Filipino pioneer in California

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Filipino pioneer in California
Words and Photo by Dionesio Grava
First Posted in

Son Lester had a fun time convincing Filipino co-workers in a Ventura facility that a compatriot was among the earliest inhabitants of nearby Santa Barbara, a world-rated resort city. Lester was showing them photos of the burial place of eminent Filipino Antonio Miranda, which I requested from him earlier to be used in this article. As this is being written (Sept. 4, 2013), the city of Los Angeles is celebrates its 232nd Founding Anniversary. Happy Birthday LA!

For sometime the LA Filipino American community and even some city officials held on to a narrative that this premier city in the west coast was founded by “pobladores” that included a Filipino. The pobladores were tasked to provide food for the soldiers of the presidios and to help secure Spain’s hold of the region. They included farmers, artisans, and stock raisers necessary for the survival of the settlement, a plaque in Olvera Plaza states.

During the 224th anniversary of the city’s founding, then Mayor Antonio Villaraigoza was quoted saying “The original pobladores were a very diverse group, nearly half of them of African heritage. There were Europeans as well and mestizos and one Filipino.” He repeated his speech in Spanish for the benefit of many in the audience who were of Hispanic descent.

Even today the website Tertulias Filipinas HISTÓRICOS LAS ISLAS FILIPINAS Filipino funda Los Angeles contends that “One of the original settlers of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula — today’s Los Angeles, California, USA — was of filipino ancestry but smallpox temporary quarantene in Baja made him and others arrive after the others…”

Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was described in a book copyrighted by the Automobile Club of Southern California by authors William and Roberta Mason as a Malayan Filipino who enlisted in Sinaloa, Mexico, for the Los Angeles expedition. He later took up residence in Santa Barbara where he was employed as a gunsmith by military authorities. Begun in 1782, the Santa Barbara Presidio was the last military outpost built by Spain anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

“Certainly,” according to the Masons, “he was Santa Barbara’s first Filipino resident, and perhaps the first permanent Filipino resident of California.” The book Spanish Mexican Families of Early California: 1769-1850 Volume II by Marie E. Northrop contains this entry:

Antonio Mirando Rodriguez
Born about 1730 at Manila, Philippines
Buried 26 May 1784 at Presidio Chapel Santa Barbara
Child Juana Maria Rodriguez
Born about 1769 Sonora, Mexico
Died about 1780 at Loreto, Baja California,

CAPTION: Antonio Miranda is among the names inscribed in a tile slab marking the burial site of early residents inside a chapel in the Santa Barbara Presidio, City of Santa Barbara. The Presidio was the last military outpost built by Spain anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. PHOTOS BY MARK LESTER GRAVA

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