Rewriting Anaheim History

Earlier this morning, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle dedicated a star on the city's Walk of Stars to the Yorba family, descendants of José Antonio Yorba, one of Orange County's earliest non-Catholic Church landowners. Who cares? you say? Anaheim's Walk of Stars is just a shameless effort to piggyback on the success of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. True. But with the rewarding of a star to the Yorbas, the Anaheim history books get rewritten just a twee bit to suit Orange County's lords.


According to the Walk of Stars' criteria, anyone honored with a star “must have, by their presence in this area, contributed to the charm, worldwide prominence and name recognition of Anaheim, California.” And that's the problem: the Yorbas have done little toward that effort–at least, historically. Anaheim was founded by German settlers who bought property from Juan Pacifico Ontiveros in 1857 from his Rancho San Juan Cajón de Santa Ana. None of the Yorba ranchos–Santiago de Santa Ana, Cañon de Santa Ana, and Lomas de Santiago–were within Anaheim's boundaries in those days. It wouldn't be until Anaheim incorporated Anaheim Hills in the second-half of the 20th century that former Yorba land entered the city limits–and by then, the Yorba name meant little except to those antiquarians who love the county's Spanish past but pay no regard to its Spanish-speaking present.

So why did Anaheim reward a star to the Yorbas? Besides the fact that the family paid more than $15,000 as required by the Walk of Stars, it allows city leaders to move the focus of Anaheim's history away from its historical center and toward the far-wealthier hills, however tenuously. And even then, the Yorbas' only real connection to Anaheim is Yorba Park. If any city should honor the Yorbas, it's Yorba Linda, where the family keeps its cemetery. But naming yourself after a city is recognition enough, ¿qué no?

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