This 1835 Decree Made the Pueblo of Los Angeles a Ciudad – And California's Capital | KCET
This 1835 Decree Made the Pueblo of Los Angeles a Ciudad – And California's Capital
Grand pageantry marks each September 4 in Los Angeles, the traditional (if not actual) anniversary of its 1781 founding as a Spanish colonial pueblo. Fewer remember April 4, the date in 1850 when Los Angeles incorporated as an American municipality – several months before California achieved statehood.
But the city seems to have completely forgotten another weighty legal anniversary: May 23. On that date in 1835, the Mexican Congress promoted Los Angeles from the rank of pueblo to ciudad and made it the territorial capital of Alta California.
A copy of the official decree – issued by a high-level functionary, José María Gutiérrez de Estrada, on behalf of Mexico’s president, Miguel Barragán – is preserved at the USC Libraries’ Boeckmann Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies.
The simplicity of the proclamation disguises the complexity of the political conflict that inspired it: between the centralist and federalist factions who vied for control of the Mexican government; and also between conservatives who aligned with the military and Catholic church and liberals who supported constitutional government, free trade, and other economic reforms.
But none mattered as much as the warming sectional rivalry between Alta California’s arribeños (northerners) and abajeños (southerners). Monterey, a settlement on the northern coast of Alta California, had been capital since Spain first colonized the province. But as the pueblo of Los Angeles grew in population and economic clout, its residents began to resent the continued primacy of the Montereños. And so when in 1835 Jose Carrillo, a native of Los Angeles, took his seat in the Mexican Congress as Alta California’s sole delegate, he pleased his fellow Angeleños by orchestrating the southern migration of the territorial capital.
What Carrillo’s coup accomplished in law, however, changed nothing in fact. Outraged Montereños warned that a move would “engender serious rivalries” and noted that their town’s population, larger in size, was also “moral and cultured,” implying that Los Angeles’ wasn’t. And indeed Los Angeles – then a tiny village of less than 1,000 people, despite its newfound official status as a ciudad (city) – lacked adequate facilities to house the territorial diputación (legislature) and archives. The seat of government, then, remained in Monterey, regardless of Mexico City’s dictates.
Tensions simmered. They nearly boiled over the following year when arribeños opposed to Mexico’s centralist government declared Alta California “a free and sovereign state,” legally restored Monterey as capital, and marched south to confront the abajeños who, bitter over the capital controversy, refused to join the rebellion. The northerners’ leader, Juan Bautista Alvarado, only narrowly avoided civil war by negotiating a settlement with Los Angeles in early 1837.
A decade later, the ciudad of Los Angeles did briefly function as California’s capital when Angeleño Pío Pico became governor and rented offices in what would become the Bella Union hotel on Main Street. An invasion by U.S. forces the following year, though, made Alta California an occupied territory and returned the capital to northern California, where it remains to this day – despite the proclamation of May 23.
Garr, Daniel J. "Los Angeles and the Challenge of Growth, 1835-1849." Southern California Quarterly 61, no 2 (summer 1979): 147-15.
Pubols, Louise. "Born Global: From Pueblo to Statehood." In A Companion to Los Angeles, eds. William Deverell and Greg Hise. Los Angeles: Wiley Blackwell, 2014.
A new COVID-19 testing site opened at Dodger Stadium today, which city officials say will accommodate three times more people than any other testing site in Los Angeles County.
In an announcement that will delight shaggy-haired residents statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom today cleared the way for barbershops and hair salons to open in some counties.
L.A. County parks and beaches were filled with both the cautious and undeterred during the first major holiday since the economy began to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles County today reopened some beach parking lots and authorized retail businesses inside enclosed shopping malls to reopen with curbside pickup service only.
- 1 of 290
- next ›
Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. Its founder, Griffith J. Griffith, donated the land to the city as a public recreation ground for all the people — an ideal that has been challenged over the years.
During World War II, three renowned photographers captured scenes from the Japanese incarceration: outsiders Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarceree Tōyō Miyatake who boldly smuggled in a camera lens to document life from within the camp.
Prohibition may have outlawed liquor, but that didn’t mean the booze stopped flowing. Explore the myths of subterranean Los Angeles, crawl through prohibition-era tunnels, and visit some of the city’s oldest speakeasies.
Although best known for designing the homes of celebrities like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra, the pioneering African-American architect Paul Revere Williams also contributed to some of the city’ s most recognizable civic structures.
As recently as a century ago, scientists doubted whether the universe extended beyond our own Milky Way — until astronomer Edwin Hubble, working with the world’s most powerful telescope discovered just how vast the universe is.
- 1 of 5
- next ›