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Iconic Spanish Names of Los Angeles County

Iconic Spanish Names, Los Angeles County

Outline of Los Angeles County, overlaid with the flags of Spain and Mexico. California was governed by Spain (1769-1822) and Mexico (1822-1846) when the inscribed names first appeared in the region. Los Angeles Almanac image.



Please Note: All of the iconic family names below are centered on men. Although the contributions and accomplishments of women in the Spanish and Mexican periods were undoubtedly significant, social customs of the time typically offered little recognition to women other than for marital connections. The Almanac recognized the names of spouses of each man noted below, knowing that spouses play a significant role in the success of their families.

Pio Pico Family, 1852
Pictured above is Pio Pico with wife, María Ignacia Alvarado Pico, and daughters, María Anita Alvarado (L) and Trinidad Ortega (R), 1852. Image from the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of L.A. County.



Alvarado

Alvarado Street, Los Angeles

Alvarado Street sign at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

Juan Bautista Valentín Alvarado y Vallejo (1809-1882), was Governor of Alta California (1837-1842) during the Mexican era. He was a grandson of Jose Francisco Alvarado, a Spanish colonial soldier, who came to Alta California with the Gaspar de Portolá expedition in 1769. Alvarado was married to Martina Castro (1814-1875), but was reported to carry on with a mistress, Maria Reymunda Castillo (1819-unk), with whom he had two daughters. He is buried in Oakland, California.

Juan Bautista Avila

Juan Bautista Avila


Avila

Avila Adobe, History, Los Angeles

Historic Avila Abode in Olvera Street in El Pueblo Historical Monument. Los Angeles Almanac photo.

Cornelio Santa Ana Ávila (1745-1800) was the founder of a large and prominent southern California family. He came to California as a Spanish colonial soldier and settled in Los Angeles in 1783. He was married to Maria Ysabel Isabel Urquidez (1750-1801) Ávila died while visiting Santa Barbara and buried at the Presidio Cemetery in Santa Barbara.

Francisco Jose Ávila (1772-1832), one of the sons of Cornelio, became a wealthy ranchero and alcalde (mayor) of the Pueblo of Los Angeles (1810-1811). In 1823, Ávila received the 4,439 land grant from the Mexican government that became Rancho Las Cienegas (Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles). In 1818, he built the historic Avila Adobe that continues to stand at the center of Olvera Street in the historic core of Los Angeles. It served as headquarters for the American military occupational force in Los Angeles in 1846 and is now the oldest home still standing within the city of Los Angeles. Francisco was married to María del Rosario Verdugo (1793–1822), daughter of Mariano Verdugo. After her death, he married María Encarnación Sepúlveda (1805-1855), daughter of Francisco Sepúlveda II (see Sepúlveda below), owner of Rancho San Vicente y Santa Mónica. Ávila was buried at the La Placita Church Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Antonio Ygnacio Ávila (1781-1858), another son of Cornelio Ávila, was grantee in 1837 of the 22,458-acre land grant from the Mexican government that became Rancho Sausal Redondo (Manhattan Beach, Lawndale). Antonio was married to Rosa Maria Ruiz (1789-1866). He was buried at Old Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Francisco Avila

Antonio Ygnacio Ávila

José Anastasio Ávila (1775-1850), yet another son of Cornelio Ávila, served as alcalde (mayor) of the Pueblo of Los Angeles (1819-1821). He was the grantee in 1843 of the 2,559-acre land grant from the Mexican government that became Rancho La Tajauta (Watts, Willowbrook). José was married to Juana Ballesteros (1794-1859). He was buried at Old Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Dominguez

California State University, Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles County

California State University, Dominguez Hills. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

Juan Jose Dominguez (c. 1736-1809) was a Spanish colonial soldier who came to Alta California with the Gaspar de Portolá expedition in 1769. In 1784, as reward for his military service, Dominguezreceived the 48,000-acre land grant from Spanish authorities that would become Rancho San Pedro (San Pedro, Terminal Island, Harbor City, Wilmington, Carson, Compton, Dominguez Hills, Lomita, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Manhattan Beach). It was one of the first four land grants to individuals in Alta California. Juan was married to Maria Paja Yrinea (c. 1741-1805). He is buried at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in San Gabriel.

