Wednesday, March 27, 2019

From Boyle Heights to Beijing: Lotus Blossom Blog Post Appears in Chinese Film Journal

Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member and frequent contributor to this blog, Rudy Martinez, put together a fascinating multi-part post a little over two years ago on the 1920s silent film Lotus Blossom, the first Chinese-American movie and which was filmed in Boyle Heights.


After Rudy's post was published, contact was made by Dr. Ramona Curry, an assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois and arrangements were made for Professor Curry to give a talk on the film's star, Lady Tsen-Mai (Josephine Moy) at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, whose director, Paul R. Spitzzeri, edited the blog post and made the contact with Dr. Curry.

That lecture was given a year ago this week and one of the accidental outgrowths of setting the event up is that contact was made with a student at U.C.L.A. whose mother is a film scholar in China.  Though Professor Qin Xiping could not come out for Professor Curry's talk, she did arrange for a translation of Rudy's excellent post in the 5 October 2018 issue of the journal Contemporary Cinema, produced by the China Film Art Research Center of the Communication University of China.


Professor Qin sent copies of the journal to Rudy recently and a couple of scans from the article are shown here. It is really great that this happy accident transpired, so that the story of the first Chinese-American film and its making in Boyle Heights was shared, through the efforts of Professor Qin with readers of the journal across the Pacific.

Friday, March 1, 2019

In Memoriam: Col. Melvin "Bud" Weber, 1925-2019


Buddy was born on December 20, 1925 at White Memorial Hospital in Boyle Heights.  He attended Bridge Street School, Hollenbeck Junior High School and graduated from Roosevelt High School Class of 1944. 

He was a member of the Roosevelt High School Alumni Association where he participated in special events for scholarships and fundraising.  He was honored as a recipient of the Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame Award- Teddy Roosevelt.  This honor meant the world to him.

He was also a member of the Saxons, a club that lasted for several decades.  He was a recipient of the Saxons Pride of Boyle Heights Award. 

One of his most memorable experiences was serving as a project advisor for the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles.  The project was a large exhibit entitled – Boyle Heights Power of Place.  His love for Boyle Heights inspired the formation of the Boyle Heights Historical Society a year or so later and Buddy worked closely with the Society’s founding board of directors.


His love for Boyle Heights was apparent in all he did and as an advisory board member for the Boyle Heights Historical Society, he wrote and presented a special booklet entitled “I Am An American Citizen of My Birthplace in the Boyle Heights of Los Angeles, CA, USA” wherein he wrote “The Boyle Heights  - An Enduring Legacy of a Way of Life An Historical Treatise and Personal Perspective.” 

He also participated in the Boyle Heights History Day events as a presenter and guest speaker.  He was Grand Marshall in the 2008 Boyle Heights Annual Parade and it was a memory he said he would always treasure.

Buddy was a member of that generation we know as “the Greatest Generation” and served in the Army from 1944-47.  He received his Certificate of Retirement from the U.S. Air Force in December of 1985.

He was a recipient of the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and numerous other medals.  He also received the Presidential Unit Citation Battle of Okinawa. 


He worked in the education field for several years after his retirement from the Air Force. 

He never stopped doing all that was good for others.  He was a man admired and loved by so many and his friendships lasted a lifetime.  He was a long-time member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Rancho Santa Margarita.  Buddy is survived by his beloved family: His wife, Brenda; his daughter, Tracie; his son, Kevin and his grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

With love and appreciation we say “farewell and thank you” to Buddy Weber with a final salute for a life well lived, a lifetime of service and always giving to others.  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Santa Teresa de Cabora: The Hummingbird's Daughter in Boyle Heights, 1902-1903, Postcript

Editor's Note:  The end to this remarkable tale brought to us by Rudy Martinez, Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member, about Teresa Urrea, known as Santa Teresa de Cabora, is in the form of this brief postcript.  In it, Rudy notes what happened to Santa Teresa in the few years after her leaving Boyle Heights.


Several months after the devastating fire that destroyed her house and consumed most of her worldly possessions, the Ventura County Superior Court finally granted Teresa Urrea Rodriguez her divorce in January 1904. In no rush to leave, she stayed in Ventura for a good part of the year. In late autumn, pregnant with her second child, Teresa returned with John Van Order to Clifton Arizona, now a bustling mining “boomtown.” She gave birth to daughter, Magdalena Van Order, before the end of the year.

