9/15/05

EL MONTE CAMPS

~EL MONTE RIFA~

EL MONTE - THE WORD IS HISPANIC IN ORIGIN, BUT WHAT WAS IT'S ORIGINAL MEANING?

MOST ASSUME IT MUST PERTAIN TO A HILL OR A MOUNTAIN OF SOME SORT, BUT EL MONTE AS A PLACE HAS NO HILLS OR MOUNTAINS WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE DISTANT SAN GABRIELS.
IN THE 1770'S SPANISH SOLDIERS AND MISSIONARIES EXPLORED AN ISLAND BETWEEN TWO RIVERS, RICH IN SOIL, LOW-LYING, COVERED WITH DENSE GROWTHS OF SLENDER WILLOWS, ALDERS AND CATTAILS. THIS ISLAND PARADISE WAS BEST DESCRIBED BY THE SPANIARDS AS THE WOODED SPOT, MARSH, AND MEADOWS ALL IN ONE - THE CARACTERISTICS WERE CLEAR - WATER, WOOD (FUEL), AND SOIL, ALL THAT IS ASSOCIATED AS A PLACE DEFINED BY THOSE WITH A MASTERY OF THE SPANISH LANGUAGE TO BE DESCRIPTIVE OF "EL MONTE". NOT A HILL OR A MOUNTAIN BUT A BOUNTIFUL PLACE IN THE WILD.

THE RIVER TO THE EAST AND NORTH EAST WAS CHRISTENED "SAN GABRIEL" AND THE RIVER TO THE NORTH AND WEST WAS CHRISTENED THE "RIO HONDO".

EL MONTE PROSPERED AND GREW DURING THE ERA OF THE SPANISH MISSIONS (1770'S to 1830'S), THEN LATER UNDER THE LAND GRANT RANCHOS.

IN 1826 SMALL GROUPS OF AMERICANS COMING INTO THE AREA, REFERRED TO THE REST AND REHABILITATION AFFORDED HERE AS "CAMP MONTE" OR "MONTE CAMP", HENCE THE CAMP ERA BEGAN.
SOME OF THESE NEW ARRIVALS CHRISTENED THE RESPECTIVE AREAS WHERE THEY DWELT WITH NAMES SUCH AS "HICKS" AND "WIGGINS" IN REFERENCE TO THE NEW TENANTS OCCUPYING SOME OF THE LANDS.

WITH THE ADVENT OF THE 20th CENTURY, EL MONTE CONTINUED TO GROW AND PROSPER. ONE COMMERCIAL SEED COMPANY LEASED FERTILE TRACTS OF LAND IN THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE ISLAND AND GREW BREATHTAKING PLOTS OF FLOWERING PLANTS. THIS AREA BEGAN TO BE REFERRED BY THE FARMERS AS "LAS FLORES" A NAME WHICH PERSIST TODAY AS "EL MONTE FLORES"

EL MONTE CONTINUED TO GROW DURING THE EARLY PART OF THE CENTURY LARGELY IN PART DUE TO "LA REVOLUCION MEXICANA" (1910 to 1920). MANY OF EL MONTE BARRIOS TOOK SHAPE WITH THE MASS MIGRATION OF THOSE HOPE-FILLED MASSED WHOM FLED THE VIOLENCE IN MEXICO.

OTHERS MOVED IN FROM AREAS OF LOS ANGELES, LIKE THEY DID FROM BOYLE HEIGHTS, AN AREA KNOWN AS "THE FLATS" (OLD RUSSIA TOWN FLATS) WERE THEY FACED STIFF SEGREGATION FOR THEIR CHILDREN IN THE AVAILABLE SCHOOLS.

DURING THE 1930'S THE GREAT DEPRESSION BROUGHT DOLDRUMS TO EL MONTE JUST AS IT DID EVERYWHERE ELSE.
EL MONTE BEGAN TO CHANGE RAPIDLY FROM A "LIL FARM TOWN" TO A GROWING "BEDROOM COMMUNITY" WHERE PEOPLE LIVED BUT WORKED AND COMMUTED ELSEWHERE.

BY THE LATE 40'S AND 50'S THE CAMPS OF EL MONTE BEGAN TO BE BROKEN UP BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT CITIES AND COMMUNITIES TAKING SHAPE THROUGHOUT THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY.

FOLLOWING THE BUILDING BOOM OF THE 40'S AND 50'S, THE POPULATION EXPLODED AND IN 1958 A SECOND COMMUNITY OF EL MONTE WAS INCORPORATED AS "SOUTH EL MONTE" THIS COMPROMISED THE SOUTHWEST PART OF THE ONCE "WOODED ISLAND".

