Los Angeles - City of
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Greetings from Los Angeles,
Though the city of Los
is the second largest metropolitan area in the United States, at almost
18 million souls, it is a relatively young city, not founded until the
mid nineteenth century.
The area was first inhabited by
several Indian tribes including the Tongva, Cahuilla, Kumeyaay, and
Chumash, who were active in fine boatbuilding. The first
explorer known to the area was Juan Cabrillo who stopped at
present day San Pedro in 1542, greeted by Tongvan men, who rowed out to
meet his ship. The explorer died later that year while wintering at
Santa Catalina Island and no white face was seen again locally for 227
The Spanish conquest
of Mexico reached the area in 1769 and in 1771 they founded the Mission
San Gabriel Archangel, one of eight missions established by the
Franciscans in Southern California.
For years, history
has told that on September 4, 1781,
44 "pobladores" who were recruited from northern Mexico to help cement
Spain's control over Alta,
(Upper California), established the settlement. Only two of these settlers identified as
Spaniards; the rest came primarily of African or Indian descent.
However over the past few decades scholars have uncovered that the pobladores arrived separately, some as early as that June. (September
4 remains the traditional celebrated anniversary).
The small town received the name El Pueblo
de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciuncula, "The Town of
Our Lady Queen of the Angels.” Located on the Los
Angeles River, the settlement became a cattle ranching center. The
oldest house in Los Angeles County was built in 1795 on what became the Rancho San
Antonio. It is now known as the Henry Gage Mansion and is in Bell
At the time of the arrival of Spanish
missionaries, there were an estimated 5,000 Tongvan Indians living in
31 known village sites. In common with other
tribes in the mission system, the Tongva allowed the missionaries to
convert and civilize them. Native religious and hunter-gatherer
practices were redirected into Roman Catholicism and agriculture.
Though destructive of their culture, the mission system valued the
individual Native Americans and employed them on the mission farms and
ranches. When the missions were disbanded the natives were thrown back
on their own much-reduced resources. The Tongva tribe still exists,
with perhaps a few thousand members but no reservation.
from Spain in 1821 did not change life in Los
other than to allow the secularization of the missions, where land grants
distributed the mission properties to rancheros.
In 1842 a shepherd
discovered gold in Placerita Canyon, just outside the current city limits,
and sparked a minor gold rush. In subsequent decades mining became an
important industry, employing hard rock and placer techniques. The local
mountains are still riddled with abandoned mines, and hopeful prospectors
still pan for gold in the San Gabriel River.
Manifest Destiny reached
at the time of the Mexican-American War (1846 - 1848). On June 18, 1846 a
small group of Yankees raised the
Bear Flag and declared independence from Mexico. United States troops
quickly took control of the presidios at Monterey and San Francisco and
proclaimed the Conquest complete.
the Mexicans for a time repelled American troops, but Los
eventually fell to Lieutenant Colonel John C. Frémont. The United States
and Mexico signed the Treaty of Capitulation at Cahuenga Pass on January
April 4, 1850 saw the
incorporation of Los
as a city. At the same time, the old landowners started to lose their
lands. Compelled to secure confirmation of their land grants in U.S.
courts, ten percent of the bona fide land owners of Los
County had to move off their land and were reduced to bankruptcy.
Other Mexican residents resisted the new Anglo
powers by resorting to social banditry against the gringos. In 1856 Juan
Flores threatened Southern
with a full-scale Mexican revolt. He was hanged in Los
in front of 3,000 spectators. Tiburcio Vasquez, a legend in his own time
among the Mexican population for his daring feats against the Anglos, was
captured in what is believed to be present day West
The bandit was found guilty of two counts of murder by a San Jose jury
trial in 1874, and was hanged in that location in 1875.
The thriving Chinatown was the site of
terrible violence in 1871. A tong war between rival gangs resulted in the
accidental death of a white man. This enraged the white populace and a mob
of 500 men descended on Chinatown. They killed 19 men and boys, only one
of whom had been involved in the original killing, as well as a white man
who tried to protect them. Homes and businesses were looted. A grand jury
investigation followed, but only one man ever served prison time.
In the 1870s Los
was still little more than a village of 5,000. By 1900 there were over
100,000 occupants of the city. Several men actively promoted Los
working to develop it into a great city and to make themselves rich.
Angelenos set out to remake their geography in order to challenge San
Francisco with its port facilities, railway terminal, banks and factories.
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