Albuquerque Weekly Citizen, 20 January 1906.
Coincidentally, Teresa arrived in Clifton just barely one week after the town’s infamous, “Great Arizona Orphan Abduction.” This incident occurred when nuns from a New York orphanage brought forty Irish children for placement in the homes of various Mexican families in Clifton. Enraged that Mexicans would raise white children (though Mexican labor in the mines was invaluable), Clifton’s white citizens formed an armed vigilante group to “rescue” the children from the homes of Mexican families and insisting only white citizens had the right to raise them. (In New York, it was difficult for the nuns to find homes for the orphaned children because, as Irish, they were regarded as less than white). The legal wrangling that ensued eventually went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the abductors.  

With money she earned during her healing tour, Teresa built a two-story structure in which she lived on one floor and continued her healing practice on another. By this time, the father of her two children, John Van Order, was rarely a presence in their lives, spending most of his time outside of Clifton. But by mid-1905, Teresa began to grow visibly weaker, eventually confining herself to her home as her health rapidly declined. Her old Clifton friend, Dr. L. A. Burtch confirmed she had tuberculosis, a common disease in mining towns.    

Bisbee [Arizona] Daily Review, 21 January 1906.
Teresa passed away in Clifton, Arizona at the age of thirty-two on January 11, 1906, leaving her two children to be raised by a close family friend since her days at Cabora Ranch. She was buried in the town’s run-down Catholic Cemetery on Shannon Hill next to her father. Several newspapers throughout the southwest reported that it was one of the largest funeral processions ever seen in the area with almost four hundred people in attendance. 

However, just as in most of her life when she moved from country to country, and city to city, so it was in death, a final resting place would elude Teresa. To make way for a new smelter on the site of the cemetery just three years later, the Shannon Copper Company supposedly relocated the remains of all those interred, including Teresa’s, to a new Catholic cemetery a few miles away. No burial records were kept, or grave markers erected, though within a decade, the newer cemetery was essentially “abandoned” as cemetery displacement in mining country is common. With virtually no information, no one is sure where Teresa is buried; whether her unmarked remains lay in a remote and long-forgotten cemetery or if they were, in fact, never moved, but instead excavated and dynamited out of existence. Today, the small town of Clifton is virtually overwhelmed by the massive Morenci open-pit copper mine, the largest copper mine in North America and one of the largest in the world.

La Prensa [San Antonio], 28 February 1937.
Today, a four-story parking structure for White Memorial Hospital and Medical Center now stands at the southwest corner of State Street and Avenida César Chávez (formerly Brooklyn Avenue) where La Santa Teresa de Cabora once lived and "healed" in her simple "bumble bee cottage."  Although it's only speculation, perhaps Teresa had plans to resettle, maybe permanently, in Boyle Heights as soon as she was granted a divorce in Ventura County.  

At the time of the 1903 house fire, newspapers reported her Boyle Heights home was filled with her personal belongings, many of them collected during her "healing tour," and all of them destroyed in the fire.  Today, no personal items belonging to Teresa, or the remains of Teresa herself, appear to have survived.      

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Santa Teresa de Cabora: The Hummingbird's Daughter in Boyle Heights, 1902-1903, Part Two

Editor's Note:  This second part of Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez's excellent post on Santa Teresa de Cabora goes into detail about her brief residence in Boyle Heights during 1902 and 1903.  It reflects a little-known aspect of a remarkable life that has otherwise been well-chronicled.  The post begins with Teresa coming to California after time spent in other portions of the United States.


Settling in Boyle Heights, Teresa again resumed her home-based healing ministry in response to the growing crowds who appeared at her doorstep. Later, she would also boldly participate in a seminal act of economic social justice in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. This was a stance that would have certainly disappointed her well-heeled New York hosts. 

On October 30, 1902, the Los Angeles Herald published the headline, “Santa Teresa Here” and added, “The slenderly built and rather sad-faced young woman has led a life full of varied and exciting experiences.” The article also noted that she had “won wide notoriety as the reputed inspirer of the Yaqui Indians in several uprisings.” The Herald also reported that despite her quiet arrival at the home of her married sister on the “east side of the river,” people began to seek out the “Girl Messiah” almost immediately.    

Teresa’s arrival in 1902 seemed to be a precursor to an interesting period in Los Angeles and for Boyle Heights since the city’s populace was beginning to experience a burst of religious fervor, along with the growing influence of the Christian-led temperance movement. 

Los Angeles Herald, 30 October 1902.
For example, in April 1903, Carrie Nation, the radical leader of the temperance movement, spoke to members of the Boyle Heights Woman’s Christian Temperance Union at Korbel Hall, located at the southwest corner of First and State Streets, only three blocks away from the home where Teresa was conducting her healing sessions at the time. The stuccoed-over former Korbal Hall building still stands today.

