The Lost Mexicans of the Bastanchury Ranch

80 years ago, officials deported hundreds of Fullerton residents—and Orange County has tried to forget ever since

A community grew. The 1920 census showed only a few Mexicans living on the Ranch; by the 1930 census, the official count was 411. It had grown so much that the U.S. Census Bureau gave the Bastanchurys their own designated tract, split into six colonias: Tia Juana, Mexicali, Escondido, Coyote, Santa Fe and San Quintín, which some ominously called El Hoyo—The Hole. Tia Juana was the largest, then Mexicali, and they were around what's now Laguna Lake Park in Fullerton; the rest gravitated near what's now St. Jude Hospital. Stand-alone shacks remained dotted throughout the Ranch.

"I think they were very happy people, really, they lived a very simple life, but it was probably somewhat better than the life they lived in Mexico," Kelly said, and the Mexicans made do with what they had. Though the houses were downtrodden, they were well kept, with gardens of flowers and vegetables prettying the environment. Mothers sent their children off to school scrubbed clean and dressed in their Sunday best. During the major Mexican holidays—Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos—the colonias held their own private celebrations or traveled together to Placentia and Los Angeles to partake in bigger ones. A monthly dance was held at the schoolhouse, and the Americanization teachers frequently presented their Mexican pupils to the Fullerton population at large as proof of their good work, affairs that earned approving write-ups in the Fullerton News Tribune and the Santa Ana Register. No one was an illegal immigrant; all the Bastanchury Mexicans were either American citizens or sponsored by their hosts, with most originating from Tepic, Jalisco.

This bucolic life couldn't last. In October 1931, at the height of the Great Depression, the Bastanchurys shocked Orange County by announcing they had debts of $2 million and were placing their beloved Ranch into a receivership. The celebrated citrus grove wasn't producing; it turned out that the soil on the Ranch wasn't conducive to large-scale, long-term growing, just as the old-timers had tried to tell the Bastanchurys.

But something more nefarious had infested the Ranch as well. In just three years, Orange County politicians had gone from begging Congress for more Mexican labor to demanding that those workers give up their jobs, homes and lives to whites and return to Mexico. By 1931, federal agents were raiding barrios and colonias across Southern California, rounding up legal residents and American citizens of Mexican descent alike, and deporting them to Mexico; upon arriving, the Mexicans were forced to give up their legal papers allowing entry back into the States. Taking a kinder approach, church, civic and business groups asked Mexicans to leave, vowing to pay their train fare. Even the Mexican Consulate, not wishing to anger their American neighbors, organized return trips back, with promises of jobs that somehow never materialized.

Without the family's patronage, the Bastanchury Mexicans were threatened. In the fall of 1932, the Mexican Consulate helped to organize a meeting in Fullerton to figure out how immigrants could stave off repatriation. The government's deportation campaigns had begun in Orange County, organized by the local Department of Welfare. The consulate's Orange County representative, Santa Ana resident Lucas Lucio, accompanied deported Mexicans from the Santa Ana train station to Union Station in Los Angeles, where he would then join them on a Southern Pacific train to El Paso to ensure they weren't further abused. Even 45 years later, in an interview with a professor, the experience made Lucio shudder.

"At the station in Santa Ana, hundreds of Mexicans came and there was quite a lot of crying," he said. "The men were pensive and the majority of the children and mothers were crying." Lucio told the story of how on one trip, when the train didn't stop in El Paso but rather proceeded into Juarez, there was "a terrible cry... many did not want to cross the border ... a disaster, because the majority of the families were separated. There was no way for anyone to try to leave the train or run or complete their desire to return to the United States."

In February of 1933, the Bastanchurys' empire was auctioned from the steps of the Orange County Courthouse and put under new management; within five days, a hundred unemployed white men swarmed the Ranch, confident white ownership would give them a job. The era of the Bastanchury Mexicans was about to end.

Sometime that spring, new management and a consortium of white business, political and civic leaders went to the Ranch's schoolhouse and told the Mexicans they had to leave. "The Americanization centers in which these people had been taught how to buy homes and make themselves a part of the American community," Mackey wrote 18 years later, "were now used for calling together assemblages in which county welfare workers explained to bewildered audiences that their small jobs would now be taken over by the white men, that they were no longer needed nor wanted in these United States." As a last-ditch effort, she paraded her Americanization students in front of a men's civic group as she always had, desperately trying to show that the Bastanchury Mexicans were worthy of staying. But it didn't work.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
51 comments
mpetbast
mpetbast

I have to say I am a Bastanchury.  My father was Michael and Grandfather John B..  It is a very interesting article and the immigration issue is still very relevant today. Nice article on the workers which made the ranch a success.


