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As Latino Heritage Month Starts, Historian and Author Roberta Martínez Looks Anew at Latinos in Pasadena

Published on Thursday, September 15, 2022 | 6:42 am

In 2009 Pasadena scholar Roberta H. Martínez’s definitive work “Latinos in Pasadena” was published. This week, against the backdrop of a City Council led by a Latino mayor and a City Hall led by a Latino city manager —both born in Mexico — Pasadena Now asked Martínez to reflect on “the state of the city” for Latinos.

“That requires a broad answer because of the spectrum of the experiences of Latinos is vast,” Martínez said. “Some living in the city they are dealing with the legacy of redlining and restrictive covenants. Yet others may be living in places like Dundee Heights or Bungalow Heaven. Others are involved at institutes like Caltech or JPL or work at City Hall or sell fruit or elotes as a street vendor.”

Martínez was born and raised in East Los Angeles and has resided locally all her life. Much of her research has been on the history of Latinos, Pasadena, and women. Her “Latinos in Pasadena” was published by Arcadia Publishing. She has served on several of their advisory committees Pasadena Museum of History and curated the exhibit “The Past Lives Vividly in the Present”.

Martínez said that despite the size of Pasadena’s Hispanic population, it rarely is addressed.

“According to data reported by the U.S. Census in 2021 those who responded as Latinos (34.9 percent) and those who identified as White alone, not Hispanic individuals (34.6 percent) make up two-thirds of our city’s population. Yet most of our experiences and our history remain fairly invisible,” she said.

“To this day when people talk about the challenges and successes in our city, it is told from Black and white perspectives.”

Martínez said the Latino community and other groups are usually not included in the conversation.

“Or we appear somewhere in the story, but not in the headline,” she said.

Looking back at local history, Martínez said most people who live or work here don’t realize that the precursor to this area was Rancho el Rincón de San Pascual, some 14,400 acres reserved for Eulalia Pérez de Guillén Mariné in the early 1800’s.

The US-Mexican war concluded with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was not followed by the U.S., Martínez said.

Next came a period of transition — a time that was sort of a nod to what had been and what was coming, she said.

“Our first state of California constitution was bilingual. The second was English only. The families that made up the California colony of Indiana, the group that preceded the Orange Grove association, not only knew people living here, but some also married those living here. Parts of our history also include the schools that were established as segregated schools were Mexican students in the early 20th century or the fact that in the spring of 1931, it was reported that over 431 Mexicans had been deported to Mexico from Pasadena. If our governmental bodies, if our elected officials for both city and our school district are not sharing this as part of our city story, how will our residents of all ages and backgrounds learn about this?”

As Pasadena starts 30-days of celebrating Latino Heritage month, Martínez looked around the city.

“I love that our city history is rich and complex. It is wonderful to see the recognitions that continue to take place around our city. The efforts made at the 10 West Walnut are a fine example of this,” she said, but noted that those who worked on the didactics that accompanied the images apparently had no idea there was a book on Latinos in Pasadena.

“It is wonderful to know about the mural at Muir High School that recognizes Jackie Robinson. He should be known for his incredible athletic skills and fearless championing for Civil Rights. I’m sure that instills a great pride in so many. It should. He and his family are part of our story; the mural reminds of the experiences of him and his community.”

When it comes to the local Latino community, Martínez said “It would be wonderful and fitting to have our stories, the past, the present, as well as our hopes for the future visible throughout our city more than during just one month.”

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