The following year, the first small wave of Russian Molokans, members of a zealous sect of the Russian Orthodox Church, was just arriving in downtown Los Angeles; these immigrants eventually settled in for a decades-long stay in Boyle Heights. 

In March 1905, Seventh Day Adventists set up a “White Tent City” at the corner of First and Mott Streets in Boyle Heights for a day-long gathering of noted speakers, including Ellen G. White, one of the principal founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. (In 1915 the Adventists established the White Memorial Hospital a few blocks away). 


Los Angeles Times, 15 December 1902.

Not from Boyle Heights, in what became known as Little Tokyo, African-American minister William J. Seymour began, in 1906, the multi-racial Azusa Street Revival at a small church. The Revival eventually grew into the worldwide Pentecostal movement. 

In 1918, Canadian-born evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson arrived in Los Angeles and quickly made the city the home base for her popular brand of Pentecostal ministry. Though McPherson occasionally practiced “faith-healing” and "speaking in tongues" in front of large crowds, which helped launch her career early on, it could possibly be said that Boyle Heights-based Santa Teresa is actually the first media-celebrated “divine faith-healer” to practice in Los Angeles.  

On December 15, 1902, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Teresa has purchased a little cottage at Brooklyn Avenue and State Street” and is “daily besieged by a pitiful throng of Mexican enfermos,” with some arriving as far as Sonora, Mexico in “drawn up wagons.” They also reported that Teresa, “treats free of charge poor people who come to her accredited but is not so generous to the rich.”


Herald, 16 January 1903.

The Herald of January 16, 1903 recounted a reporter’s impressions after visiting the “sweet-faced, olive-skinned” Teresa in her “tiny, darkened, barley-furnished treatment room in a bumble bee cottage on Boyle Heights.” After stepping off “the trolley car that conveniently stopped at State Street,” the reporter noted, “the lawn is covered with men, women and children, the majority Mexicans or Spanish. While waiting, some of them can be seen eating chili con carne and tortillas, while in the rear, horses eat hay off farm wagons.”

The Herald journalist reported that Teresa’s home was also “overrun by some good folks anxious to satisfy their curiosity about the live saint,” and witnessed “two well-dressed woman who brushed past the front door, insisting they knew ‘Santa Teresa’ lived there.” Teresa eventually “asked for the advice and assistance of the district attorney in protecting her and her sister’s family from forced intrusion of strangers.” 

Concerning Teresa’s married sister, the newspapers never published her name (or a specific address for the Boyle Heights residence) but records indicate Teresa had a younger half-sister named Maria “Marie” Urrea who was born on March 16, 1882 in Sonora, Mexico to Tomas and Maria Urrea.  Sometime before Teresa arrived, Maria moved to Los Angeles, California where she lived with husband, Valente Balderrama. Maria died in Los Angeles on November 11, 1942 at age sixty. 


Herald, 1 January 1903.
Despite Teresa’s demand for a degree of privacy from the throngs of visitors to her Boyle Heights home, she, nevertheless, agreed to become publicly involved in a newly organized Los Angeles worker strike. Known today as the El Traque Strike of 1903, it has been described by late historian Jeffrey Marcos Garcilazo as “one of the most dramatic expressions of Mexican track worker militancy in the early twentieth century.”

In March 1903, approximately eight hundred Mexican employees of the Pacific Electric Railway (PE) — the Los Angeles street trolley system owned by real estate tycoon, Henry E. Huntington — formed La Union Federal Mexicana (UFM), arguably, the first union in the United States to represent Mexican track workers. The traqueros (track workers) mostly lived in the immigrant enclaves of either “Sonoratown/Little Italy,” which today encompasses the Chinatown area, or “Boxcarville,” located in the “Flats” area at the eastern edge of the Los Angeles River in Boyle Heights.

After Huntington refused their wage demands for overtime, evening, and weekend work, UFM voted to strike in mid-April, securing pledged support from the local Socialist Party, as well as Mexican and Japanese labor unions in Oxnard. The UFM strategy was to leverage the fact that PE crews were rushing to complete the Los Angeles-to-Long Beach line in time for the annual (and ironically themed, given that almost no Latinos were involved) Los Angeles Fiesta in early May. Huntington responded by ordering all striking Mexicans fired and replacement workers hired immediately at one-half-cent more per hour, far less then what UFM was demanding. 


Los Angeles Record, 28 April 1903.
Aware that La Santa Teresa de Cabora — famous folk healer and inspiration to the Mexican labor class and the indigenous resistance movement — was residing in Boyle Heights, UFM organizers invited her to participate in their collective action against PE. UFM was already up against the wall since PE quickly hired large numbers of scabs to replace striking workers and enlisted the help of a company-friendly police department to discourage demonstrations and picketing near work sites, all while receiving sympathetic coverage from the notoriously anti-union Times.     

