The Santa Ana Sentinel

What’s in a Name?

Posted in Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on August 24, 2011

It becomes absolutely necessary to comment on the naming of the square on Fourth and French streets in the Downtown. It never fails that people outside of Santa Ana spew hate, particularly in the Orange County Register, in the comforts of their anonymous online identities, tucked away behind computer screens, in their isolated bubbles.

I found it necessary to comment on and expand on someone’s idea that giving the square a Spanish name somehow caters to Mexicans only. The person then tried to correct everyone by giving an interpretation of history, where somehow Alta California was separate to things Mexican, and more “Spanish.”

Now, like I’ve said before, I’m not one to blow my own horn, but, I did get the ball rolling concerning the history of Nineteenth-Century Mexican & Spanish Orange County, at least on an online space in Wikipedia. I started an article on Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, Ranchos of Orange County, and other individual articles on these Mexican ranches. Others later added more to these articles and now we have a better view of history.

The history of Alta California has everything to do with Mexico. Friar Junípero Serra, founder of Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Co. came from the port town of San Blas in the state of Nayarit in Mexico. He didn’t magically fly over from Spain non-stop as some people make it sound. They purposely sailed up the pacific coast from San Blas to Baja California with their mission to colonize the Californias, first through the mission system. They worked their way up from Baja California all the way through San Francisco in Alta Calfornia.

Has anyone ever stopped to think about why they went up the coast? No? Have you ever heard of the Sonora desert? Has anyone ever wondered why Alta California didn’t have many (enough) Mexican settlers in the nineteenth century? Enough to repel an eventual invasion, that is. It is precisely because of the terrain that made traveling impossible. Migration en masse, a la wagon trail, was simply not possible back then, especially through Sonora and Arizona. Is there any wonder then as to why migrants are forced to travel through the heat of Arizona nowadays? HMMM… It’s a buffer zone. Would an ordinary person have been able to pay to travel by boat all the way up north in the nineteenth century? No, but the Catholic church could.

Fast forward a bit and Alta California is interfered with and coveted by a self-righteous ideology called “manifest destiny,” and here we are today.

To people in Orange County that live in areas with Spanish names I ask, do you know how your town, or your street, got its name?

I suggest that people read up on the Mexican land grants in what is now called “Orange County.” Many places, (Trabuco, Niguel, Bolsa Chica and more) were named by the Mexican Republic and kept their names because of the Armistice Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which went beyond respecting the rights of Mexican landowners and guaranteed no interference in Mexican people’s right to maintain their culture in the ceded territories after the Mexican-American War.

So what’s in a name? Have your say here.


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  1. […] The Santa Ana Sentinel provides a history lesson while discussing the city’s naming of the square on Fourth and French streets. […]

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