This article presents an overlooked chapter in San Gabriel’s history as it examines the Mexican experience in the historic mission city during the early twentieth century. In the 1910s, enterprising Anglo-American commercial and civic leaders romanticized the city’s Spanish heritage, especially in the area around old Mission San Gabriel, hoping to draw tourists to the newly incorporated city. Simultaneously, the arrival of Mexican immigrants to San Gabriel sparked concern among local leaders who, ironically, viewed the growing Mexican population as a threat to the city’s Spanish fantasy heritage. This article reveals how San Gabriel’s Mexican community harnessed civic leaders’ merchandizing of the city’s history, subverting the Spanish fantasy narrative to celebrate their Mexican history and presence in a city seemingly determined to deny both. It uses Spanish-language accounts, church records, and contemporary local histories to reveal a Mexican community asserting pride in its culture and history. In the process, it illustrates the interplay between San Gabriel’s Mexican community and the Roman Catholic parish at Mission San Gabriel, and the ways in which Mexican radicalism and grassroots mutualistas (mutual-aid societies) shaped the colonia (Mexican neighborhood).

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