Filipino Founder of Los Angeles

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by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

Did he or didn’t he? Was he or wasn’t he? The name of Antonio Miranda Rodriguez has become controversial among LA historians because it raises a lot of questions. Some historians claim that he is one of the founders of the city of Los Angeles. If so, why isn’t his name found in the plaque honoring the 11 founders of the City of Los Angeles at the El Pueblo Historical Monument, nor in the marker that was put up by the Los Angeles Historical Commission? Another mystery that is of great interest to Filipinos is Antonio Rodriguez’ ancestry. Many say he is Filipino; one historian said he is a “Chino” (Although Miranda and Rodriguez don’t actually sound Chinese); others say he is of Spanish descent.

“When you google “founders of Los Angeles”, the first site you’ll see is from which says “ On September 4, 1781, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles was founded by 44 pobladores from New Spain, now called Mexico. The heads of the eleven founding families were Antonio Clemente Villavicencio, a Spaniard; Antonio Mesa, a Negro; Jose Fernando Lara, a Spaniard, Jose Vanegas, an Indian; Pablo Rodriquez, an Indian; Manuel Camero, a Mulatto; Jose Antonio Navarro, a Mestizo; Jose Moreno, a Mulatto; Basillio Rosas, an Indian; Alejandro Rosas, an Indian; and Luis Quintero, a Negro.”

No mention of Rodriguez. But if you go to, the site of the Los Angeles Almanac, you will find, at the bottom of the list of the 11 LA founders and their families, this very interesting paragraph.

“A twelfth settler, Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, a 50-year-old Filipino, and his 11 year-old daughter were also slated to settle in the new pueblo. They set out with the rest of the pobladores in early 1781 en route to their new home. While in Baja California, however, they were among those who fell ill to smallpox and remained there for an extended time to recuperate. When they finally arrived in Alta California (the present-day State of California), it was discovered that Miranda Rodriguez was a skilled gunsmith. He was subsequently reassigned to the Santa Barbara Presidio in 1782 to be an armorer.”

This story about a Filipino being among the original founders from Mexico is also mentioned by other historians. Among the sources where we can find that Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was indeed of Filipino ancestry and made it to found Los Angeles after a brief delay from smallpox are the following:

William Mason, curator, History Division, Los Angeles County Museum
Americans of Filipino Descent – FAQs* by Eloisa Gomez Borah. Reference Librarian, UCLA
Los Angeles Almanac, edited by Gary Thornton
Cultural Diversity in the United States, by Larry Naylor
Eric Garcetti’s* Our Pacific Destiny

Author Eloisa Gomez Borah wrote a chronology of Filipinos in America Pre-1898 to talk about that time when Filipinos first came to America. She mentioned that Filipinos,

often referred to as Luzon Indians or Manila Men then, were on sailing ships on the world’s seas and oceans from the earliest of times, even before the Manila Galleon Trade years of 1565-1815.* Borah gave the following examples of Filipinos who went to America prior to 1898,when the Philippines was still under Spain.
– Indios Luzones landing in Morro Bay, California in 1587
– Filipinos shipwrecked near San Francisco Bay in 1595
– a village of Manila Men on the ourskirts of New Orleans, Louisiana in 1763
– Filipinos with Fr. Junipero Serra at the founding of the mission at Monterey in 1779
– Antonio Miranda Rodriquez among those chosen to settle in Los Angeles in 1781

Another source confirming Rodriguez’ Filipino ancestry and significant part in the founding of Los Angeles is Eric Garcetti’s Our Pacific Destiny, where he wrote,
“Our city’s links with Asia are deep and old-as old as the city itself. Our region’s first residents were Asian immigrants, most likely from Siberia. In 1781, a Spanish subject of Filipino heritage, Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, joined 43 other pobladores to trek to the area that became El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora, la Reina de los Angeles.”

In the book, From the Mountains to the Sea by John Steven McGroarty, copyright 1921,Volume I, page 30, we also find this listing of the founders of LA: “Josede Lara, Spaniard, 50 years of age, wife Indian, 3 children; Jose Antonio Navarro, mestizo, 42 years, wife mulattress, 3 children; Basilio Rosas, Indian, 68 years, wife mulattress, 6 children; Antonio Mesa, negro, 38 years, wife a mulattress, 2 children; Antonio (Felix) Vilavicencio,Spaniard, 30 years, wife Indian; Jose Vanegas, Indian, 28 years, wife Indian, 1 child; Alejandro Rosas, Indian, 19 years, wife coyote (Indian); Pablo Rodriguez, Indian, 25 years, wife Indian, 1 child; Mamuel Camero, mulatto, 30 years, wife mulatress; Luis Quintero, negro, 55 years, wife mulattress, 5 children; Jose Moreno, mulatto, 22 years, wife mulattress; Antonio Miranda, chino, 50 years, 1 child.” McGroarty wrote this about Miranda- “ historians dispute among themselves as to whether Antonio Miranda, who was listed as a ‘chino’ was a Chinaman.”

William Mason, curator of the History Division, Los Angeles County Museum, also did a research on this topic and wrote the following: 1781- Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, 50-year old, born in Sonora, Mexico, a descendant of a “Manila Man,” and his daughter, Juana Maria, age 11, were among the founding settlers of the city of Los Angeles, California. He later became the ironsmith of the Santa Barbara Mission in California where he lived until his death. He is buried in the Santa Barbara Mission church.
Based on the above sources, there is really the huge probability that one of the founders of Los Angeles is a true-blooded Pinoy. Already, there have been some people who cited the need to give Antonio Miranda Rodriguez his long-overdue place in official history. But proof may not be that easy to get, unless Mexico has centuries-old archives that can attest to Rodriguez being a part of the original group which set out for Los Angeles.…f-los-angeles/



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