A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970

A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970

A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970

A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970

Synopsis

Tracing the history of intercultural struggle and cooperation in the citrus belt of Greater Los Angeles, Matt Garcia explores the social and cultural forces that helped make the city the expansive and diverse metropolis that it is today.

As the citrus-growing regions of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys in eastern Los Angeles County expanded during the early twentieth century, the agricultural industry there developed along segregated lines, primarily between white landowners and Mexican and Asian laborers. Initially, these communities were sharply divided. But Los Angeles, unlike other agricultural regions, saw important opportunities for intercultural exchange develop around the arts and within multiethnic community groups. Whether fostered in such informal settings as dance halls and theaters or in such formal organizations as the Intercultural Council of Claremont or the Southern California Unity Leagues, these interethnic encounters formed the basis for political cooperation to address labor discrimination and solve problems of residential and educational segregation. Though intercultural collaborations were not always successful, Garcia argues that they constitute an important chapter not only in Southern California's social and cultural development but also in the larger history of American race relations.

Excerpt

Driving westbound along Interstate 10 from Pomona to Los Angeles in Southern California, one cuts through the heart of what once was the richest agricultural land in the United States. On the south side of the freeway lie the grounds formerly occupied by walnut and deciduous fruit orchards and berry farms; to the north lie the interclimatic foothill “benches” and “fans” upon which growers once raised the most productive citrus groves in the nation. Today, however, the landscape is characterized by a seemingly endless string of suburban bedroom communities that become more densely populated and “urban” with each successive mile as one approaches downtown Los Angeles. Growing up in this area during the 1970s and 1980s, I watched the final stages of this transformation as strip malls replaced packinghouses and bulldozers uprooted citrus trees to make way for single-family homes. in 1976, my family moved into a new residential community in Upland where my friends and I played hide-andgo-seek among the wood frames and fiberglass of soon-to-be-built tract houses and staged lemon fights in the few groves that remained. For most residents, the receding line of citrus on the foothills represented progress and the promise of achieving the American dream of owning a home. By the early 1980s, most of the physical markers of the citrus industry had been wiped clean from the land.

As a child born of mixed heritage — my mother is Anglo and my father Mexican—I saw these changes from a slightly different perspective than most kids due to my unique relationship with the social and cultural geography that accompanied the development of citrus suburbs. Although both sides of my family have resided in Southern California for three generations and participated at various levels in the citrus economy, their experiences were neither similar nor equivalent in outcome. While my maternal grandfather worked as a data analysis supervisor for Sunkist in Ontario, providing my mother and her family with a middle-class standard of living, my father’s family had a dramatically different experience. Born in a semi-rural colonia (colony) composed primarily of Mexican agricultural laborers, my father grew up in an unincorporated neighborhood that the local Spanish/English bilingual newspaper El Espectador referred to as “Tierra de Nadie” (“land of no one”). This title de-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.