The Los Angeles Pobladores, or “townspeople,” were a group of 44 Mexican settlers and four soldiers who founded the legendary city in what is now California on the 4th of September, 1781. The settlers were from various Spanish castes, with African heritage accounting for more than half of the group.
Felipe de Neve, the governor of Las Californias, a Spanish-owned area, recruited 11 families from Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico, to help create the region’s new metropolis. There were two people of African heritage, eight people of Spanish and Black descent, and nine people of American Indian ancestry, according to a census done at the time. There was one person who was both Spanish and Indian, with the remainder being Spaniards.
According to historian William M. Mason’s research, the pobladores’ true racial mix was more ethnically balanced than not. Only two of the 44 were white, according to Mason, while 26 had some sort of African ancestry and 16 were “mestizos,” or people who were a mix of Spanish and Indian origin.
The only two black Mexicans identified on the 1781 census, Luis Quintero and Antonio Mesa, married mixed women and had several children between them.
After some priests discovered the place 10 years before, the people created the city “El Pueblo de Nuestra Seora La Reina de Los Angeles sobre el Ro Porcincula” (Spanish for The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels on the Porciuncula River). Dr. Antonio Rios-Bustamante, another historian, claims that the initial immigrants of Los Angeles were considerably more mixed than the census indicated and that African, Indian, and European descent was common.
In the 1950s, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park in Los Angeles installed a plaque honoring the pobladores, but it was inexplicably removed. According to a Los Angeles Times story, the removal of the plaque was racially motivated. However, during the city’s bicentennial celebrations in 1981, the plaque (shown) was replaced.