The only item which needs further investigation is the oil portion.  I have notes and information which show that the oil rights were signed off to Standard Oil - unknowingly by the family.  


Maybe you have something else I am not aware of?

teres4u
teres4u

I own an adobe house in a part of land that is used to be from the Bastanchury Family, but is not historical. even that I found a written history in the library. 

is located in the corner of Carhart and Basque where the hill starts,between Gilbert and Euclid

spokkersan
spokkersan

This article was written just in time for my own research into my ancestry.

I found the WWI draft card of my great-grandfather (great-grandfather on my patriline). On it, his employer is listed as "Bastanchury Ranch" and his occupation is listed as laborer. As best as I can read the handwriting, his permanent address is listed as "Box 162 Gen. Delivery, Fullerton, Orange, Calif." and Gen. Delivery is crossed out. 

I don't know if he was deported or not, but I found him in the 1940 Census living in Brea, CA. According to the document, he was also living in Brea in 1935. I can see my grandfather listed as one of his children. By 1940 he was a fruit picker and made just over $800 that year. His birthplace was listed as Mexico, he had five children and a California-born wife.

Thanks for the article. I know you from your appearances on the Tom Leykis Show and immediately recognized the name on the article. I think I am going to research this some more, but I can't seem to go further than him because the record for his parents are incomplete. All I have to go on for his death certificate is his mother's last name. It shows that he died in 1989, amazingly enough. My dad confirmed the year.

pbastanchury
pbastanchury

This article ROCKED!  Thank you so much for giving such a great account of what life was REALLY like during my family's heyday on the ranch (Gaston Bastanchury was my grandfather).  Its a great purgative to offset the accounts of the time that I've received from relatives.  Bravo!

okiemex
okiemex

My mother and her side of the family are from Tepic. I had heard stories like this from my father when I was a boy. My father was born in La Habra in 1914 so he was around at the time. I used to love the smell of the sage brush and nopales and other indigenous plants in the spring after it rained. I live in Oklahoma now and miss it very much. Thanks for writing this for me to share with my children.

jl641
jl641

Illegals should be deported. They have no permission to be here.

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

One of my favorite Orange County history stories of Mexicans is the story of the bandit Juan Flores and how we have a peak in Santiago Cyn named after him. His incredible bloody escape in a boat from San Quentin under a barrage of rifle and canon fire, his career of banditry in the OC area, his takeover of San Juan Capistrano, his declaration of a revolucion to rid California of the hated gringos, his ambush and murder of the LA Sherriff Barton and deputies, the subsequent manhunt where he was tracked down by Don Sepulveda, escape from a trap, and finally tumbling down a precipice on the run and falling into a gringo camp and captured. And escaped from his bindings at night and got away again. After closing all of the So Cal passes and canyons, he and the rest of the gang were finally captured by the Andrés Pico posse and subsequent well-deserved hanging in L.A.

waltersmall
waltersmall

I missed the part about when the Mexicans were captured in Mexico and forced to come North to work?

fc2479
fc2479

Who cares....what a stupid story

132bpm
132bpm

Thank-you.

We can understand our world better when we know it's past.

NGCoot
NGCoot

@GA - Where can I get good nopalitos con puerco verde? - nothing from a can or jar will do. There used to be a place in Dana Point on PCH - but it is run by different people now or they have a new cook who can't do it right.

Janis S. Hunter
Janis S. Hunter

I have trouble finding places to pick one up that are within walking distance of my house and where the stand is outside, because I usually have my dog with me (I live in Old Town Tustin). I can usually find it at Whimzy, if I get there when they're open. BTW, where's Dan Savage? :-(

gottaknow247
gottaknow247

Nicely done Gustavo.  It would be nice if OCW could include overlaying maps of where the colonies were located.  A tiny fraction of former ranch is part of my neighborhood now and I am fascinated by the historical aspects of the story.  An in-depth story of Bastonchury and the other immigrant land barons of the post Civil War period of OC would be appreciated.  Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

carlashworth
carlashworth

I work with one of the descendents of the Bastanchury family. He told me the Bastanchury's did not associate much with the Anglos of Fullerton because they disliked them. The Bastanchurys were good friends with the Yorbas.

