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

"Most of the people who were born there are dead," Cuca suddenly said.

"But it's part of history," Clara shoots back. "And it should be noted. Instead, people want to forget us."

To remember, Clara drives her mother through the streets of what was the Bastanchury Ranch—"what's now a bunch of rich people's homes," she cracks. "Mom always appreciates going down Gilbert [Street] and Euclid [Avenue]. To see the cactus."

It's spring again, and the hills of Fullerton are blooming. Native shrubs like coyote brush, Southern willow scrub and California sagebrush feature new branches; flowering plants like yellow sun cups, purple phacelia and orange monkeyflowers bloom. Hikers and bikers zip along trails and streets, most ending up at Laguna Lake Park off Euclid.

Across the street is the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve, a fenced-off section of the West Coyote Hills that developers have long eyed to turn into more ranch-style homes. This is the heart of what was the Bastanchury Ranch—and from the parking lot of Sunny Hills Church of Christ you can see the earth alive with the new shoots of prickly pear cactus.

It was near here where the Ranch schoolhouse existed, here where its workers came to trim the nopalitos that grew anew every spring, where a community lived and loved and learned. And it's these cacti that nearly everyone interviewed about the Ranch—from Arletta Kelly to Druzilla Mackey, Elsie Carlson to Cuca Morales, and so many more—brought up as the sole surviving remnant of the Bastanchury Mexicans, the sight always prompting them to recall the forgotten past.

Those memories never made any Orange County narratives. Although mentions of the Ranch colonias dot the COHP archives, only a few people ever access them. Those who lived through its demise mostly kept their memories to themselves, saving photos in albums not available to the public. No full examination of the Bastanchury Mexicans exists: the only two academic texts to even mention them are Gilbert G. González's seminal 1994 study of Orange County's Mexican orange pickers, Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County, 1900-1950, and Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez's Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s—and the former only devotes a few paragraphs, while the latter has but a sentence.

But if the Ward Nature Preserve's colonies of cacti are the last-standing legacy of the lost Mexicans of the Bastanchury Ranch, then it's an almost cosmic landmark. The nopal is the ultimate metaphor for Mexicans, displayed on the Mexican flag as a reminder of who they are. It's a plant that grows best in inhospitable conditions where little else can exist, one you can hack at but will still give, still thrive. And there on the Fullerton hills, long after the decline of the Ranch and the scattering of the Bastanchury Mexicans, the cactus plants stand sentry 80 years later, the most beautiful, nourishing memorial imaginable.


« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
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

 
Loading...