Tuesday, June 17, 2008

San Pedro, Los Angeles, California

Selected Text From Wikipedia:

San Pedro is a beach community within Los Angeles, California, USA. It was annexed in 1909 and is a major seaport of the area. The town has grown from being dominated by the fishing industry to become primarily a working class town within the City of Los Angeles. The name of the town is pronounced "San Pidro" by its residents, even its Hispanic residents, rather than by its Spanish pronunciation.


The site, at the southern end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, on the west side of San Pedro Bay, was used by Spanish ships starting in the 1540s.

Origin of name

San Pedro was named after St. Peter of Alexandria, a 4th century bishop in Alexandria, Egypt. His feast day is November 24 on the local ecclesiastical calendar of Spain, the day on which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the bay in 1542 which would become "San Pedro." Santa Catalina Island, named after St. Katherine of Alexandria, was also claimed for the Spanish Empire the next day, on her feast day, November 25th. In 1602-1603, Sebastián Vizcaíno (1548-1624) officially surveyed and mapped the California coastline, including San Pedro Bay, for New Spain.


Regular settlement began in 1769 as part of the effort to populate California, although trade restrictions encouraged more smuggling than regular business. The Rancho San Pedro is the site of the first Spanish land grant in Alta California, New Spain. The land was granted in 1784 by King Carlos III to Juan Jose Dominguez, a retired Spanish soldier who came to California with the Gaspar de Portolà expedition.

When New Spain won its independence from the Spanish Empire and Alta California became part of Mexico, the trade restrictions were lifted, and the town flourished. Under United States control after 1848, when the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American war, the harbor was greatly improved and expanded under the guidance of Phineas Banning. San Pedro became a major port of the West Coast and is now the busiest port in the country.

In 1888, the War Department took control of a tract of land next to the bay and added to it in 1897 and 1910. This became Fort MacArthur in 1914 and was a coastal defense site for many years. Many other facilities were established in the San Pedro area, and it was a popular port of call for U.S. Navy ships, especially during World War II. The town became a well known watering hole for sailors and Marines during leave and established a reputation as a rough-and-tumble town.

Los Angeles Annexation

In 1906, the City of Los Angeles annexed a long narrow strip of land connecting the city to the coast, and in 1909, the city annexed San Pedro and the adjacent town of Wilmington. The odd shape is still seen in the map of the city.

Port of Los Angeles

San Pedro, Wilmington, and Terminal Island are the locations of the Port of Los Angeles.

Demographic history

Ethnically diverse, San Pedro was a magnet for European immigrants from various countries for years, reflected in the number of restaurants representing diverse cuisines, especially Croatian, Portuguese, Mexican, Italian, and Greek. San Pedro is home to the largest Italian-American community in Southern California, centered on the "Via Italia" (South Cabrillo Avenue). Estimates state that the community numbers about 45,000 Italian-Americans. San Pedro is also considered the heart of the Croatian community in Los Angeles. This community, originally comprised of seafarers and fishermen from the Dalmatia (especially the islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis and Korčula) region, has been present in San Pedro since the settlement began more than 200 years ago. The City of Los Angeles even named a stretch of 9th Street "Croatian Place" in honor of the city's old Croatian community. There are reportedly more than 35,000 Croats in San Pedro, making it the biggest Croatian community on the Pacific.

A large portion of San Pedro is also composed of Mexican-Americans with long-time roots in the community, Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants, and African-Americans. Much of their populations are based in the older, east side of the community surrounding the downtown area and bordering the Port of Los Angeles.

Until February 1942, San Pedro was home to a vibrant Japanese immigrant community of about 3,000 people who lived in what had been described as a" typical Japanese Fishing Village" on Terminal Island (East San Pedro).

These Japanese immigrants pioneered albacore fishing out of San Pedro Bay and harvesting abalone off of White Point,thus leading the way in establishing a viable fishing industry in San Pedro.

The 48-hour forced expulsion of these San Pedro residents and the razing of their homes and shops, as part of the Japanese-American internment during World War II, is described in Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's memoir Farewell to Manzanar.

Ethnicity & race

(Population 72,146) The racial make up of San Pedro according to the 2000 U.S. Census data is 63.02% Caucasian (Croatian, Italian, Hispanic-Whites, Middle Eastern) 18.45% Black, 1.02% American Indian and Alaska Native alone, 4.78% Asian, 0.40% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, 18.02% some other race, and 6.30% two or more races. Separate from those statistics, 12.14% of "Caucasians" identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and 20.41% as "Caucasian" alone, not Hispanic or Latino.

Wikipedia: San Pedro [with more information & links]


One local wrote: "People are not ashamed to admit Pedro is a blue-collar town. Its roots run deep in the longshoring and fishing industry."

I have never visited San Pedro, but it sounds like it's situated in a very interesting location. I would recommend finding some of the very interesting images online of this Port of Los Angeles neighborhood. I wasn't able to find all the ones I had before, at the time of this entry. It's like an old downtown, coastal port district, with charming old houses from another era.

He also wrote: "San Pedro is home to the largest Italian-American community in Southern California. Most Italian residents are from Ischia or Sicily" (in descent).

Having heard of the Italian-American community there, and being in California, I had always just assumed that it was primarily Ligurian/Tuscan. However, it appears that it was basically Sicilians and Southern Italians who migrated to some small parts of Los Angeles, and also to the "Little Italy" in San Diego. I'm not sure about Fresno.


San Pedro Bay Historical Society

The Homes of San Pedro


The link "The Homes of San Pedro" gives some further idea of the flavor of the district I think. I would like to visit there sometime. I wish I had more time to delve into this deeper. It's very interesting. I'm not really sure how much we have in common with San Pedro. It sounds somewhat like North Beach's history. The Genoese fisherman, who later were replaced by the Sicilian fisherman. Also, the canneries, the longshoreman, etc. Come to think of it, it also seems similar to Monterey, California.

Lastly, I almost forgot, there was a book written about San Pedro entitled 'Yugoslavs and Italians in San Pedro: Political culture and civic involvement' [Nicholas P. Lovrich; 1977]. I recall hearing about this book before I was even aware of San Pedro. Before there was an internet. It appears that this is a hard book to get. If anyone has read this, please give a short review if possible. I'm a little bit all over the place with this entry, because there is so much to learn and so many connections that I feel I'm not doing some of these subjects justice! I keep saying that I will get back to them, but so far I haven't. Lets keep gathering information.

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