This blog posting follows the flash exhibit Afro Mexicans in Early Los Angeles.
Arriving in Los Angeles shortly after the city’s settlement was Juan Francisco Reyes, a mulatto soldier from Zapotlán el Grande in Jalisco. He was both the first Black and the first Hispanic alcalde (or mayor) of Los Angeles from 1793 to 1795. Francisco Reyes was also the Spanish Crown’s first land grantee and the original grantee of the San Fernando Rancho – now the San Fernando Valley. Pictured (above from left) are his great-grandchildren: Margarita, Isidro, Jr., Francisca and Mariá Antonia Villa de Reyes, widow of Ysidro, Sr. who was grandson of Juan Francisco Reyes.
There were many familial intersections among these Californio (descendents of the pobladores or settlers) families. Mariá Antonia Villa de Reyes was the granddaughter of Mariá Rita Quinteros Valdez de Villa whose father was Luís Quintero, one of the pobladores. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California to the United States in 1849. An appeal was then filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852 patenting the 4,449-acre land grant to Mariá Rita Valdez de Villa. The land grant was known as Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas and encompassed the modern-day city of Beverly Hills and the areas of Coldwater and Benedict Canyons. As late as the 1920s a cottage, which was part of the Rancho Rodeo, stood on the corner of Alpine Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
Among the areas of my own research is the history and culture of Afro-Mexicans. In 2010 I was contacted by Terri de la Pena who is retired from the UCLA College of Letters and Science. Her cousin, Joseph “Joe” Peyton, had researched his family history extensively. Joe’s 6th Great Grandfather was Luis Manuel Quintero, 5th Great Grandfather Juan Francisco Reyes and 4th Great Grandmother Mariá Rita Quinteros Valdez de Villa – all prominent in local history. In one of my articles I referenced Joe’s ancestors. Joe needed research clues for finding his 7th Great Grandparents. Additionally, Joe had not be able to locate any artifacts or images of his ancestors. Happily, I have been able to refer him to relevant images such as those in this blog post.
Terri’s genealogy is equally fascinating as well. She is descended from the Marquez family of Santa Monica who came there in 1839. In 2014 her cousin Ernest Marquez donated a collection of early photographs of Santa Monica and Los Angeles to the Huntington Library. In an interesting aside, Terri, a writer, donated materials related to her first and second novels to LSC as part of the Mazer Collection. Terri is in the process of writing a book on her genealogy.
Miriam Matthews was the first Black professionally trained librarian to be hired in California. A preeminent historian of Los Angeles and Californian African American History, she was a tireless advocate of educating the public about California’s diversity from its beginnings. In 1981, on occasion of the city’s Bicentennial year, a plaque honoring the 44 founders of the City of Los Angeles was placed in the placita of El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park. Each member of the 11 families are listed by name, race, sex, and age from the official Spanish Census of 1781.
Read more on Afro-Mexicans in early Los Angeles:
By Alva Stevenson, Program Coordinator