In a display of solidarity, a group of women gathered at a downtown work site at Buena Vista Street (renamed Broadway in 1909), and according to the Times of April 26, 1903, “the women had come from Sonoratown and were relatives of, or sympathizers, with the Mexicans on strike. There were more than thirty Amazons [sic], and their declared intention was to take the tools from the workmen. The women threw the shovels to the sidewalk,” but the workers reaction was “simply walking over and picking them again.”

On March 27, the tactic was repeated, with Teresa leading the way. As reported by both the Los Angeles Record and the Herald on April 28, 1903, at 7:30 p.m. Teresa “marched” with 23 women to a rail trench at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets. Once there, a group of replacement workers (the Herald says 25, the Record says 50) threw down their tools, climbed out of the trench, and followed the women “to the headquarters of the Mexican federal union at 664 San Fernando Street.” According to the Herald, “members of the union assert that this visit by the women won thirty-eight men” with the “new recruits all admitted to membership at last night’s meeting.” 


Herald, 28 April 1903.
Although there are no direct quotes, the Herald briefly noted, “Santa Teresa addressed a union meeting at the Council of Labor Hall. She urged her countrymen to be true to their pledges to the union but avoid all troubles with authorities.” The latter part of her comment suggests a concern for the safety of the strikers and any potential confrontations with police. It was no secret that powerful Los Angeles civic and business leaders were adamant about maintaining the city’s open-shop (anti-union) reputation.

With the help of replacement workers, police intimidation, and a late-hour cancelled walkout by primarily white PE conductors and motormen, Huntington was able to break the Traquero strike and complete the track line just before the Fiesta took place. However, this pioneering labor-organizing effort by the Mexican track workers proved to be only a precursor to future militant labor activism by Latinos in Los Angeles and throughout California. Though better known for inspiring indigenous resistance movements in pre-revolution Mexico, less known is that Teresa also provided crucial inspiration to a nascent labor movement in one of the most aggressive anti-labor cities in the United States.   

In addition to press stories about her healing practice and labor activism, Teresa’s short-lived and disastrous marriage was well-documented by the time she arrived in Los Angeles to seek a divorce (on the grounds of “desertion and failure to provide”). Curiously, there is no mention in the press of John Van Order, or Teresa’s daughter, Laura, during her stay in Los Angeles. Regardless, some newspaper reports took on a mocking tone during her divorce proceedings, such as this report in the Herald on March 3, 1903: “Santa Teresa took off her halo yesterday while she donned a nice picture hat of the Merode pattern. Ordinarily saints are supposed to be too ethereal to marry, but since (she) was married almost by force at the point of a revolver, her marriage is not to be counted against her sainthood.”


Herald, 26 March 1903.

Such press reports may have been generated by Teresa’s own claims in court that she was forced into the marriage at gunpoint, contradicting Clifton eyewitnesses at the time of her marriage, and previous statements she gave to the press that she left with him freely. But her claim was likely designed to make the court more sympathetic about the circumstances for her request for an immediate divorce. However, the judge ruled the next day there was insufficient grounds to grant a divorce. After their testimony, he was left dissatisfied with the inability of Teresa, her sister, or her brother-in-law to give the court a “good reason” for their failure to make any inquiries about the fate of Guadalupe Rodriguez after he was arrested and jailed. 

Apparently realizing that it was going to be difficult to obtain a divorce in Los Angeles, Teresa left the city at the end of June. On July 1, 1903, the Herald reported that Teresa “has left her place of retirement in Boyle Heights” to “work among her people in Oxnard,” as well as “go to Ventura on a business trip.” By July 24 the L.A. Times briefly noted, “Santa Teresa, the notorious Mexican divine healer is now located in Ventura, where crowds of the poorer classes and many rich as well, call upon her for treatment for all imaginable ills.”


Los Angeles Express, 27 August 1903.
If Teresa had any plans to return to Los Angeles, they went up in flames on Tuesday evening, July 25, when a fire destroyed her Boyle Heights “cottage.” According to the Times of August 27, 1903, “Just as the last streetcar was making its trip, the light of spreading flames was discovered at the rear of the house. Before the fire department arrived, the flames had done great damage. Dashing water soon completed the ruin.” Noting the absence of her healing ministry, the same article claimed, “This strenuous life was a tax on la senorita. The blinds of the cottage were lowered, and the knocks of the sufferers were unheard. Santa Teresa had bled [sic] herself away to the pleasing retreat of Santa Barbara.”

