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Artbound

Monomania L.A.: Ernest Marquez and Rancho Boca de Santa Monica

Through a series of short films and articles, Monomania L.A. profiles five L.A. as Subject collectors who have turned a monomaniacal obsession with a particular aspect of Southern California history into a public resource. These collectors have documented disparate subjects -- the California orange, sci-fi reading circles, political graphics, a Mexican rancho, African American photographers -- but their stories share one thing in common: a passion for history that has enriched our understanding of Southern California's past.

In this land of newcomers and transplants, Ernest Marquez can trace his California lineage back further than most. Born in 1924 on land that the Mexican government granted to his great-grandparents in 1839, Marquez has devoted much of his life to documenting a family history that began in 1771, when his great-great-grandfather Francisco Reyes arrived here as a soldier in the Spanish army.

"I went to the library and got history books about Santa Monica and Los Angeles and couldn't find anything about our rancho in them," Marquez told us. "The historians completely ignored our family and our rancho for some reason. If there was some mention of it, there might have been a paragraph or two."

But Marquez wanted more. So he set out on a decades-long quest to piece together his family's history. He sent away to the National Archives for the Land Commission records on Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, the 6,656-acre land grant his great-grandfathers Ysidro Reyes and Francisco Marquez received in 1839. He scoured the region's archival collections for information about his ancestors.

Eventually, he began writing a narrative history of his family. Naturally enough, he wanted to illustrate his history with photos from Southern California's rancho period.

And in the process, a new collection was born.

"I discovered there weren't any [photos from the rancho period], but along the way I found these other images of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Redondo Beach," Marquez said.

One photo became two; two became two hundred; and ultimately Marquez amassed a trove of 4,600 rare photos of historical Southern California, with an emphasis on the Santa Monica Bay shore.

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