that is some limited African ancestry is present within the founding families. However, Cota suggests that we have to discern the difference between those of having part Black-African and those having part Moorish-African origin. (Although the use of terms like mulato, or negro in the 18th century Spanish America were never applied to people with "Moorish" [moro] background.) Personal communication by Aedwardmoch, August 11, 2008.
  5. ^ "Unfortunately, the subjects of California's early African heritage and extensive interracial mixture both remain controversial among nonscholars." Forbes, Jack D. "The Early African Heritage in California" in Lawrence Brooks de Graaf, Kevin Mulroy, and Quintard Taylor, eds., Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California (Los Angeles: Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 2001), 74. ISBN 978-0-295-98083-6
  6. ^ See Mitchell, John L. "Diversity Gave Birth to L.A." for the debate among contemporary Angelenos.
  7. ^ Harmon, Joanie. "Don Hata: Historian Helped Reveal the Multicultural Origins of Los Angeles Settlers". Dateline Dominguez Hills (October 2, 2007).
  8. ^ "Original Settlers," Los Angeles Almanac. Retrieved on 2008-08-04
  9. ^ "Founding Families of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles," Los Pobladores 200. Retrieved on 2008-08-04
  10. ^ Ríos-Bustamante, Mexican Los Ángeles, 47-49; and Nunis, The Founding Documents, 161-163.
  11. ^ The Census of 1790, California, California Spanish Genealogy. Retrieved on 2008-08-04. Compiled from William Marvin Mason. The Census of 1790: A Demographic History of California. (Menlo Park: Ballena Press, 1998). 75-105. ISBN 978-0-87919-137-5. Information in parentheses () is from church records.

Sources[edit]