Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rancho Cucamonga by Esther Black ***

"Rancho Cucamonga?" I imagine you're asking yourself. Today Rancho Cucamonga is a bedroom community in the San Gabriel Valley. In the 19th century, the period covered by Rancho Cucamonga and Dona Merced by Esther Boulton Black, the area was the an important way point between San Bernardino and Los Angeles. It was also important agriculturally important because it had water from Cucamonga Creek. Then as now, southern California is perfect for agriculture ... if water can be located. Water is the key resources.

This local history is much more than a chronology of the families that lived on Rancho Cucamonga, it is a microcosm of southern California and maybe the United States. As with the present time, popular cultures often starts in California.

After the Mexican War where the US conquered California, the los Californios were forced to share their land with...
[Texas Rangers who] seemed to pride themselves on behavior that was far from restrained... Yet this violent streak, this hardness about life and death, carried these men across the Southwestern desert in good shape and fast time.
Many of the gringos were typical of the stereotype of the Forty-Niners... They were boisterous, proud winners of the Mexican war; distrustful of people a shade darker in color and apt to equate crude behavior with manliness.
This disdain for the invaders was reciprocated.
...their land could produce everything; but they did not have the comforts of a Massachusetts farmer among the rocky hills. I could not but think what a different spectacle these fertile valleys would present were they peopled by some of our sturdy, industrious eastern farmers, and I recurred...that providence knew where to locate the lazy men and the industrious ones.
Thus over 150 years ago, California laid the groundwork of prejudices and stereotypes still prevalent today. More than that, while to the Spanish system the
aboriginal race [native Americans] was an economic asset and as such was to be conserved,
 the Americans followed
a war of be waged between the races, until the Indian race becomes extinguished.
Interestingly, the Californios had general acceptance of children born out of wedlock and those of mixed racial background. They also provided more rights to women. All of this went away as the state became dominated by Americans.

While this is a history of a small rancho outside Los Angeles, it is interesting in the broader context of Mexican-American history which is playing out throughout the United States today.

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