Tomorrow we'll post a short postscript covering what happened to Santa Teresa after she left Boyle Heights, so check back then.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Santa Teresa de Cabora: The Hummingbird's Daughter in Boyle Heights, 1902-1903, Part One


Editor's note:  Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez has again provided another remarkable aspect of Boyle Heights history with this two-part post, including a postscript, on the amazing life of Teresa Urrea (1873-1906), known as Santa Teresa de Cabora.  Famed for her involvement in events with Indians in the Mexican state of Sonora and with followers of hers in Nogales, Mexico, Santa Teresa toured America, including stops in New York and San Francisco, before settling briefly in Boyle Heights in 1902-1903.  This first part looks at her life until coming to Los Angeles.

On October 30, 1902, the Los Angeles Times published a brief article with the headline, “SANTA TERESA APPEARS ON THE SCENE,” describing her as a “Girl Messiah who made a sensation in old Mexico” and now living in East Los Angeles. The article also reported the “young Mexican girl” was overwhelmed by visitors at her home “on the other side of the river,” while further suggesting that they were looking for her to be “healed.” But the article hardly explored the fact that there was much more to this young woman’s exceptional life before her remarkable journey brought her to Boyle Heights in the fall of 1902, where she lived in a small house at the corner of State Street and Brooklyn Avenue (now Avenida César Chávez).

Teresa and her father Tomás Urrea.
Although only marginally known today, Mexican born Teresa Urrea (1873 – 1906), who was mostly identified as Santa Teresa de Cabora, was one of the most widely followed and charismatic figures of her time. Revered as a saint by the indigenous and the poor (but not by the Catholic Church) and exiled from Mexico as a political insurrectionist before she was twenty, she lived most of her adult life in the United States. The subject of a number of books, (two written while she was living), the public today may be more familiar with her through the “novelization” of her incredible and complex, yet short, life in two well-received bestsellers, The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005) and Queen of America (2011), by Pulitzer Prize finalist, and her great-nephew, Luis Urrea.  

The headlie for an article on a "raid" on Nogales made by Santa Teresa adherents, Los Angeles Times, 15 August 1896.

Nevertheless, the story of Santa Teresa de Cabora, and especially the eventful period she spent in Boyle Heights, is little-known today, and in fact, only briefly covered in Urrea’s novels. So before examining that period, it might be helpful to the reader to first highlight the crucial events of her life before she came to Los Angeles. 

María Rebecca Chavez was born on October 15, 1873 in Sinaloa Mexico to Tomás Urrea, a thirty-five-year-old hacendado and fourteen-year-old Cayetana Chavez, a Tehueco Indian who worked as a domestic servant. A staunch critic of the autocratic rule of the Porfirio Díaz regime, Tomás Urrea fled government reprisals in 1880 and moved his ranch operations to Cabora, in the neighboring state of Sonora. 

A portrait of Santa Teresa carried by her followers.
When María was fifteen years-old Don Tomás finally recognized her as his own daughter, moving her into the family home where she took the name, Teresa Urrea. She also developed a close relationship with the elderly ranch curandera named, Huila, who was soon mentoring her eager young student in traditional folk healing and midwifery.   

In 1889, possibly after experiencing a violent sexual assault, Teresa suffered a seizure and then quickly lapsed into a coma. After two weeks, Don Tomás ordered a coffin built, and a rosary be held around the clock until her seemingly impending death. However, during the rosary, Teresa sat up suddenly and said, “I will not be buried in the coffin, but you will need it in three days.” Three days later, Huila was found dead in her room. Teresa remained in a trance-like state for another month before she fully recovered and told those around her the Virgin Mary had appeared to her saying Teresa must use her “healing touch” to help the suffering poor.

An article calling Santa Teresa "the modern Joan of Arc," Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 September 1896.
By late 1891, as word spread about the young “healer” who accepted nothing in 
return, a bustling community of almost a thousand fervent believers routinely camped outside the Cabora Ranch gates, with Teresa seeing two to three hundred visitors a day. While Teresa refrained from sermonizing to the growing crowds, she did openly proclaim that church intermediaries were not needed to converse directly with God. She also expressed her disdain about the amount of money the church extracted from the poor. Considering this heresy, the local clergy called her healing ministry “the work of Satan,” and denounced anyone who believed she was divinely blessed.   

One firm believer was family friend, Lauro Aguirre, another landowner and Díaz critic. After moving to the southwestern United States in 1892, Aguirre published several newspapers advocating the overthrow of the Díaz government while also covertly organizing and funding several armed insurgent campaigns along U.S./Mexican border in the years leading up to the Mexican revolution. He also came to view Teresa as an effective symbol for armed resistance.

