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A World of Its Own

Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970

Matt Garcia

Publication Year: 2002

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. In this social and cultural history of the segregated citrus-growing areas of Los Angeles County, California, Garcia shows how interethnic relations between Anglos and Latinos evolved over time and how the arts and community groups contributed to these changes. 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.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

CONTENTS, Illustrations

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pp. vii-xi

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xiii-xvii

My esteemed advisor and friend, Vicki Ruiz, once explained to me that in Chicana/Chicano History, ‘‘the people drive the book.’’ This book is no exception. I have learned the majority of what I know from the many people who dared to share their lives with me on tape, and it is those people whom I wish to thank...

ABBREVIATIONS

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pp. xix-xx

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-14

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;...

PART ONE

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pp. 15-39

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1. THE IDEAL COUNTRY LIFE: The Development of Citrus Suburbs in Southern California

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pp. 17-46

Citrus fruit has always possessed a unique status among the many crops that make up California’s vast agroecosystem. While wheat, cotton, and grapes have had their images tarnished by revelations of labor exploitation, grower vigilantes, and absentee landlords, citrus has usually escaped such criticism. Even...

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2. THE ‘‘COLONIA COMPLEX’’ REVISITED: Racial Hierarchies and Border Spaces in the Citrus Belt, 1917–1926 [includes Image Plates]

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pp. 47-86

In Southern California Country: An Island on the Land, Carey McWilliams divides the ‘‘citrus land’’ of San Gabriel Valley into two primary groups: first, ‘‘the 40,000 workers’’ who cultivated and harvested citrus crops; and second, ‘‘the managerial elite’’ who ran the California Fruit Growers Exchange and ‘‘the...

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3. FRIENDS OF THE MEXICANS?: Mexican Immigration and the Politics of Social Reform

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pp. 87-120

During the 1928 congressional hearings on the Box Bill, a proposal to extend immigration quotas to Mexico, the most vocal and powerful opponent of Mexican immigration East Texas congressman John C. Box remarked: ‘‘The character of the body of our citizenship will be lowered by scattering tens or hundreds...

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4. JUST PUT ON THAT PADUA HILLS SMILE: The Mexican Players and the Padua Hills Theatre, 1931–1974

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pp. 121-154

Despite the trauma repatriation inflicted on Mexican communities, the campaigns failed to erase the influence of Mexicans in the development of a regional culture in Southern California. In addition to the historical markers such as the missions, ranchos, and street names that reminded all Angelenos of Spanish...

PART TWO

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pp. 155-179

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5. CITRUS IN THE WAR YEARS: Gender, Citizenship, and Labor, 1940–1964

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pp. 157-188

Despite the depression, citrus remained a profitable enterprise. Throughout the 1930s the industry remained one of the foundations of the regional economy, evidenced by the extraordinary profits of ranch owners and the growth of citrus farms. Growers’ consistently pulled in revenues above $90 million annually...

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6. MEMORIES OF EL MONTE: Dance Halls and Youth Culture in Greater Los Angeles, 1950–1974 [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 189-222

With great anticipation, the staff at Rainbow Gardens, Pomona’s famed dance palace, prepared for another night of ballroom dancing in 1950. This evening’s dance, however, differed substantially from any other function held by the club since its opening in the mid-1940s. For one, concerts usually occurred only on...

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7. SOL Y SOMBRA: The Limits of Intercultural Activism in Post-Citrus Greater Los Angeles

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pp. 223-255

Although citrus growers and local politicians continued to support policies and employment patterns that separated Mexicans and whites and undercut the economic and social mobility of Mexican Americans, during the 1940s and 1950s some Angelenos began to question discrimination in public spaces....

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EPILOGUE

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pp. 257-261

In the three decades since the 1960s, Southern California has experienced demographic changes that have contributed to the transformation of the citrus belt. Both Asian and Latino populations have expanded largely due to the significant increases in immigration as a result of alterations in U.S. immigration...

APPENDIX

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pp. 263-265

NOTES

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pp. 267-303

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 305-321

INDEX

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pp. 323-330


E-ISBN-13: 9781469604442
E-ISBN-10: 1469604442
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807826584
Print-ISBN-10: 0807826588

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 32 illus., 7 tables, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Studies in Rural Culture

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Los Angeles Region (Calif.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Mexican Americans -- California -- Los Angeles Region -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Whites -- California -- Los Angeles Region -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Agricultural laborers -- California -- Los Angeles Region -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Citrus fruit industry -- Social aspects -- California -- Los Angeles Region -- History -- 20th century.
  • Los Angeles Region (Calif.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Los Angeles Region (Calif.) -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
  • Community development -- California -- Los Angeles Region -- History -- 20th century.
  • Intercultural communication -- California -- Los Angeles Region -- History -- 20th century.
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