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A Filipino was to Help Found Los Angeles, 1781

Image of Person of Filipino Descent From Spanish Colonial Period

18th Century caste portrayal of a man of Filipino heritage from the Spanish colonial period. Image from Museo Nacional del Virreinato.

Although eleven settler (pobladores) families became the founders of Los Angeles in 1781, a twelfth settler, Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, a 50-year-old "chino" (reportedly born in Manila and likely a Filipino) and widower, was also supposed to settle the new pueblo along with the other families. Accounts differ as to whether Rodriguez had either one or two daughters. In the case of two daughters, one may have died before the family set out for Alta California with the pobladores in early 1781. As the pobladores party made their journey north, they stopped in Loreto in Baja California, where Rodriguez’s 11-year-old daughter, Juana Maria, fell ill to smallpox. He elected to remain behind in Loreto so that she could recuperate. Again, accounts differ as to whether the daughter survived her illness or died there in Loreto. Whatever occurred, Rodriguez remained in Loreto for two years, working there as a gunsmith. In 1783, rather than continuing on to Los Angeles, Rodriguez was reassigned to settle at the presidio (military fort) in Santa Barbara, possibly in service as a soldier, to serve there as the armorer.

Spanish Escopeta Flintlock Musket, 18th Century

Spanish light musket used to arm Spanish colonial soldiers in the Americas during the 18th century, possibly among the type of firearms maintained and repaired by Antonio Rodriguez. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society and Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, via Wikimedia Commons.

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.