José Cristóbal Dominguez (c. 1761-1825) was a Spanish colonial solider who had been stationed at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. His uncle was Juan Jose Dominguez, owner of the vast land grant, Rancho San Pedro. Uncle Juan had no children of his own, however, leaving Cristobal as his heir. Upon the death of Juan Jose, Cristobal became owner of the rancho. Although he never actually lived on the rancho itself, he ensured that legitimate claim to the property and his right to pass the grant to his heirs was indisputable. José was married to Maria De Los Reyes Ybanez (1763-1834). Dominguez was buried at Presidio Hill Cemetery in San Diego.

Manuel Dominguez (1803-1882), was the eldest son of Cristobal Dominguez. He served as alcalde (mayor) of the Pueblo de Los Ángeles (1832-1833) and Third Prefect of the Southern District of Alta California. He was also among those who signed the first California Constitution as a U.S. state. Upon the death of his father in 1825, he inherited, along with his younger siblings, the vast Rancho San Pedro. While most other large ranchos were quickly broken up after the end of the Mexican era, Manuel worked to keep his family’s estate intact. Although diminished in size, Rancho San Pedro stayed in the hands of the Dominguez family through the Dominguez Estate Company, the Dominguez Water Company, and the Watson Land Company. The adobe home that Dominguez constructed on the rancho is now a California Historic Landmark. Dominguez is the namesake of the Dominguez Hills community in southeast Los Angeles County. Manuel was married to Maria Engracia Cota (1807-1883). He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Manuel Dominguez

Manuel Dominguez


Duarte

City of Duarte, Los Angeles County

City of Duarte welcome sign on Foothill Boulevard. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

Andrés Avelino Duarte (1805-1863) was a Mexican soldier who served at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. In 1841, he received for his military service, the 6,596-acre land grant that became Rancho Azusa de Duarte (all or portions of Duarte, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bradbury, Irwindale, and Monrovia). Duarte is the namesake for the City of Duarte in the San Gabriel Valley. Duarte was married to Maria Gertrudis Florentina Valenzuela (1811-1906). He is buried at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in San Gabriel.

Andrés Duarte

Statue of Andrés Avelino Duarte in the City of Duarte


Feliz

Los Feliz Neighborhood, Los Angeles

Los Feliz neighborhood sign on Los Feliz Boulevard in Los Angeles. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

In the 1790s, José Vicente Feliz (ca. 1741–1809), was a Spanish colonial soldier stationed at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in 1781, assigned to accompany the first local settlers for their last eight miles from the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel to the site of the new El Pueblo of Los Angeles. He then was appointed to be the pueblo's first Comisionado, essentially serving as de facto mayor of the new pueblo. At some point after 1795, Feliz was granted 6,647 acres of land by Spanish authorities for his military service, one of the first nine land grants to individuals in Alta California.. He named his land grant Rancho Los Feliz (Los Feliz and Griffith Park in Los Angeles). The rancho is the namesake for the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Feliz was married to Maria Ignacia Manuela Pineuelas (c. 1748-1775). He is buried at the Mission Santa Barbara.

José Vicente Feliz

José Vicente Feliz


Figueroa

Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

Figueroa Street sign outside Los Angeles Convention Center. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

José Secundino Figueroa y Parra (c. 1792-1835) or José Figueroa, as he commonly signed, was a Mexican military general who came to Alta California in 1833 as governor, appointed by Mexican government. Figueroa oversaw the initial secularization of California’s missions. He was Mestizo and proud of his Indian heritage. Historian Kevin Starr considered him to have been “the most competent governor of California during the Mexican era.”

Figueroa was married young to María Francisca Gutiérrez in Mexico, with whom he had a son. He later abandoned her and his son, forcing her to seek help from the president of Mexico to compel Figueroa to provide the support owed to her and her son. It does not appear that Figueroa remarried.

