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"Ethnic" Los Angeles

Comparative Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality

Anne Cong-Huyen, Thania Lucero, Joyce Park, Constance Cheeks, Charlie Kim, Sophia Cole, Julio Damian Rodriguez, Andrea Mora, Jazz Kiang, Samantha Tran, Katie Nak, Authors
San Gabriel Valley, page 1 of 2
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History of the San Gabriel Valley

Throughout the San Gabriel Valley you will notice many signs like the one featured above. These signs indicate the city you are passing through also creating very pronounced boundaries between cities.

This sign is located right in front of the first mission, San Gabriel Arcangel, a significant location we will dive more into later. This mission housed many of the first Spanish settlers that established San Gabriel as a city, which is why the city of San Gabriel is also known as the Mission District.

The San Gabriel Valley is one of the principal valleys of Southern California, lying generally to the northeast of the city of Los Angeles. It is immediately south of the San Gabriel Mountains and is separated from the San Fernando Valley by the San Rafael Hills and the Crescenta Valley to its west, from the Los Angeles Basin by the San Rafael Hills and the Puente Hills to the south, and from the Inland Empire by the Chino Hills and San Jose Hills to the east.

The Tongva

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, this area was populated by the Tongva part of the Uto-Aztecan family Native


The language of the Tongva was different from the neighboring Indian tribes and it was called Gabrielino by the Spanish. The Tongva also provided the origin of many current names; Piwongna – Pomona, Pasakeg-na – Pasadena, Cucomog-na – Cucamonga. The first Spanish explorers  arrived in 1542, bringing diseases which would slowly affect the Tongva population.

Today, several bands of Tongva people live in the Los Angeles area.

The Spanish

The first Spanish settlers arrive in 1542, gradually overshadowing the Tongva people

The Arrival of the Asian Population

Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and South Asian pioneers and settlers first came to the San Gabriel Valley in the mid-19th century. These pioneers worked the fields, picked the grapes and citrus fruit, and built part the infrastructure of today’s San Gabriel Valley. In the 1920s Japanese immigrants arrived in Monterey Park to work as farmhands. The cities of Whittier, Covina and Pasadena were formerly the sites of the citrus industry. In addition, the oil, dairy and cattle industries used to flourish in the southern region of the SGV.

  • 1942: 1944 Japanese American citizens were sent to a Japanese internment camp at Santa Anita Park during World War II, with up to 17,000 people living in horse stables.

  • 1940s–1950s: San Gabriel Valley changes from acres of farmland to suburban bedroom community.

  • 1957: San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) opens.

  • Late 1960s: Chicano Movement protests by local Mexican Americans in El Monte.

  • 1970s–1980s: Taiwanese immigrants began settling in Monterey Park and its neighborhoods.

  • 1980s–present Chinese and Hong Kong immigrants began to settle in Alhambra, Arcadia, El Monte, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel.

Gabrielino/Tongva of San Gabriel (
Jennifer Medina (28 April 2013). "New Suburban Dream Born of Asia and Southern California." New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2014.

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