Welcoming Romeo Guzman as New Associate Editor at Tropics of Meta

We're excited to announce that Romeo Guzman is now an associate editor at Tropics of Meta, and will be taking on a major role in the management and creative direction of the site. An assistant professor of History at California State University, Fresno, Romeo is an award-winning public historian and the founder and director of Fresno State’s Valley Public History Initiative: Preserving our Stories. He has already been a big part of ToM in the past through our collaboration with South El Monte Arts Posse’s East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte project. Romeo's research follows Mexican migrant families and Mexican American youth across the U.S.-Mexico border … [Read more...]

“Tongva-Village-Turned-World-City”: Contemporary Indigenous Legacies in Greater L.A.

In recent years, the enduring legacies of the original people of the Los Angeles basin, referred to as the Tongva or Gabrielinos,[1] have become more and more apparent in the landscape of the region. Right behind L.A.’s world-famous Hollywood sign lies Cahuenga (or Kawenga) Peak, the Tongva’s “place in the mountains.” People can hike the Gabrielino Trail in Angeles National Forest, just north of El Monte, and up Tongva Peak[2] in the Verdugo Mountains, north of LA; go to public parks named Tongva Park in Santa Monica[3]; go to a Tongva Memorial Garden at Loyola Marymount University;[4] and see the San Gabriel mountains on a daily basis. These markers of indigenous heritage are important … [Read more...]

A Truth that Had to be Told: Uncovering the History of School Segregation in El Monte

In memory of Olga Gutiérrez, 1937-2016 The professor started talking about segregation in the South, of blacks, of Brown v. Board of Education … so after class I went up to the professor, and I said, “Hey professor, were you aware of the segregation of the Mexican-American students all over the Southwest, including California?”… He said, “I know nothing about it.”[1] Olga Gutiérrez, a Mexican-American teacher and activist in El Monte, California, was working on a Master’s degree at California State University, Los Angeles. It was 1980, 26 years after the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation, or the policy of dividing children into different schools on the basis of race, was illegal in … [Read more...]

From Small Farming to Urban Agriculture: El Monte and Subsistence Homesteading

"People want to get outdoors ... and the small farms home gives them that opportunity," Ross H. Gast told an audience of San Diegans in 1933. "It is a good home in good and bad times and a place to save earnings with an incidental production of food supply." The writer--an editor at the Los Angeles Times' Farm and Garden Magazine and El Monte resident--had long advocated for the "small farm lifestyle," a return-to-the-land movement that stretched back to the turn of the century. "The way I see it, the small farm home is not just a piece of property but a mode of living, one that is being adopted generally in Southern California," he noted. Through Gast and others, the Los Angeles Times had … [Read more...]

Who Were the Monte Boys?

“Law And Order Monte Boys Style” is the title of a chapter in one of the more recent histories of El Monte. Those six words capture the popular stories associated with the men of the nineteenth-century township. Any written history of Los Angeles County has to at least mention the Monte boys. Their involvement with “the repression of crime” is characterized variously as the work of righteous citizens, frontier-savvy former Texas Rangers, or all-too-eager vigilantes. From the 1850s through the 1870s and perhaps beyond, if there were bandits to be caught, murderers to be punished, or horse thieves to be hanged in the county, the men from Monte seemed always to be on the scene. Their … [Read more...]

The El Monte Berry Strike of 1933

In May 1933, Hicks camp was nearing full capacity. More than 1,500 migrant workers were settling down to take part in the berry harvest, which would begin in May and last through August. Hick’s camp was, like the surrounding neighborhoods of Medina Court and Hays Camp, a migrant labor camp set up to house the families who worked on the local fields. Men, women, and children would quickly assemble homes of cardboard and repurposed box-carts on a non-descript tract of land that lacked paved roads or basic plumbing. Hick’s camp was not envisioned as a permanent neighborhood, but became one as people settled down to build a home and establish a local culture. Although by the time of the berry … [Read more...]

Mapping Community Narratives in El Monte and South El Monte

Dear Internet: Those of us who have been working on East of East have had a long two weeks. With a whirlwind of events and interviews we have not always had enough time to step back and think about the work before us. In this concluding entry on the 2015 SEMAP I would like to offer a few thoughts on East of East and those that have made the project possible. History and activism go together. On our last day of SEMAP, we did a collaborative event with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). At this event we collected oral histories, including with Lilian Rey whose EM/SEM Emergency Recourses Association has provided relief for the poor for decades. Local … [Read more...]

¡La Lucha Continua! Gloria Arellanes and the Making of a Chicano Movement in El Monte and Beyond

“So we moved here to El Monte, and I remember all the neighbors were white,” recalled Gloria Arellanes in a 2011 interview conducted by the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research.[1] “Eventually white flight came about and they started moving out to the Covina area, San Bernardino area.” This was extremely different from East Los Angeles, where she was born in 1941. Growing up in El Monte was not easy, she explained. Unlike East Los Angeles, where ethnic solidarity and family had sheltered her, in El Monte, discrimination and racism were omnipresent. It was not uncommon for her to hear disparaging comments about Mexicans: “that we were lazy…We’re dirty. In those days…[Y]ou couldn’t … [Read more...]

Pain and Pride: Five Rapid-Fire Reflections on a Big Weekend of “History in Action”

(This post is part of our ongoing attempt to “live-blog” our participation in community-based history in South El Monte and El Monte. For an overview of this effort, click here, and for our first dispatch, click here). If you’re still feeling it on Wednesday morning, it was probably a heckuva weekend. I’m sitting in the El Monte Public Library, where I’m only just beginning to process the whirlwind of community history that took place here and in South El Monte on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend consisted of two events organized by the South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP): “City of Achievement,” which focused on the city of South El Monte and was hosted by the city’s Senior Center, and … [Read more...]

Live-Blogging Public History, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collaboration

Hey, internet! We’re Daniel Morales and Nick Juravich, a pair of grad students in history from Columbia University who have just landed in South El Monte and El Monte for two weeks, and while we’re happy to escape the freezing Northeast, that’s not why we’re here. We’ve come under the auspices of the South El Monte Arts Posse, an interdisciplinary arts collective founded by our friends. In their hometowns of South El Monte and El Monte, they’ve launched an award-winning community-based history and archiving project called “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and ElMonte.” Faithful readers of ToM will be familiar with East of East, but for those who aren’t, a brief … [Read more...]