ConstanceComment
ConstanceComment

That was an interesting, sad and well-written story.  I'm fighting tears over having learned that even legal Mexican immigrants can be considered disposable.  The Depression meant tough times for most Americans, sure, but when it ended the white pickers left the groves and had to be replaced by illegal immigrants from, guess where?

Ladya Oo
Ladya Oo

I never see stands anywhere, except outside Proof Bar and I can't just stop and grab one as I drive by.

Laura Luevano
Laura Luevano

i went to go pick up my copy earlier today...but found the stand empty. i felt empty inside.

fishslayer1
fishslayer1

Profe', an enlightening article to say the least. My Grandfather and cousins lived in "La Jolla" on Pio Pico and La Jolla Ave. The old De Casas compound on La Jolla and Melrose, my uncle Pio De Casas, my Grandfather's nephew.. They worked for decades in this area, Pio establishing a large farm growing,turnips, strawberries, carrots. As his family grew so did the compound, adding houses to the main house to accomadate the new additions. All that to say that from time to time the De Casas clan would have parties and on Kramer across from the reservoir(Tri-City Park) a large Bastanchury grove house stood. I don't know who it specifically belonged to but, they would allow my Grandfather and all to party on the grounds. I was born in '51 so this was circa '59-'62, I remember with great detail that house and it's grove surrounding the area, seemingly stretching forever. I could go on but I won't here, thanks for all you do! 

Phil A. Montano/Damien Montano's Dad

Erk Audelo Leon
Erk Audelo Leon

Muy interesante profe. ¡Chingón! Ahora veo la importancia de salvar la historia de cualquier manera posible. Se aventó con esta columna.

russellcontreras
russellcontreras

This was a very strong story and it opened my eye to some interesting history of the OC that I did not know. Look forward to seeing more pieces like this. 

Kevin Miguel Carranza
Kevin Miguel Carranza

Even tho I had a good maestro in my Chicano History class in college I am still consumed with your writing. When I'm in SoCal I'm looking you up. Thank you for this history lesson.

whatevas
whatevas

Although I don't always agree with you Gustavo on everything, this article should be on column one of the OC Register. I will show this to the computer class I teach in the inner city of LA on weekends to high light the fact that we still have apartheid like structures in America, especially in Los Angeles. Great article.



Eddie_Patino
Eddie_Patino

This article should be used as a tool at local schools to teach students the real history that went on in their own back yards, Orange County, not the "romanticized " version of it. Great piece on local history. 

pinkhotmami
pinkhotmami

So much suffering, all legal & still deported? Makes me sad.

Thank you, for this gives me a little

more knowledge on our roots.

Agree, it's an excellent article! Hope to see more like this soon

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

So, cheap labor was as harmful then as it is now. And, as the Bastanchury's bankruptcy shows, it is unsustainable to boot. 

jesselatour
jesselatour

Excellent article, Gustavo!  As a teacher at two local colleges, I deeply appreciate this kind of in-depth coverage of local history and how the past still resonates today.  

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

Deporting illegals is what all countries do. Go to Mexico and tell them you have a right to live there as long as you want and are just going to mooch off their meager social services. See how long before they deport you. 

Prugg
Prugg

Gaston Bastanchury was my Grandfather as well!. He also was born in the same city, went to the same High School as I & was also a Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother, though he died before I was born. Many similarities with my Mom's Dad. My mother was Mexican as well.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@JGlanton Further proof of your idiocy. Flores didn't have a "bloody escape," didn't have a "career of banditry," never declared a "revolucion to rid California of the hated gringos" and never had a gang to begin with. But nice to know you prefer lynchings to due process!

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@gottaknow247 That's the problem: the only maps of the Bastanchury Ranch are big-ass things that can't be overlaid on anything...yet!

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@Kevin Carranza Gracias!

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@whatevas You should always agree with me, and Column One is part of the LA Times! Gracias for the kind words!

ritamg
ritamg

@vegandawg23 clueless

rayesc
rayesc

@ritamg Very, and while the climate today is very different than then, @vegandawg23 's comment shows the ignorance by so many. Not supporting a free-for-all, but not a supporter of ignorance either.

ritamg
ritamg

@fulltimevillain @ritamg I agree with you 100%. Don't want a free-for-all either, but the public should be educated about immigrants and social services. They tend to avoid them. They pay more in taxes than what they use. And, yes, although not all pay taxes, many do@fulltimevillain @ritamg @vegandawg23

 
Anaheim Concert Tickets
Loading...