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In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, join us as we celebrate the Hispanic individuals that have influenced culture, social justice, and progress in Los Angeles and, in some instances, the nation. Check back often as we highlight a new iconic Hispanic Angeleno throughout the month.
Today we celebrate Francisco Ramirez:
Born in February 9, 1837, Francisco Ramirez's life was already steeped in L.A. history. His maternal grandfather was Francisco Avila, former alcade (mayor) of Los Angeles during Spanish rule and the builder of the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in the city, still standing on Olvera Street. Growing up, Ramirez lived across the street from Jean-Louis Vignes, a French immigrant whose winery in El Aliso was the first in California. Vignes taught Ramirez french, and by the age of 14 Ramirez knew how to speak Spanish, English, and French.
In 1851 Ramirez started his journalistic career as a compositor for the newly launched Los Angeles Star. The paper had a back page section entitled "La Estrella de Los Angeles," which was completely in Spanish. Although he was only 14 when he was hired, Ramirez quickly rose up the ranks in the newspaper and became the editor of "La Estrella de Los Angeles" in 1854.
At the age of 17, Ramirez decided to leave and start his own newspaper. El Clamor Público was the third newspaper to be founded in Los Angeles, and the first to be entirely in Spanish. First distributed on June 19, 1855, the weekly soon became a platform for Ramirez's liberal ideas. Ramirez wrote editorials that highlighted the discrimination and injustice faced by Mexican-Americans, Californios, Chinese, and Black residents under the new government formed in the wake of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Writing extensively about lynchings, Ramirez called foul on a government that was led by a white minority that did not give non-whites the right to vote, routinely overlooked the law to punish racial minorities, and disenfranchised Spanish speaking members of the community.
He empowered the community by continually advocating the importance of voting and being part of the American democratic process. Ramirez believed the Mexican-Americans could prosper under the new government through civic engagement, changing the discriminatory system from within. El Clamor Público also occasionally published articles in French and English, alongside poetry and short fiction.
Due to financial hardships, the last issue of El Clamor Público was distributed on December 31, 1859. This did not silence Ramirez, who continued to advocate for Mexican-Americans, Chinese, Blacks, and women when he became a lawyer in Los Angeles in 1869.
Ramirez's contributions as a journalist and activist benefited not only Mexican-Americans but all residents of Los Angeles.
ICONIC HISPANIC ANGELENOS 2012
Click the images below to learn more about each portrait.
- A Los Angeles Primer
- Arrival Stories
- Block by Block
- Engaging Spaces
- Green Justice
- I Am Los Angeles