Another Joan of Arc reference from the Boston Post, 6 September 1896.
As Santa Teresa fanaticism was spreading during the early 1890s, the Díaz government was undertaking an aggressive campaign to encourage generous foreign investment while also confiscating large parcels of land belonging to the long-exploited Indians of northern Mexico and crushing any kind of resistance. Soon, many Yaqui and Mayo Indians began to view the young, “Santa Teresa de Cabora,” as a symbol of liberation. In 1892, 200 Mayo Indians stormed the nearby town of Navojoa, killing several federal troops as the cry of “Viva Santa Teresa” was heard for the first time. There was no evidence of Teresa’s involvement, but the Mexican government strongly suspected she was now using her growing influence to encourage open rebellion among her followers. Federal troops soon arrived at the Cabora ranch to arrest the nineteen-year-old for acts of sedition.  

Seeking to avoid a larger uprising if she faced a firing squad, Mexican authorities exiled Teresa to the United States, along with her father. They arrived in Nogales, Arizona on July 5, 1892. By coincidence, their newly radicalized family friend  Aguirre also arrived in Nogales about the same time.    

Overseas coverage in The Times (London), 27 September 1896.
       
An event that signified Teresimo as a resistance movement in prerevolution Mexico occurred in December 1892 after a thousand federal troops invaded the Yaqui village of Tomochic, in Chihuahua. Yelling, “Viva Teresita” as they mounted a counter-attack, the few-hundred armed Tomochitecos in the village were massacred by the government’s forces. Afterwards, troops discovered many of the dead were carrying escapularios that signified their allegiance to Santa Teresa. The massacre also inspired the narrative ballad El Corrido de Tomochic, cited as the first corrido of the Mexican revolution.

In early 1896, Don Tomás and Teresa decided to move to El Paso, Texas where their friend, Aguirre was publishing the anti-Diaz newspaper El Independiente. One day Aguirre took a photograph of Teresa, and later printed dozens of postcard-like prints. On August 13, 1896, sixty, armed Yaqui Indians operating in Arizona crossed the border into Mexico and attacked the customs house in Nogales while shouting, “Viva Santa Teresa.” Two guards and seven rebels were killed before the attack collapsed. Mexican authorities later discovered that each of the dead insurrectionists carried one of Aguirre’s prints of Teresa. Fearing possible arrest and extradition back to Mexico, Don Tomás and Teresa left El Paso in September 1896 and retreated to the remote eastern Arizona mining town of Clifton.

Santa Teresa in San Francisco as covered by the Examiner, 27 July 1900.
When Teresa resumed her healing ministry in Clifton, local physician Dr. L. A. Burtch was a frequent visitor who was impressed by the seemingly positive responses to her “healing hands.” Soon, Clifton’s white citizens began seeking her services, including the local banker C. P. Rosencrans, who brought his six-year old son. Partially paralyzed, his son reportedly showed marked improvement within weeks. Teresa was soon a popular and frequent guest of Clifton’s elite white society, becoming particularly close to the family of Juana Van Order, a Mexican woman married to a British mine owner. 

On June 22, 1900, Teresa married mine laborer Guadalupe Rodriguez over the furious objections of Don Tomás. The day after they were married, Rodriguez took her to the train station and demanded that she return with him back to Mexico. Noticing her distress, the sheriff and a group of citizens intervened. Armed with a pistol, Rodriguez fired a few rounds and escaped, but a posse arrested him later that same day. However, the entire episode left Don Tomás deeply bitter, permanently damaging his relationship with his daughter.

An ad from the San Francisco Call, 21 September 1900 for her "private treatments" for all manner of ailments.
In July 1900, Teresa left Clifton to travel to San Jose, California with Mrs. C. P. Rosencrans in order to treat her friend’s gravely ill young son, Alvin Fessler. After a few weeks, his health greatly improved, and within days, several bay area dailies published full-page stories about the “celebrated Mexican healer.” Shortly thereafter, a newly formed medical consortium offered to sponsor Teresa on a national “healing tour,” beginning in early September. Although the company stressed there would be no charge to individuals for her healing services, they reportedly charged all visitors a hefty “entrance fee” without her knowledge.

The tour left San Francisco in January 1901 and headed directly to St. Louis, Missouri, with plans to leave for New York City two months later. While in St. Louis, Teresa wrote to her Clifton friend, Juana Van Order, lamenting about her isolation. Juana immediately sent nineteen-year-old John Van Order, the younger of her two bilingual sons, to accompany Teresa as an interpreter for the rest of the tour.

