Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
Fine Cut

Fine Cut

Start watching
SoCal Update

SoCal Update

Start watching
a large damn with graffiti of a woman with a hammer on it, mountains in the background

Earth Focus Presents

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (Belgium)

Start watching
Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

El Monte/South El Monte

As far as cities go, El Monte and South El Monte are not very old -- each founded in 1910 and 1958 respectively. But the history of this place starts several thousands of years ago with the arrival of the first Tongva people, followed by the arrival of Spanish explorers and missionaries in the 18th century, and westbound weary pioneers a century later. Large influxes of American mid-west migrants and Mexican and Asian immigrants accelerated the shifting demographic throughout much the 20th century.

El Monte and South El Monte, located just a few minutes east of the City of Los Angeles, have experienced freedom and neglect, for better and for worse, from the centralized reach of the city. While South El Monte and El Monte are often referred to as a single entity, they are in fact two separate cities with communities that are closely intertwined, yet distinct. While El Monte was heavily regulated by racialized ordinances that segregated Mexican and Asian residents into barrios or camps, separate from white, home-owning residents, South El Monte was founded as a city where Mexican residents could own property.

The stories of El Monte are embodied by real, imaginary and forgotten landmarks. A dilapidated covered wagon replica at Pioneer Park commemorating the End of Santa Fe Trail wanes like a fading ghost in the public imaginary. The El Monte Legion Stadium remains vibrant in the collective memory despite having been razed to the ground more than four decades ago; the dances where Art Laboe shared the stage with legends such as Ritchie Valens, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Higgins have been immortalized in the song by The Penguins', "Memories of El Monte."

In South El Monte, stories are squeezed between backyards of bungalows and submerged beneath soft riverbank soil. The Whittier Narrows parks in South El Monte provide an oasis for nature aficionados, families and sports lovers. Low rider car shows gather at the Legg Lake parking lot, while young lovers hide away at the Nature Center among curtains of wild grape serenaded by rare songbirds.

Today, as you descend from the hills of Montebello on the eastbound 60 freeway you know you have arrived to a unique place, however briefly. A stretch of dense green foliage of elm and willow seem like an unlikely break in the now suburban landscape; in the evenings, this basin is blanketed in a sudden fog perfumed with the woodsy, moist breath of the Rio Hondo. This is an entryway into the Greater Los Angeles peripheral world that speaks in its own way, to both to Los Angeles' age and regenerative newness.

Support Provided By
Latest
Ron Reeder and Joseph Janusz, "Godzilla Visiting El Monte." | Courtesy of South El Monte Arts Posse and Ron Reeder (
Article
Southland Sessions

Tongva to Zumba: New Book Celebrates Radical History of El Monte

A new collection of essays builds an archive of radical, transnational and multiracial people in greater El Monte.
Bicycle parking outside the refurbished El Monte Station. | PeterEastern / Creative Commons
Article

El Monte: More Than Just a Pass-Through Community

El Monte is working to leverage its unique position as a small city with many transportation assets to solve some of the housing, environmental, and economic challenges facing many cities across Los Angeles County.
Decorations on the edge of Arroyo High School's community garden | Marianne Zaugg
Article

In a Food Desert, a Ray of Hope Shines in a School Garden

In El Monte, where nearly half the city is classified a food desert, students and gardeners grow a lush garden with even bigger plans for the future.
benitabishop630.jpg
Article
Departures

Lost Girl: Tales about Loving and Leaving 1970s El Monte

El Monte has produced numerous writers, including Benita Morgan Bishop who documents 1970s El Monte through the wide-eyed perspective of her young narrator.
Article
Departures

The Creatures of Legg Lake: Concrete Sculptures of Benjamin Dominguez

The fantastic sea creatures by the Mexican-born artist have played an important historic role in integrating the once newly-created Whittier Narrows Parks into the contested landscape.
Thumbnail image for SonoraWithAGun.jpg
Article
Departures

The Moratorium that Stomped El Monte Murals

El Monte almost became a mural city before two controversial works were stomped by a citywide moratorium in the 1970s.
EMLL polo team.jpg
Article
Departures

Running to First Base

A memoir on how baseball can give strength in the face of family disintegration and make the everyday spectacular.
Article
Departures

A Punk Approach to Running in El Monte

El Monte cross country runners have a unique perspective of their city's landscape. Their stories are told in a homegrown film, "Varsity Punks."
elmontelanguage.jpg
Article
Departures

Bridging Cultures at El Monte Education Center

For an El Monte teen already bilingual in English and Spanish, learning Chinese can have social and economic advantages for her future.
schoolgardenstopmedia.jpg
Article
Departures

Seeds of Change: The Value of School Gardens in Education and Community Health

Gardening at school and at home can help foster healthy lifestyles and encourage healthy eating with more nutritious foods -- something that communities like South El Monte and El Monte urgently need.
Active loading indicator