|10th Mayor of Los Angeles|
May 10, 1866 – May 8, 1867
|Preceded by||Jose Mascarel|
|Succeeded by||Damien Marchesseault|
August 8, 1867 – December 7, 1868
|Preceded by||Damien Marchesseault|
|Succeeded by||Joel Turner|
December 9, 1870 – December 5, 1872
|Preceded by||Joel Turner|
|Succeeded by||James R. Toberman|
|Died||April 11, 1886 (aged 69–70)|
East Los Angeles, California
José Cristóbal Aguilar (1816 – April 11, 1886) was a Californio politician and journalist, who served three terms as Mayor of Los Angeles, the last Hispanic to hold the office until 2005, with the election of Antonio Villaraigosa.
The Aguilars lived in an adobe facing the Los Angeles Plaza on what is now North Main Street. This house was a prominent landmark that later served as the town calabozo, or jail, and then as the town's first hospital, in 1858.
On October 31, 1848, Aguilar married Maria Dolores Yorba at the San Gabriel Mission. His wife was the daughter of José Antonio de los Remidios Yorba and María Catalina Verdugo. The Yorbas possessed vast land holdings including most of the Santa Ana Valley (in present-day Orange County, California).
In the 1870 census, the Aguilars had four children living with them: Librada, 19; Jose M., 17; Matias, 12; Guadalupe, 10, and Rosa, 7.
Aguilar could not speak English, but, as reported by Los Angeles historian H.D. Barrows in 1899, he "made a good and acceptable Mayor because of the general familiarity of citizens of all nationalities then residing here, with the Spanish tongue."
Aguilar "held prominent office under Mexican rule." After the transfer of California from Mexico to the United States, the Mexican ayuntamiento was abolished in favour of a city council system. A Democrat, Aguilar was elected to the new Los Angeles Common Council on July 1, 1850, and he served in 1850-51, 1855–56, 1858–59 and 1861-62. He was mayor of Los Angeles in 1866-67, 1867–68 and 1870-72.
Aguilar was first elected mayor on May 7, 1866. The election was certified three days later and he assumed office that same day. In that same year he signed an ordinance to set aside five acres of land as a "Public Square or Plaza, for the use and benefit of the Citizens in common," which land later was named Pershing Square.
Aguilar was unseated for three months in the middle of his first term and replaced by Damien Marchesseault. During that time he served as Zanjero of Los Angeles (water steward). With Los Angeles being in a Mediterranean climate and risks of both drought and flooding a constant threat, this position was actually considered more important than the mayor and paid the highest salary of any city official at the time. On August 8, 1867, Aguilar was reinstated as mayor and served the remainder of his term. His decision in 1868 to retain control over the city's water rights and reserves is considered one of the most important in Los Angeles' history.
Aguilar was elected mayor in 1870 over Andrew Glassell by a vote of 436 to 428, and he was installed despite a requested recount. He was defeated for reelection in 1872 by J.R. Toberman in a vote of 715 for Toberman and 350 for Aguilar. During that election, Toberman "made an issue" of Aguilar's "poor English."
Historian John P. Schmal noted that:
When Aguilar became Mayor, there were less than 6,000 residents in the City. When the city council proposed selling off the city's water rights to bring in additional revenue, Aguilar vetoed the proposal. If Aguilar had not used his power of veto, Los Angeles would have lost control of its water rights, leading to serious problems at a later date.
After retiring from politics Aguilar wrote for La Cronica, the City's leading Spanish-language newspaper at the time. In the paper, he wrote a regular column on local community issues.
The Los Angeles Herald wrote of him in an obituary:
He was at one time a wealthy man and brought up a large family with much care, giving each a good education. Later he lost most of his property, as many others did, in the dark days of the municipality before there was a market for products of the soil. . . . He was getting on his horse to ride out and see to a water ditch, and fell back dead.
- Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials: 1850—1938, Compiled under Direction of Municipal Reference Library City Hall, Los Angeles March 1938 (Reprinted 1966)
- "Death of Ex-Mayor Aguilar," Los Angeles Herald, April 13, 1886, page 1
- John P. Schmal, "The Election of Cristobal Aguilar," LatinoLA, October 5, 2005
- John P. Schmal, "The Four Hispanic Mayors of Los Angeles," HispanicVista.com, May 23, 2005 Archived September 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Clare Wallace, Los Angeles Public Library biography, May 9, 1938, from sources, cited there
- "Common Council," Los Angeles Daily Herald, January 1, 1874, page 1, columns 1 and 2
- Estrada, William. "The Last Latino Mayor of Los Angeles: Jose Cristobal Aguilar, 1866-1868, 1871-1872," Center For Law In the Public Interest, June 30, 2005