Santa Teresa sporting a "Gibson Girl" look popular in the first decade of the 20th century.
Shortly after her arrival, the New York Journal declared on March 3, “Santa Teresa, the Fanatical Mexican ‘Miracle Worker’ in New York,” and dedicated an entire page, with photographs, to her arrival. Again, Teresa was soon the darling, or pet, of elite white society, a frequent guest at their favorite restaurants and tony brownstones. Stylishly dressed and coiffed thanks to her public relations minded tour sponsors, Teresa looked more like a Gibson Girl then the humble Mexican healer from Sonora.

She and John Van Order had also become a couple, claiming they were married, although Teresa had not yet divorced Guadalupe Rodriguez. On February 15, 1902, Teresa gave birth to their daughter, Laura Van Order, naming her after her friend and indefatigable newspaper publisher, Lauro Aguirre.

Santa Teresa, described as a "fanatical Mexican 'miracle worker'," in the New York Journal, 3 March 1901.
On September 22, 1902, Teresa received the news that her father, Don Tomás had passed away in Clifton, Arizona. Soon thereafter, Teresa decided to sever her relationship with the medical company and travel directly to Los Angeles. Apparently, Teresa’s primary aim in California was to obtain a divorce as quickly as possible from her then imprisoned husband, Guadalupe Rodriguez.

Check back next week for part two and the postscript of this Rudy's well-researched and written post on Santa Teresa de Cabora.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Boris Deutsch: Modernist Artist in Boyle Heights in the 1920s

Here are excerpts from a Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum blog post about Boris Deutsch, an artist in Los Angeles, who was best known during the 1930s and 1940s.  From his arrival in the city in 1919 until the early 1930s, he lived in Boyle Heights.

S. Boris Deutsch (1892-1978) was a modernist artist (principally painting, but also a creator of ceramics and drawings) of some renown, especially during the 1930s and 1940s.  His figurative works are held in the collections of such prominent museums as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Norton Simon Museum.

Among his most prominent works are a series of murals painted in the Terminal Annex of the Los Angeles post office, an exuberant Spanish Colonial Revival structure opened in 1940 next to the newly completed Union Station.  He also was director of a 35-minute experimental film called Lullaby, created in 1929.

The_Los_Angeles_Times_Sun__Mar_27__1921_
Los Angeles Times, 27 March 1921.
Born to a Jewish family in Krasnagorka, Lithuania, Deutsch was largely self-taught, though he spent some time studying at academies in Riga, Latvia and in Berlin.  In 1916, during the depths of the First World War, he migrated to the United States, living for a few years in Seattle.  By the end of the decade, he was residing in Los Angeles, specifically in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, where many Eastern Europeans, including Jews, resided.

Deutsch 1924 directory
Los Angeles City Directory, 1924, showing Deustsch as living in Boyle Heights in the Prospect Park area.
Deutsch quickly gained attention in the area, including for his portraits of film stars like Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin.  His works were also exhibited locally in galleries and at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art (note the order!), now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.  Traveling exhibitions took his work throughout the west and across the country.

The artist went on to receive further acclaim for his work in Los Angeles during the remainder of the decade, including an interesting 1929 review in the Los Angeles Times that highlighted as work depicting Jews in a way that led the writer, Arthur Millier to state that Deutsch "emerged from the obscurity of Hollnbeck [Boyle] Heights Jewry a few years ago" to become a "painter-genius."  Millier claimed that the artist was "the antithesis of everything the average laymen expects of painting" with a restricted color range of black, white, brown, yellow and dull red "and he uses the paint as a language to express his feelings about the life of his own people."

The critic went to add, remarkably, that

an American only sees the Jew  who developed and manipulates the modern financial system, the Jew who belongs to his own clubs.  Of the rank and file of the racial religious community of Judah he knows nothing.  It is this community Deutsch interprets with masterly skill.

This was because Deutsch was a student of the Talmud and prepared to be a rabbi in his youth and had a fundamental understanding of the deep religious traditions of Judaism.  This included the "dearly-clutched fruits of faith" of the "obscure orthodox people whom he paints with a love" that included "irony and morbidity."

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Los Angeles Times, 22 December 1929.
With the onset of the Works Progress Administration, which hired many artists for projects in public buildings erected by the government agency, Deutsch received many commissions, though his work was not as well-known after World War II.  Still, he continued to pursue his art, including printmaking and monotypes and lived to be in his mid-eighties, dying in Los Angeles in 1978.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A January 1923 issue of "The Siren" from Boyle Heights Junior High

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Here are excerpts from a post on the blog of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, which has several issues of The Siren, the school newspaper of Boyle Heights Junior High, soon renamed Hollenbeck Junior High, from the 1922-23 school year.  A couple of issues of the paper have been highlighted on the Boyle Heights History Blog previously.