Figueroa died in office in 1835. He is buried at the Mission Santa Barbara.


Nieto

Los Nietos School District, Whittier

Los Nietos School District in Whittier. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

José Manuel Perez Nieto (1734-1804) was a Spanish colonial soldier, of African descent, who came to Alta California with the Gaspar de Portolá expedition in 1769. He ended his military service at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. In 1784, for his military service, Spanish authorities granted him 167,000 acres of land that became Rancho Los Nietos (Long Beach, Downey, Whittier, West Whittier-Los Nietos). It was one of the first four land grants to individuals in Alta California. Nieto was married to Maria Teresa Morillo (1756-1816). He is buried at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in San Gabriel.


Olvera

Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Postcard promoting Olvera Street at El Pueblo Historical Monument in Los Angeles. Image from the Los Angeles Almanac Vintage Postcard Collection.

Agustín Olvera (1820-1876) was a Mexican government official, military officer, judge, and county and city elected official. He is also namesake of L.A.’s famous Olvera Street. He came to Alta California in 1834 as part of the Híjar-Padrés Colony, a largely failed settlement plan to fully secularize the missions and exert greater central government control over Alta California. He served in a number of Mexican government positions and was grantee of the 35,501-acre Rancho Cuyamaca in San Diego County. He fought against the U.S. military invasion of Mexican California. Along with Andrés Pico (see Pico below) and Jose Antonio Carrillo, Olvera signed the Capitulation of Cahuenga in 1847. In 1849, Olvera was appointed Judge of the First Instance by the U.S. Military Governor of California, Bennet Riley. When the County of Los Angeles formed under the newly established State of California, Olvera was elected to the county’s first judge. Olvera was not bilingual and could only speak Spanish, so he hired the county’s first sheriff, George T. Burrill, who was bilingual, to serve as court interpreter. Because the county did not have a Board of Supervisors until 1852, Olvera, along with his two associate judges, also administered county business. Olvera also served on the Los Angeles Common Council (1851-1852), forerunner of the Los Angeles City Council until 1889. Olvera was later elected to serve on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (1855-1856). He was married to Concepción Argüello (1815–1853) and, after her death, María Ortega (1823–1918). Olvera is believed to have been buried at the La Placita Church Cemetery, however, in 2011, generations after the cemetery had been closed and all remains were supposed to have been moved and reinterred, dozens of unidentified human remains were discovered at the site of the old cemetery. There is the possibility that Olvera’s remains may be among them.

In 1930, Los Angeles opened Paseo de Los Angeles as a historic and tourist destination in the city’s old historic core. The street, originally named Calle de los Vignes, Vine Street, and Wine Street, was restored (led by Christine Sterling and heavily financed by L.A. Times publisher Harry Chandler) to celebrate L.A.’s early history and its Spanish/Mexican origins, an effort led by Christine Sterling. The street was renamed Olvera Street, in honor of Judge Olvera, and is now part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.

Agustín Olvera

Agustín Olvera

Also see: Agustín Olvera - L.A.'s First County Judge.


Pico

Pico House, Los Angeles, Los Angeles

Historic Pico House in El Pueblo Historical Monument in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Almanac photo.

Pío de Jesús Pico (1801-1894) was Mexico’s last governor in California. He served as such from 1845 to 1846, when he was forced to flee in front of U.S. forces that had invaded Mexican California. Of African-Indian-Mexican descent, Pico was born at the Mission San Gabriel Archangel in 1801. The Pico family came to Alta California when Pico’s grandfather, Santiago Pico (1733-1815), arrived as a Spanish soldier with the de Anza expedition in 1775. Pio Pico’s father, José María Pico (1764-1819) followed his own father into military service.

