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Historian Roberta Martínez Zeroes In On How People From Different Backgrounds and Cultures Shaped Pasadena

Published on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 | 5:40 am

From the native Tongva people to Latinos of early California, people from different backgrounds and cultures have shaped Pasadena – now celebrated for its blend of arts and sciences, citadels of learning and innovation, and civic pride.

Pasadena was once occupied by the Hahamongna Tribe of Native Americans, who lived in villages scattered along the Arroyo Seco and the canyons from the mountains down to the South Pasadena area. 

Speaking to Pasadena Now, historian and writer Roberta Martínez said Native American tribes were extremely important in the creation of Pasadena as a community. 

She added that aside from native tribes, “waves of migration of people” also shaped the city.

“It’s important for us to remember that where we live in Pasadena now was a part of the first Nueva España and part of Mexico. And up until the US-Mexican war and the transition of governments of these lands, this was a part of Mexico, it was Alta California. So Mexicanos, Latinos of all kinds of backgrounds have been here for centuries,” she said. 

She said some migrated because of geopolitical interactions.

“You have people who are coming here from El Salvador, from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and coming here because of geopolitical interactions that are taking place.”

“You have some people that are coming here because of the [1910 Mexican Revolution]. And you have people who are coming here because of the Cristero Rebellion that is taking place where there is a march against Catholicism taking place in Mexico. So [there are a] lot of reasons.”

Martínez said aside from Mexican migrants, Spanish-speaking people also came to Pasadena as part of Spanish missions in California. The missions were established by Catholic priests between 1769 and 1833 to evangelize to indigenous peoples.

“Most of the earliest folks who were involved living in the area were coming connected with the mission, which is definitely Misión de San Gabriel Arcángel,” Martínez said. 

She said the African-American community began to move to Pasadena in the 19th century. Many of them, she said, were entrepreneurs.

Martínez will discuss in depth the fascinating history of Pasadena through Masters Series’ online program “Pasadena Here I Come: How People and Communities Shaped Pasadena.”

Lectures run from 2-4 p.m. on Tuesdays from through Feb. 21. The tuition fee costs $75 for members and $90 for non-members. 

Registration is required to receive the Zoom link. To register, click the link below:

Masters Series, an adult education program of the Pasadena Senior Center, is designed to increase understanding of national and international issues, the arts, other cultures, the community, and the individual. 

For more information contact Annie Laskey at (626) 685-6702 or

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