Cristobal Aguilar

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Cristóbal Aguilar
José Cristóbal Aguilar (cropped).jpg
10th Mayor of Los Angeles
In office
May 10, 1866 – May 8, 1867
Preceded byJose Mascarel
Succeeded byDamien Marchesseault
In office
August 8, 1867 – December 7, 1868
Preceded byDamien Marchesseault
Succeeded byJoel Turner
In office
December 9, 1870 – December 5, 1872
Preceded byJoel Turner
Succeeded byJames R. Toberman
Personal details
DiedApril 11, 1886(1886-04-11) (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.


Aguilar, also known as Cristoval,[1] was born in California[2] in 1816[3] to Jose María Aguilar and María Ygnacia Elizalde.[3]

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.[4]

On October 31, 1848, Aguilar married Maria Dolores Yorba at the San Gabriel Mission.[3] 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).[citation needed]

In the 1870 census, the Aguilars had four children living with them: Librada, 19; Jose M., 17; Matias, 12; Guadalupe, 10, and Rosa, 7.[3]

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."[citation needed]

Political life[edit]

Aguilar "held prominent office under Mexican rule."[1] 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.[4]

Aguilar was elected to the Board of Supervisors three times, serving in 1854-56, 1860 and 1862-64.[2]

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.[3]

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.[citation needed]

In 1868, Aguilar lost re-election to Joel Turner and was subsequently appointed as zanjero once again.[citation needed]

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.[2] During that election, Toberman "made an issue" of Aguilar's "poor English."[3]

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.[3]

In December 1873, Aguilar was again appointed as zanjero by a vote in the Common Council of 7-2 over T.H. Eaton.[5] Aguilar served until December 5, 1878.[citation needed]

Later years[edit]

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.[citation needed]

He died of a heart attack on April 11, 1886, at the age of 70.[1][3]

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.[1]

The funeral was at the Church of Our Lady the Queen of Angels[1]


  • Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials: 1850—1938, Compiled under Direction of Municipal Reference Library City Hall, Los Angeles March 1938 (Reprinted 1966)

External links[edit]

Preceded by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
2nd district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
2nd district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Zanjero of Los Angeles
May 23, 1867—August 8, 1867
Succeeded by
Preceded by Zanjero of Los Angeles
December 21, 1868—March 1, 1869
Succeeded by
Preceded by Zanjero of Los Angeles
December 31, 1873—December 9, 1875
Succeeded by
Unknown or Vacant
Preceded by
Unknown or Vacant
Zanjero of Los Angeles
December 6, 1877—December 5, 1878
Succeeded by