After the Mexican American War ended, all Mexican California residents were granted automatic U.S. citizenship. This also applied to Mexican California’s former governor. In 1850, Pio Pico returned home to American Los Angeles, resolved to make the best of life under a new government. That same year, he purchased the 8,839-acre land tract Rancho Paso de Bartolo (Whittier, Pico Rivera, and Montebello). He built a ranch home on the property that is now part of Pio State Historic Park. In 1870, Pico opened Pico House at the south end of the Los Angeles Plaza, the city’s first three-story building and, at the time, the most luxurious hotel in Southern California. The building still stands and is now a National and California Historic Landmark. Although Pico became one of the wealthiest people in Southern California, he eventually lost his fortune to poor choices, constant litigation, fraud, and bad luck. His life ended in near poverty while living off the charity of family and friends. The City of Pico Rivera is named for him.

Pio Pico was married to María Ignacia Alvarado (1808-1854). He was initial buried at Old Calvary Cemetary. In 1921, his remains and those of his wife were moved to the El Campo Santo family cemetery on the grounds of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry.

Pio Pico

Pio Pico

Also see: Pio Pico - Last Governor of Mexican California.


Pio’s younger brother, Andrés Pico (1810-1876), carried on the military legacy of his father and grandfather. He served as a Mexican military commander in internal civil conflicts within Mexican California and fought against the Americans in 1846-1847, during the Mexican American War, when Mexican Californians rose up to throw U.S. military occupational forces out of Southern California. Pico led one of the only two successful military engagements against the Americans in California in the Battle of San Pasqual in San Diego County. However, he ended up as the last remaining senior Mexican authority in California, after all his superiors had fled. Along with Agustin Olvera (see Olvera above) and José Antonio Carillo, Pico negotiated and signed the Capitulation of Cahuenga in 1847, effectively surrendering Mexican California to the United States.

Andres Pico

Andrés Pico

Although there appears to be some confusion in the records, Andrés Pico appears to have never married, although, later in life, he lived with Catalina (or Catarina, depending on source) Moreno (1825-1887), granddaughter of one of the first settlers of Los Angeles, José Cesario Moreno. Pico is buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.


Sepulveda

Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles

Traffic sign on Century Boulevard at Los Angeles International Airport. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

Francisco Xavier Sepúlveda (1747–1788), was a Spanish colonial soldier whose descendants became a prominent family in Southern California. He was married to Maria Candelaria Redondo (c. 1747-1804). Sepúlveda is buried at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.

In 1839, Francisco’s youngest son, Francisco Sepúlveda II (1775-1853), received a 33,000-acre land grant from Mexican authorities that became Rancho San Vicente y Santa Mónica (Santa Monica and Brentwood and portions of West Los Angeles in Los Angeles). He was married to María Ramona Serrano (1787-1870). The younger Sepúlveda is buried at Old Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

In 1846, after a protracted legal dispute, the 31,629-acre land tract Rancho Los Palos Verdes (Palos Verdes Peninsula, portions of San Pedro and Torrance), were separated from Rancho San Pedro and granted to brothers José Loreto Sepúlveda (1815-1881) and Juan Capistrano Sepúlveda (1814-1897). José served as alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles in 1837 and several terms as vice mayor. Juan served vice alcalde of Los Angeles in 1845 and, later, as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1854. José was married to Juana Cesaria Uribes Pantonja (1819-1881) and Juan was married to María Felipa de Jesus Alanis (1815-1865) and, after her death, to María Susana Ruiz (1850-1923) The brothers are both buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Loreto Sepulveda

José Loreto Sepúlveda


Verdugo

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, Glendale

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale. Image from Google Maps, Copyright 2021 Google.

José María Verdugo (1751–1831) was a Spanish colonial soldier stationed at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, who came to Alta California with the Gaspar de Portolá expedition in 1769. In 1784, Verdugo was granted 36,403 acres of land by Spanish authorities for his military service, the third land grant to an individual in the Los Angeles area. He named his grant Rancho San Rafael (Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Montrose, and Atwater, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Highland Park, and Mount Washington in Los Angeles), after the angel Rafael. His is one of the first four land grants to individuals in Alta California. Verdugo is the namesake of the Verdugo Hills (or Mountains) running north of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, and Pasadena. Verdugo was married to María de la Encarnación López (1765-1817). He is buried at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in San Gabriel.