Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | People

Early Los Angeles' Most Famous Brothers

Portraits of Brothers Andres Pico and Pio Pico

Brothers (L-R) Andrés (ca. 1850) and Pío Pico (1847). Images from Wikimedia Commons and courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.

Pío and Andrés Pico were perhaps the two most famous and influential brothers in early Los Angeles history. In 1846, Pío Pico was serving as governor of Mexican California when U.S. military forces invaded the province. Pío remained in Los Angeles as long as long as possible in hopes of trying to organize a defense in the face of the invasion. As American forces, however, drew up to the doorstep of Los Angeles, Pío was urged by the remaining provincial council in Los Angeles to flee, fearing that the Americans would force the captured governor to agree to a permanent capitulation of California. With Los Angeles, the last remaining Mexican stronghold in California, facing American capture, Pío eventually decided to flee California.

Brother Andrés, however, not then a government official, remained in Los Angeles at the American takeover. Not long after, Los Angeles citizens rose up against the U.S. garrison there and managed to eject them from the city. Andrés was pressed into service to command the cavalry for the reestablished Mexican force in California. After a series of subsequent military engagements with the Americans and the Mexican force quickly dwindling and in retreat, Andrés ended up in overall command of what remained of the defenders. In addition to the realization that the odds, by then, of defeating the Americans were pretty much non-existent, Andrés had also heard of threats by the American commander, U.S. Navy Commodore Robert Stockton, to hang Pico upon capture. Rather than surrender to Stockton, on January 16, 1847, in his capacity as the last remaining Mexican authority and military commander in California, Andrés instead agreed to meet with U.S. Army Major John C. Fremont, north of Los Angeles. After negotiating an agreement of clemency in writing, Andrés signed the Mexican capitulation of California to U.S. forces.

After the Mexican-American War was over, Pío returned to his home in Los Angeles. Both he and brother Andrés continued to be influential citizens in the new American Los Angeles and California. Andrés was elected to both the California Assembly and California Senate and was also commissioned to the rank of general in the California Militia (forerunner of the California National Guard).

The Pico brothers were of Indian, African and Spanish heritage. Their paternal grandfather, Santiago de la Cruz Pico, was recorded in the 1790 census of California as “mestizo” (mixed Indian/white parentage) and their paternal grandmother, María Jacinta de la Bastida, was recorded as “mulata” (mixed black/white parentage.