THE OLD EL MONTE NEIGHBORHOODS KNOWNS AS CAMPS WERE THE FOLLOWING

1 - LA MISION (SAN GABRIEL MISION AREA)
2 - LA COLONIA (LA SECCION)
3 - CANTA RANAS (WHITTIER NARROWS)
4 - CHINO CAMP (LA PUENTE)
5 - HICKS CAMP (FIVE POINTS)
6 - LA GRANADA
7 - LAS FLORES (EL MONTE)
8 - WIGGINS CAMP
9 - CAMP HAYES (MEDINA COURTS)

Along Valley Blvd is where the original Mexican migrants fleeing the Mexican Revolution of 1920 settled along, mainly in the two Camps of WIGGINS' and HICKS', then by the late 1920's a new Camp was formed - Camp HAYES which later became known as MEDINA COURT.

Originally CANTA RANAS was in an area around the Whittier Narrows Dam, but after the flood projects works began around the late 1940's/early 50's (because the area was flooded during the rainy season), many families moved out to adjoining areas, and today you find Varrio Canta Ranas in the city of Santa Fe Springs further down the river.



EL MONTE BARRIOS
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
EMF - EL MONTE FLORES - Rowland Street
=CAMP LAS FLORES

EMH - EL MONTE HICKS - Locos, Hickory Boys
=CAMP HICKS/FIVE POINTS

EMHS - EL MONTE HAYES - The Courts, TLS Tiny Locos
=CAMP HAYES/MEDINA COURTS

NSM - NORTH SIDE MONTES

NS EM - NORTH SIDE EL MONTE

SS EM - SOUTH SIDE EL MONTE

EL MONTE LIGA / LEGION

EMR - EL MONTE RIFA – Dukes

SSTM - SASTRE STREET MONTE

Note: I am still looking for more history and info on the camps and barrios of El Monte, so if any of you have some to share & help me out with, "It would be greatly appreciated".

9/12/05

SUR SIDE COLTONE

South Side Colton – A History of the Barrio

South Colton comprises an area of just under 1 1/2 square miles of the City of Colton in Verdugo County. It is surrounded by railroad tracks, and includes the area east from Rancho to 12th streets, south to Fogy, and north to the 10 Fwy. Many of the houses are of a very old age and deteriorating; much of the small commercial section is closed; with the streets in disrepair, and threatened now by urban renewal and private development.

With 85% of the population being of Mexican heritage, South Colton is one of the very few barrios in California that clearly reflects the entire scope of Chicano history, and presents all of the trends of Chicano working-class history in this our land.

The town of Colton was created by the Southern Pacific Railroad which intended to make it the railroad center of operations in Southern California. The Chicano Barrio (South Side Colton,) begun as a railroad labor camp adjacent to the railroad tracks, when the Southern Pacific Railroad brought in Mexican labor in the 1890s, and the Mexican immigrant community developed directly adjacent to the already well-established original San Salvador community of settlers from New Mexico, who had come to this river-bottom area in South Colton in 1843. The community was founded next to the tracks because that was where the marginal land could be found on account of the de facto segregation established by the Anglo community, making it the only affordable land close to work. Thereon after South Colton developed much in the same way as many other Chicano Barrios and Colonias did so throughout the Southwest.

1913, the Church of San Salvador was built in South Colton, and the two Spanish-speaking communities merged. The original San Salvador Church was built in Agua Mansa by the original community in 1853. It had, however, been abandoned in the 1890s, and was subsequently reconstructed in South Colton when the Barrio residents petitioned the Arch diocese for their own church. San Salvador Church, central to the religious, social, and political life of South Colton, still sits on the corner of 7th and M streets where it was built in 1913.

South Colton developed according to the economic, social, and political realities of the Mexicans who little by little, bought small lots and built their own designed homes with the help of family and neighbors, using any materials they could afford. Thus, the homes in South Colton are primarily small, wooden frame structures, many of which started out as shacks constructed of discarded lumber and corrugated metal. The design of the homes, the material used to construct them, and the use of the exterior space reflects not only the economic conditions and space needs of the Chicanos, but also their aesthetic and cultural sensibilities. In short, the Mexicans who created this community gave it the aesthetic form and texture they were familiar with in Mexico. They re-created a Mexican environment.

The Chicanos dire economic, social, and political conditions in South Colton, facing poverty, racism, and exclusion from socio-political institutions, forced the Chicanos in the Barrio to create their own institutions for educating their young and to provide for medical needs, as well as providing community economic assistance, going on to form even a labor union.

By 1910, South Colton had an underground Spanish-language academy, where Barrio youngsters were instructed in their community's language, values, and history after the regular school day and on Saturday mornings.

In 1913, community organizations included a mutual aid society, a committee for Fiestas celebrating Mexican national holidays, and a women's Blue Cross society. The mutual aid society helped each other with burial and other expenses when work-related and other calamities occurred. The Blue Cross members visited the sick and helped families when illness struck in the barrio. Celebrations of Mexico's national holidays, particularly the 16th of September (Mexican Independence Day) and Cinco de Mayo (Battle of Puebla celebration), were organized by the Patriotic Fiestas committee.

