PUTTING A FACE ON THE FOUNDERS OF LOS ANGELES
To honor the founding of Los Angeles (September 4, 1781), we “put a face” on the 44 people who founded what was originally a tiny farming village. Although we cannot know specifically what they looked like, we do have a record of their names, origin, age, sex, and racial make-up (see table below). We matched that information with facial images from today having similar factors. The result is this collage of 44 faces offering a representative image of what the city’s founders may have looked like. Here, there are 22 adults and 22 children. Two are white and two are black. Eleven are indigenous to Mexico. The rest are multiracial combinations of white, black and indigenous. Half are of African descent. L.A.’s founders were perhaps the most ethnically diverse group of founders for any major city in America. We cannot help but point out that many, living in Los Angeles today, look much like the founders of the city.
|Recorded Family Head||Age||Race||Birthplace||Name, Age & Race of Spouse||Children3|
|Manuel Camero1||30||Mulatto2||Nayarit||Maria Tomasa Garcia (24, Mulatta)||None|
|José Fernando de Velasco y Lara||50||Spaniard4||Cadiz, Spain||Maria Antonia Campos (23, Indian)||Maria Juana, 6
José Julian, 4
Maria Faustina, 2
|Antonio Mesa||38||Black||Sinaloa||Maria Ana Gertrudis Lopez (27, Mulatta)||Maria Paula, 10
Antonio Maria, 8
|José Cesario Moreno1||22||Mulatto2||Sinaloa||Maria Guadalupe Gertrudis Perez (19, Mulatta)||None|
|José Antonio Navarro||42||Mestizo5||Sinaloa||Maria Regina Dorotea Gloria de Soto y Rodriguez (47, Mulatta)||José Maria, 10
José Clemente, 9
Mariana José fa, 4
|Luis Manuel Quintero||55||Black||Jalisco||Maria Petra Rubio (40, Mulatta)||Maria Getrudis, 16
Maria Concepcion, 9
Maria Tomasa, 7
Maria Rafaela, 6
José Clemente, 3
|Pablo Rodriguez||25||Indian||Sinaloa||Maria Rosalia Noriega (26, Indian)||Maria Antonia, 1|
|José Antonio Basilio Rosas||67||Indian||Durango||Maria Manuela Calistra Hernandez (43, Mulatta)||José Maximo, 15|
José Carlos, 12
Maria José fa, 8
Antonio Rosalino, 7
José Marcelino, 4
Juan Esteban, 2
|Alejandro Rosas1, 7||19||Indian||Sinaloa||Juana Maria Rodriguez (20, Indian)6||None|
|José Maria Vanegas8||28||Indian||Jalisco||Maria Bonifacia Maxima Aguilar (20, Indian)||Cosme Damien, 1|
|Antonio Clemente Felix Villavicencio||30||Spaniard4||Chihuahua||Maria de los Santos Seferina (26, Indian)||Maria Antonia, 8|
1) Married just prior to leaving for the new pueblo because new settlers were required to be heads of families.
2) Mulatto - person born of mixed white and black parentage.
3) Children at the time of the settlement of the Pueblo. Some of the settlers later added more children.
4) Velasco Y Lara was Peninsular - Spaniard born in Spain. Villavicencio was Criollo - Spaniard born in Americas.
5) Mestizo - person born of mixed white and Indian parentage.
6) Sister of fellow settler Pablo Rodriguez.
7) Eldest son of fellow settler José Antonio Basilio Rosas.
8) Vanegas was appointed to be the first alcalde (mayor).
A twelfth settler, widower Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, a 50-year-old "chino" (reportedly born in Manila and likely a Filipino) and widower, was also slated to settle in the new pueblo along with the other 11 families. Differing accounts say that Rodriguez either had one or two daughters and that, in the case of two daughters, one died before the family set out for Alta California with the pobladores in early 1781. Upon the arrival of the pobladores in Loreto in Baja California, Rodriguez’s daughter, 11-year-old Juana Maria, fell ill to smallpox and he elected to remain behind in Loreto so that she might recuperate. Again, differing accounts state that Juana either survived her illness or that she died there. Whatever occurred, Rodriguez remained in Loreto for two years, working there as a gunsmith. In 1783, he ended up being reassigned to settle at the presidio (military fort) in Santa Barbara, possibly as a soldier, to serve there as the armorer.
Sources: Historical Lecture by Eloisa Gomez Borah, Santa Barbara, 2004;
and The Los Angeles Plaza - Sacred and Contested Space by William David Estrada, 2009;
and Los Angeles Under The Spanish Flag - Spain’s New World by William M. Mason, 2004.
Maria Guadalupe Gertrudis Perez, wife of José Moreno, was the last surviving original settler. She died in 1860, having lived almost 100 years. Her granddaughter, Catalina Carmen Moreno (later Catalina Moreno de Lopez), lived as the wife of Don Andres Pico, brother of Pio Pico and Mexican military commander at the Battle of San Pasqual, but they apparently never formally married. This prevented Catalina from acting as heir to Pico's estate. She was, however, later buried with him.
The map below was drawn by José Arguello in 1786, just five years after the new pueblo was established. It is the earliest known map of Los Angeles. The map shows relative locations of homes (upper map) and farm plots (lower right) for each of the families settling the new pueblo.
Antonio Clemente Felix Villavicencio - Moved to Santa Barbara in 1797. Died there in 1802.
José Fernando de Velasco y Lara - Among three families reportedly expelled from the pueblo in 1782. He then joined the expedition to establish the Presidio in Santa Barbara. Died in Nayarit shortly after being forced to return to Nayarit in 1783.*
Luis Quintero - Among three families expelled from the pueblo in 1782 and, along with José de Velasco y Lara, joined the expedition to establish the Presidio in Santa Barbara. He may have wished to be near his three daughters who had married soldiers stationed in Santa Barbara. Died in Santa Barbara in 1810.
Antonio Mesa - Apparently became disillusioned with the hardships in Alta California and fell among the families expelled from the pueblo in 1782. He received permission to return to Sonora.
José Antonio Navarro - Sent to San José in 1790 and later to the Presidio in San Francisco. Buried at the Mission Dolores in San Francisco in 1793.
Pablo Rodriguez - Moved to San Diego in 1796 to be mayordomo of Mission San Diego. Later moved to San Juan Capistrano. Buried at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1816. His wife was buried at Mission San Gabriel in 1824.
José Vanegas - Remained in Los Angeles for 20 years during which he served as its first alcalde (mayor). Upon the death of his wife in 1801 (she is buried at San Gabriel Mission), he moved to San Diego and the Mission San Luis Rey.
Manuel Camero - Remained in Los Angeles. Served as a Los Angeles regidor (councilman). Buried at Mission San Gabriel in 1819.
José Moreno - Remained in Los Angeles. Served as a Los Angeles regidor. Buried at Mission San Gabriel in 1806.
Alejandro Rosas - Remained in Los Angeles. He died here only a month after his wife in January 1789.
José Antonio Rosas - Remained in Los Angeles. Buried at the Mission San Gabriel in 1809. His wife died in 1823.
* José Fernando de Velasco y Lara was ordered back to Nayarit by California authorities when he confessed to Father Junipero Serra that his first wife, whom he had maintained was dead, might actually still be alive. He had already remarried and had children with his second wife. He unfortunately never returned to his second wife and their children in Santa Barbara, having died not long after returning to Nayarit.