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Today's highlighted artifact looks at one of about two dozen issues of the school newspaper from the first volume of the publication during the 1922-23 school year at Boyle Heights Junior High, which was renamed Hollenbeck Junior High a couple of years later and which the school is still called.  The paper is an interesting window into the lives of young adults nearly a century ago.

A major school activity covered in the issue was the student council election.  Most of the positions had five candidates, giving students plenty of options.  Some of the nomination statements were printed in the paper, including this one for Walter Pollock, who was running for president:

He has proved that he is a good scholar, a good athlete, an honest person and one who can be trusted.  His teachers will all vouch for his scholarship and popularity.  The pupils who know him will surely vote for him . . . make it your business to search out Walter and see what he looks like.  If you see and also talk to him, you will find the kind of a boy whom we should have for our president.
Three girls signed a statement promoting the candidacy of Genevieve Petticrew for chairman of Girls' Self-Government, starting off by saying:

There's no need of saying a lot about the girl . . . because when you hear her name you'll know all about her.  But she sure is swell!  Lots of fun, jolly, fair and square, and everybody's friend.  There's an old proverb which says, "Wisdom comes with years."  But as there's an exception to every case, there's one in this.  My candidate isn't so terribly old, but she IS terribly wise.
Another notable article on the front page had to do with an auto accident that took place the prior morning at the intersection of Soto and Sixth streets right in front of the school.  According to the piece, student John Osepian was driving an Essex (there's a make most of us haven't heard!) and claimed that, to avoid hitting some youths riding bikes in the street, he had to accelerate.  Losing control, young Osepian "swerved around the corner suddenly, scraped the telephone pole, and leaped over the curb upon the lawn."  The account concluded, though, with "witnesses, however, claim that he was going at an excessive rate of speed all along Soto street."

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Most of an inner page was devoted to "Ye Classroome Gossipe," with news from the various rooms denoted by number.  Classroom 215, for example, called itself the "wonder classroom" and no wonder!  After all, half of the sixteen-member (that would be eight for you math majors out there) were on the staff of The Siren.  The room boasted more members of the glee and dramatic clubs than other classrooms and reeled off other impressive accomplishments.

By contrast, Classroom 209's correspondent noted that "since almost everyone else seems to be boasting, I think it is time that I do, lest you think we have nothing to boast about."  Two students in the orchestra, three in the glee club, and another in the drama club were highlighted, leading to the conclusion "so you see we have quite a few representatives from good old 209."

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Sports always comprises a major part of any newspaper and this was certainly the case with The Siren, including intramural (meaning contests between classrooms) basketball and volleyball contests.  It is interesting to peruse the scores, compared to, say, my glory days when my junior high team won the Huntington Beach city championship in 7th grade and lost by a mere two points the following year.

Scores were in the 30s, 40s, and 50s in those games from forty years ago, but the Boyle Heights games included a high score of 30 by classroom 106 which did not allow 107 to score a point.  Room 215 outdueled Room 6 in two contests, 24-6 in the first and 19-0 in the second.  Otherwise, teams had a hard time making shots with scores like 11-2; 8-3; 6-0 and the very low tallies of 3-3, 3-2, 2-1 and 0-0.

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Another common feature of school papers was the joke column, called here "Rib Ticklers."  For example, get a load of these examples:

"He makes a nice living from his pen"
"Ink or pig?"
or
"What does this picture bride business mean?"
"They call it that when someone else has picked your bride."
A couple of short examples of fiction and a piece about stamp collecting are other examples from the same page.  Elsewhere there is a cartoon depicting a young man in the stocks with a sign nearby reading "This boy wore his cap in the hall."  An infraction of a school rule like that today probably would not be expressed in quite the same way!

What is not likely to be found in today's counterparts, if they exist at the junior high level and are still in print form, are advertisements from local businesses.  But, The Siren is full of them, including those that are more pertinent to the interests of young adults and those that aren't.

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For example, it's more than a little strange to see an ad for an undertaker, but there is one from Bede Johnson's funeral parlor, located on Whittier Boulevard, just over the city boundary in East Los Angeles.  Or, there's the National Paint and Varnish Company's ad.  It is likely that the ads had to do with parents of students at the school, though.

Otherwise, there are ads for George's Cafe, imploring pupils to "Eat Your Chicken Dinner Saturday and Sunday" at the eatery, also situated on Whittier near Euclid.  Also of interest to young adults would be the latest flickers at the Poppy Theatre at the corner of Breed Street and Brooklyn Avenue, now César Chavez, or at the Olympus, on 1st Street where the Boyle Station of the United States Post Office stands today.

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More issues of The Siren from the Homestead Museum's collection will be featured here, so look for those in the future.