Alta California in Public History: Field Project

History 362: Colonial Latin America                              California State University, Long Beach
Fall 2005                                                                                                  Catherine Komisaruk


Alta California in Public History: Field Project

This project focuses on the history of Alta California, which was part of colonial Latin America.  (California and the rest of the southwestern U.S. fell under Spanish colonial rule but never under British rule.)  Choose either option.  Option 1 is a visit to a colonial Latin American historical site of your choosing.  As discussed in class, you need to visit a site that dates to the colonial era.  In California, the colonial era ended in 1821 when Mexico gained independence from Spanish colonial rule.  (California was part of Mexico until it was annexed by the United States in 1848.)  Alternatively, you may choose option 2; instead of studying a public historical site, you will study a marriage record from the San Gabriel Mission, available on the Web.

Option 1
Take the following list of questions with you into the field.  While you are there, make notes in response to these questions.  After your visit, write an essay (approx. 2 pp., double-spaced) responding to these questions.  Your responses to questions 1 and 2 should be much briefer than your responses to questions 3 and 4.

1.  What is the earliest date mentioned at the site?
2.  According to the public presentation of history at the site, what events or activities took place there (i.e. what was the site’s significance) during the colonial period? 

3.  How would you place the history of this particular site in the broader context of colonial-era Latin American history?  In other words, how does the site reflect or illustrate patterns that you have studied in this course in the textbook, lectures, or other materials?  In particular, how does it reflect patterns of colonial Latin American frontiers or “peripheries”?

4.  How is colonial-era history presented at the site?  Do you think some aspect(s) of the site’s colonial history is missing from the presentation?  Explain.  If you were in charge, would you change or add anything to the site’s presentation? 

Optional questions

What do you think was at this site (or what was going on there) before the earliest date mentioned in the public presentation of history at the site? 

If you were going to take a group of students studying colonial Latin America to this site, what would you present to them?  Is this information already included in the site’s presentation, or would you have to change or add to the current presentation? 

Any other comments about the site and/or about your visit there? 

Here are some of the sites you may choose
NOTE:  Public history programs have limited funding, and these sites are open only during limited hours.  Call first to find out when the site is open and when tours are offered.
Rancho Los Alamitos – adjacent to campus; from the 405 or Atherton, go south on Palo Verde
past CSULB parking lots to stop sign; ask for directions at guard house as you enter a
gated neighborhood.  If you are walking, go to the Foundation Bldg. (FEC), turn right on State Univ. Dr. to Palo Verde.  The guard house will be on right past stop sign; prepare for a long walk uphill. (562) 431-3541.
Rancho Los Cerritos, 4600 Virginia Road, Long Beach, (562) 570-1755.
Rancho Domínguez Adobe, 18127 S. Alameda St., Carson, (310) 603-0088.
El Molino Viejo Museum, 1120 Old Mill Road, San Marino, (626) 449-5498.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument (visitor center located in Sepulveda House
on Olvera Street in downtown LA), (213) 628-1274.
Los Encinos State Historic Park, Encino, (818) 784-4849.
Mission San Fernando, (818) 361-0186.
San Gabriel Mission, (818) 282-5191.
Any other early California mission (including those in Baja California).
Any Native American burial site or other pre-1821 Native American site.
Other sites: If you choose a historical site not listed above, try to verify that it dates to the colonial period (i.e. pre-1821).  If you aren’t sure, ask me or call the site to inquire.

Option 2
If you know Spanish, instead of visiting a historical site you may choose to study a marriage record from early California, posted on the Web.  Go to the website of the Claremont Colleges Libraries’ Special Collections, which includes online images of the San Gabriel Mission marriage records collection:
These are diligencias matrimoniales (marriage records) for colonial-era people (and some people in the Mexican national era) in the San Gabriel parish (the area now called the San Gabriel Valley, here in L.A. County).  The records generally follow a standard format, similar to the format of the marriage records from Montevideo translated by Susan Socolow (see week 9 readings).  Choose one marriage record to read carefully and analyze.  (Most of the records have several entries, each written separately; read all entries for the record you choose.)  Hint: the webpage for the marriage of José Santa Ana Avila and María Josefa Osuna Epinosa includes a typewritten English translation.  You can read this translation first, to get an idea of the format and type of information that you will find in the other marriage records. 
Translate or take notes about the record.  You do not need to translate every single word; don’t worry if there are a few words you cannot read.  However, you need to read enough to get the gist of each entry.  You may make a word-for-word translation, or you may take notes summarizing each entry.  Your translation or notes may be hand-written, but you must attach them to your essay.
In a brief essay (approx. 2 pages, double-spaced), analyze the marriage record as a primary source.  As a guideline, use the questions in the primary source analysis paper assignment from this course.  Include some discussion of the way(s) that this document reflects historical patterns that you have learned about colonial Latin American frontiers or “peripheries.”