Environmental Landscapes: The Indigenous Garden(s) at Cal State LA
Thursday, 22 September, 2022 6:00 – 8:00 PM via Zoom
Esmeralda Del Rio is a second-year graduated student in Cal State LA. She has been researching on edible and medicinal plants from indigenous peoples in California and Baja California. Through Spanish travelogues from the 16th to 18th centuries, looking at the accounts of Miguel Venegas, Miguel Del Barco, and Miguel Costanso who interacted with the indigenous populations. Under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Choi Chatterjee, she has been creating a Climate Adaptive Digital database on plants to provide helpful information to residents of Los Angeles County. Del Rio’s intellectual and research interests include 18th century California History, History of Ethnobotany, Early Modern Spanish History, and Latin American and Gender History.
Esmeralda will be discussing the challenges in researching edible and medicinal plants from Spanish travelogues. The importance of language in reading primary sources such as: letters, manuscripts, and diaries including their descriptions of the indigenous people and natural landscape of California. In addition, she will be discussing the necessity of having access to documents from local universities and archives at the Huntington Library.
Christopher Gurrola recently received his M.A. in history from California State University, Los Angeles. Gurrola’s passion and enthusiasm for history stems from his experiences in Chicano/a activism during his youth. Gurrola is finishing up his position as a graduate research assistant for Cal State LA’s Growing Food in the City project, where he has been constructing an online ethnobotanical database in collaboration with Dr. Choi Chatterjee and Esmeralda Del Rio. His research for the project focuses on 16th to 18th century Spanish travel literature with the aim to recover Indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge. During his last semester Gurrola received the Eugene Fingerhut Award for academic excellence and participated in two separate conferences where he shared his research on Spanish and Indigenous encounters in 18th century California. Gurrola’s research interests include 20th century Los Angeles history, Chicano/a history, Borderlands history, and 18th century California history.
Christopher will be focusing on his experience with constructing an ethnobotanical database composed of knowledge stemming from 16th to 19th century California. He will discuss how Spanish explorer diaries, letters, and documents were essential to finding Indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge. Additionally, he will discuss the challenges he encountered when incorporating anthropological and botanical research into his historical research.
Community Focus Event: The San Fernando Valley Historical Society
Segregation and Resistance in the San Fernando Valley in the 20th Century: New Approaches and Findings
Thursday, 29 September, 2022 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM via Zoom
The first event of the 2022-2023 Season will feature Daisy Herrera, PhD student at UCR and an intern at the Smithsonian, and the San Fernando Valley Historical Society.
Daisy R. Herrera is a Ph.D. student in the History Department at the University of California, Riverside and has an interdisciplinary academic background in History, Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies, and Chicano Studies. Her research focuses on the ethnic Mexicans’ struggles and resistance against racial formation, citrus labor exploitation, and school and housing segregation within L.A. County’s San Fernando Valley (SFV) throughout the twentieth century. By approaching the archival silences and incorporating oral histories through a transnational lens of the concept of “Greater Mexico,” Daisy will trace the socio-political development of the area pre-and-post the Chicano Movement. She is involved with various local and national organizations including the SFV Historical Society, the Oral History Association, the Southwest Oral History Association, Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, and has published a few book reviews for the Southern California Quarterly Journal.
The San Fernando Valley, nestled between the Santa Susana, Santa Monica, San Gabriel, and Verdugo Mountain ranges just north of the Los Angeles Basin, is a multi-ethnic area whose contribution to the emerging Southern California historiography has been largely understudied. With its original settlement dating back to the Tongva peoples, the area endured various sediments of colonialism (Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo) in less than a century, fabricating a Spanish Heritage Fantasy Past culture strengthened byt the arrival of tycoon developers such as Senator Charles Mcclay, Isaac Van Nuys, George K. Porter, and Isaac Lankershim and the inevitable boom of Southern California’s “Citrus Belt.” This presentation will showcase the history of the ethnic Mexican community through two overlapping ways: first, by underscoring the struggles against racial formation determined by the area’s cemetery segregation, death certificate content, and public health disparities. And second, by reconstructing the history and expansion of Pico Court, the citrus-company sponsored duplex dwelling that housed citrus laborers escaping the Mexican Revolution and later the braceros exploited during and after World War II. Despite the racial formation defining place-making throughout the greater San Fernando area, ethnic Mexicans became agents of resilience by developing and strengthening a transnational community identity from 1910 to 1965. The community’s labor and leisure activities were fundamental in the economic expansion of the Valley and the development of one of the largest ethnic Mexican populations of Greater Los Angeles.
