The Myth of Discovery
The Myth of Discovery
This section of the mural challenges the founding myths of the city. It highlights the brutality of settlers and Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. governance as each imposed their dominance over the indigenous people and their land.
The mural panels in the next sections depict the establishment of the City of Los Angeles. Spain, then Mexico, and finally the United States eroded Native self-government and seized control of their land. The Tataviam, Tongva, and Chumash resisted vicious colonial rule even while they were enslaved and forced to contribute to the building of the city.
Father Junípero Serra, once revered as founder of the 21 California missions, is depicted as part donkey. The powerful Spanish mission system treated Indigenous people brutally and nearly decimated the California Native population. California Native communities nevertheless survived and developed new tribal identities. Whenever possible, they maintained their social, cultural, linguistic, and political traditions.
The founders of Los Angeles were primarily of mixed African and Indigenous descent. These forty-four pobladores or “settlers” traveled up from Mexico and founded El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles in 1781.
Forced Native American labor constructed the Zanja Madre, “the Mother Ditch,” which enabled water from the Los Angeles River to irrigate the land. This led to the expansion of the city. This first effort to control the river changed the natural environment in the growing city.
In 1821, Spanish rule ended, and California came under Mexican rule until 1848. In the mural, soldiers raise the Mexican flag and stomp on the Spanish flag. Mexico’s promise that missions would return land to Native people remained virtually unfulfilled.
The Californios, the ruling class, dominated early California. In the mural, the Californio cloaks himself in the land as three indigenous people toil in a corn field, a metaphor for the wealth generated from Indigenous exploitation and colonial control over the land.
Formerly-enslaved Biddy Mason fought for her freedom in California courts. The First AME Church, the oldest congregation of African Americans in Los Angeles, was started in Mason’s living room.
Alongside Mason, Joaquin Murrieta, a legendary Mexican Robin Hood, became a symbol of Mexican resistance against white Anglos.