Monday, September 4, 2006

Happy 225th, Los Angeles!

You don't look a day over 224!

Now, a brief history lesson:

The new governor of California, Felip de Neve, recommended to the viceroy in Mexico that the place suggested by Father Crespi as an ideal place for a mission be developed into a pueblo. King Carlos III of Spain in turn took the recommendation and ordered Governor de Neve to establish the pueblo.

De Neve took the job of establishing the settlement very seriously. He drew up plans for the pueblo, including a plaza, fields, pastures, and royal lands. This surely is the first time a city has been planned before the first settler arrived, and ironic in view of the unfettered growth of Los Angeles.

Persuading settlers to come here from Mexico was another matter. In spite of many inducements, such as money and land, it took months before he was able to get enough settlers, and he had to go to Sonora to get them.

Finally, a group of 11 men, 11 women, and 22 children were gathered together at the Mission San Gabriel. On September 4, 1781, they left San Gabriel, accompanied by de Neve, soldiers, mission priests, and a few Indians to settle the site along the river.

There was a speech by Governor de Neve, a blessing and prayers from the mission fathers -- all watched by the Yang-Na Indians. Thus did El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angeles of Porciuncula) come into existence. (For more information on how L.A. got its name, check here.)

The new pueblo grew slowly, and amenities were few. The houses were very small, usually of adobe with flat roofs -- glassless windows, and rawhide doors. The narrow streets were almost impassable when it rained. There were, of course, no sidewalks or lawns, and the trees along the river rapidly disappeared.

By 1790 Los Angeles had 28 households and a population of 139. By 1800 the population was 70 households and a population of 315. There were also a town hall, guardhouse, army barracks, and granaries.

As I write this, hundreds of Angelenos are marching from the San Gabriel mission to the original spot where Los Angeles was founded (near the Plaza Church -- "La Placita" -- and Olvera Street). It's called the March of the Pobladores, and it re-enacts the founding of our city. Maria, Blogger Baby and I were originally planning to join in on the nine-mile walk -- but with a baby in tow and the weather so hot, we wimped out. Maybe next year.

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