A map of the proposed South California I Map by Chris Clarke

The Need to Secede: From the Rancho Days to the Present

Californios is what they called the generations of Spanish speaking children born in this land after the founding of Nueva España. Tomás Avila Sanchez (1826-1882), born into a wealthy pioneer family, would grow up to become an illustrious Californio. While researching the early days of Leimert Park, our newest neighborhood series, we learned that Sanchez once owned the land of present day Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park. Before Project Blowed, the World Stage, and the Brockman Gallery, and even before a maverick realtor from Oakland named Walter H. Leimert decided to build a master planned community there, the extensive acreages of verdant land were known as Rancho La Cienega O Paso La Tijera.

There is much to say about Tomás Sanchez, and in the next few days the story of this early L.A. figure will debut our Leimert Park series. Often times, researching allows one to reflect on the nature of the brain, particularly the manner in which the mind acts as a a most perfect search engine, creating connections between ideas buried in historical content. While deep in the throes of this blissful process, a small aspect of this man's life struck a chord: his need to secede. Tomás Sanchez, one time Sheriff and County Supervisor of Los Angeles, supported a split from Northern California in 1859. In fact, the proposed bill, which held that the new state would be named Colorado, was approved by the state senate but never passed by the federal government. KCET columnist Nathan Master's wrote:

At the time, Southern California lacked a major population center; Los Angeles was then a town of less than 5,000 people. The region's sparse population largely consisted of recent arrivals from the rest of the United States, including many from the South, and Californios from the state's Mexican era, some of them dissatisfied with American rule and still harboring painful memories of the state's conquest only fifteen years prior.
Image: loststatesblogspot.com


Upon further research, it became clear that California history is rife with "divisive" tendencies. According to the New York Times, a 1941 campaign to create the State of Jefferson, consisting of a cluster of counties from Northern California and Southern Oregon, was spurred by state officials ignoring residents appeals for more infrastructure and investment. The campaign was gaining momentum until the bombing of Pearl Harbor re-directed national efforts towards the war. More recently, a new group of Jefferson advocates have started a petition in hopes of getting the proposal back in the state capitol.

Image: freestateofjeffersonblogspot.com

In 2011, Republican Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed a bill that would create the State of South California. Oddly, much of the state contained counties from Central and Northern regions of the state. The move was intended to represent the conservative populace of the golden state while breaking away from the liberal bastions of L.A. and San Francisco. Some critics commented it should be called, "The Old South California." In reality, the growing Latino demographic of those counties might have defeated the conservative hopes of this Republican utopia.

According to the Los Angeles Times, since 1850, there have been more than 200 attempts to split up portions of California.

What are your thoughts on breaking up California? Tell us your thoughts in the comment boxes below.

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Associate Producer, Departures
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Tomás A. Sanchez: The Californio Sheriff of Los Angeles

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