Community Focus Event: St. Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation
The St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928
Thursday, 13 October, 2022, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM via Zoom
Presented by the St. Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation
Featuring: St. Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation President, Dr. Alan Pollack, and Executive Director, Dianne Hellrigel
Alan Pollack is a physician, practicing for more than three decades in the San Fernando Valley area, and as president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Dr. Pollack promotes and educates the public on the rich history of the Santa Clarita Valley. After a visit to Johnstown National Memorial in Pennsylvania in 2012, Dr. Pollack originated the idea to bring a National Memorial to the site of the St. Francis Dam Disaster to honor the memories of the over 400 victims of the flood. His and Dianne Hellrigel’s efforts, along with a host of other advocates, finally culminated in the establishment of the St. Francis Dam National Memorial and Monument, signed into law by the President of the United States on March 12, 2019, coincidentally the 91st anniversary of the disaster.
Executive Director Dianne Hellrigel has a background in land legislation and preservation. She has preserved 450,000+ acres of wilderness, 2 Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2 National Monuments and 1 National Memorial. When Alan approached her to work on legislation for the St. Francis Dam she was already overwhelmed with 7 existing legislations in D.C., but then she remembered that her grandparents, aunts and mother walked on the top of the St. Francis Dam, two days before it ruptured, killing more than 400 innocent people on the night of March 12-13, 1928. Remembering a trip to the dam site with her mother when she was 6, made the Dam legislation her #1 priority. After nearly 8 years of lobbying congress, the bill was finally passed on March 12, 2019.
Subsequent to the passage of the bill, Dianne has interviewed many of the progeny of the survivors of the dam break and resulting flood. She has many personal stories of amazing survivals and tragic deaths that she will relay in her presentation. All of the stories are heart breaking and will be related as the stories were related to her. Dianne and Alan have worked together to bring the story of the St. Francis Dam disaster out of the shadows, and are now educating the public through their presentations.
Alan will discuss the history of water in the natural and built environment of California, including the dependence upon the Los Angeles River in the early days of the Pueblo, Mulholland’s idea about securing water, the Water Wars in the Inyo, the building of the St. Francis Dam, and ultimate failures, including environmental disruptions to the indigenous landscape. He will also discuss his idea that came to fruition in honoring the hidden tragedy of the St. Francis Dam to develop a National Memorial.
Community Focus Event: Fillmore Historical Society
A Hidden Gem: The Fillmore Historical Museum
Thursday, 17 November, 2022 from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM via Zoom
Fillmore, CA. was founded in 1888, and named after Jerome Fillmore, the local area superintendent for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Rand McNally gave its population as 150 in 1900. After incorporation in 1914, the town steadily grew having 1,597 people in 1920, 3,884 in 1950, 13,643 in 2000. The 2020 census put Fillmore’s population at 16,419. The town’s growth was based on agriculture – initially barley and lima beans, walnuts and apricots, and later citrus and avocadoes – and oil. Both industries still predominate the area’s economy.
In 1972, the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce approached a retired Spanish teacher, Edith Moore Jarrett, to start an historical museum. Mrs. Jarrett was not just any retired Spanish teacher. She had written the Spanish textbooks, El Camino Real I. II, and other books. The textbooks became the most commonly used series of Spanish text books in the United States for several decades beginning in 1940 and into the 1970s. She also loved traveling and history. She was a Fillmore native, graduating from Fillmore Union High School in 1916 and from the University of Southern California in 1921. After graduation from USC, she returned to Fillmore and taught in its schools until her retirement.
Mrs. Jarrett accepted the Chamber of Commerce’s request. Space was rented on the ground floor of the Masonic Temple Building on Central Avenue and the word went out to the population of the area that she was looking for items for the Museum. She was overwhelmed with donations and soon out of space.
In 1974, the Southern Pacific Railroad was ready to demolish the depot they had built in Fillmore in 1887. It had not been used except for storage for many years and was in very poor condition. Edith Jarrett bought it for $1 plus 5₵ tax on the condition that she immediately move it from its original site. She petitioned the City which provided a lot on Main Street. Mrs. Jarrett then paid for the moving and renovation of the Depot as a donation to the town of Fillmore.
Fifty years have passed since the Fillmore Historical Museum opened its doors. After extensive damage in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the depot was again moved and renovated.
The new site for the Museum was only a block from the old site, but now had room for a 1905 bungalow, the 1919 Rancho Sespe bunkhouse, a 1960’s caboose and several smaller buildings. An entirely volunteer operation, it receives no funding from any government agency.
The Museum is open four days a week and by appointment. It regularly hosts interns from local colleges and universities as well as welcoming local school children. It’s website, fillmorehistoricalmuseum.org, includes information about the Museum and its programs as well as over one hundred stories about the Fillmore, Bardsdale, Sespe and Piru communities.