In 1917, Chicano United Workers organized a union and led a successful strike against the Portland Cement Company, one of Colton's major industries and its largest employer. The two-month strike resulted with the Trabajadores Unidos winning their labor demands, and subsequently, the union opened a cooperative grocery store which they called "La Union."

The period from World War I to the Great Depression brought in continued growth to Colton's two communities (Anglo & Chicano), however the South Colton Barrio did not receive its share of municipal funds and services for educational and recreation facilities. Streets in South Colton remained unpaved; sewage services were nonexistent. Chicano youngsters were segregated into “1” Mexican grade school with inadequate facilities and insufficient teachers, and were not welcome in the town's High School in Colton proper.The city's swimming pool was segregated; Mexicans could swim only on the day before the water was to be changed, and even the town's theater was also segregated. Except for work and some shopping, Chicanos and Anglos seldom interacted.

The community's social functions, including quinceaƱeras, baptisms, weddings, dances, community fiestas, and other social activities, were held in either the Parish Hall or a dance hall built in South Colton. The social life of the community revolved around these two halls, which were always decorated with brilliantly colored crepe paper, and with other ornaments reflecting the aesthetic sensibilities of the community. These activities involved the entire family, grandparents, parents, young marrieds, teenagers, and infants all attended the dances and celebrations. For young men in particular, local pool halls and taverns were major centers of social activity — a place to relax, have a beer, see friends, and talk over situations regarding family, work, and making ends meet. As the Chicano Barrio grew, both through the natural increase in births, as well as because of the continued immigration from Mexico and other parts of the Southwest, the Barrio became knows as "LITTLE MEXICO" and "CHOLOVILLE," names that were to survive until the decade of the 1950s.

In continuing to meet the community's entertainment needs and interests, as well as to counter the racism represented by the segregated Anglo-owned theater, two Chicano theaters showing Spanish-language films opened in South Colton. El Tivoli on 7th and O Streets and El Teatro Hidalgo, they not only showed Spanish language films, but were also centers for community activities and theatrical presentations, including those of the traveling bands of the circus. To ensure that Chicano youngsters had a place to swim on a daily basis and that the community had a recreational center, Chicano business owners built a stadium complex in 1922, calling it the International Stadium. They also built a swimming pool, a baseball diamond, and bleachers. Chicano baseball teams from all over Southern California’s Barrios came here to compete in an informal and unofficial, but very active, Chicano baseball league. All of these were the community's recreational life and youth activities revolved around these before the 1930s Great Depression years.

Repatriation and deportation of Mexicans during the Great Depression not only served to depopulate South Colton, but also effectively destroyed the developing economic and social stability of the Barrio. Many of the residents later returned, but they had lost their property and whatever savings they had accumulated before repatriation or deportation. South Colton never recovered from the effects from these programs, inflicted on their community by Anglo society.

During the period of WWII as the community sent its young men to war, and many more young people moved to urban centers where economic and educational opportunities appeared more accessible, those who stayed during and after the war, began to organize politically and began to challenge the Anglo establishment. The excessive force used by Colton police in what has been called the "Colton Zoot Suit Riot" was soundly condemned by Chicanos. They saw it as part of the attack against Mexicans which began in Los Angeles, when Anglo sailors and marines attacked Mexican and Black youngsters wearing "drapes," stripped and beat them, and then watched the police arrest them. Chicanos in South Colton launched protests against the police and demanded better municipal services from City Hall, desegregation of the schools, and a voice in local government.

Organization and political activity continued though the 1950s & 1960s as residents of the Barrio joined the wider-Chicano movement in the struggle for political participation and civil rights. Finally in 1979, Colton elected a Chicano mayor and two Chicanos on the City Council, as well as a Chicano school board member. But even though political gains have been won, South Colton remains economically depressed, and the Chicano Barrio is in danger of succumbing to urban renewal. The barrio now sits on prime industrial property, and private developers are anxious to buy out low-income property owners and make the area into an industrial park. Many of the original families still reside there; however, the population is increasingly composed of recent arrivals from Mexico. They, like the prior original inhabitants, have come in as low-wage labor in non-union industries; they receive low pay, few public services, and have few if any economic benefits or securities. But these newer residents come to a community that is essentially Mexican in speech, values, and customs, and they contribute mightily to its linguistic, social, cultural, and historical continuity as a Chicano community.

From the original Bandini and Lugo Spanish/Mexican land grants of the prior centuries, to the pioneer settlements of San Salvador, to the later influx of Mexican railroad camp laborers, through the merging of the two communities, and the subsequent development of a Chicano political class in South Colton, the Chicano Barrio experience is forever a part of history and the future of California.