Skip to comments.El Monte turns down Confederate Veterans
Posted on 10/21/2002 8:30:32 PM PDT by stainlessbanner
The city bustles with sounds and smells that match the diversity of its residents.
Taco stands and Chinese restaurants are heavily scattered throughout El Monte and the sounds of Latin music filter from vehicles sitting at stoplights.
But El Monte has not always been the picture of multiculturalism.
Peppered with a past of intolerance, segregation and white supremacy, El Monte has come a long way from its early beginnings. And city officials want to keep it that way.
Recently when the national nonprofit organization Sons of Confederate Veterans asked if it could place a plaque at Pioneer Park on Santa Anita Avenue to honor 14 soldiers from El Monte who fought for the confederacy, city officials dismissed it.
"In my 33 years here in El Monte I have heard a lot of history stories and I never heard this one before,' City Manager Harold Johanson said. "It seemed unusual to me ... and if they were Confederate that could be a little divisive.
"Why do we even want to bother with something like that in El Monte.'
Southern sympathizers in El Monte?
Absolutely, says Dr. Rowland R. King, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who had been corresponding with the Department of Parks and Recreation to get the plaque approved.
"El Monte was a southern town,' King said. "People have had the false information that nothing took place in California (during the Civil War) and that it was completely in the backwater ... but there was a lot of action in this state.'
King, a Lancaster resident, said the Confederate veterans are a historical, nonpolitical, patriotic organization dedicated to ensuring the true history of 1861-1865 is preserved.
"It's propaganda that has been spread throughout the years and by others,' he said. "We are very positive about our people ... 96 percent of the Confederate soldiers did not own a slave ... they felt they were defending their homeland.'
King said the location where they would like to put the historic plaque is in the exact area where the members of the California Volunteers, El Monte Battalion, Confederate States Army were training to become a powerful cavalry that would join Gen. H. Sibley in the New Mexico territory.
The Confederate soldiers trained in El Monte from July to November 1861. They headed to the Colorado River in late November but were captured on Nov. 29 near Temecula by Union soldiers, according to King.
The 14 soldiers were held at a camp until April 1862. They were then released and some found their way South to fight for the Confederacy.
"We are proud of our veterans and we try to tell it the way it is,' King said. "There are still some reservations about us, people believe that the war was only fought over slavery.'
King and the organization claim they are only history buffs trying to preserve a part of El Monte's past.
But with El Monte's past involving the Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacy groups, city and civic officials are not eager to reclaim this part of history.
"El Monte used to be a rough town,' said Donna Crippen, curator for the El Monte Historical Museum. "It was the wild, wild, west here.'
Up until the late 1970s the headquarters for the Nazi Party was on Peck Road. It was burned down when a fire bomb was thrown at the building, police said.
"Someone was shot at there, tear gas was thrown into the building and then the building burned down and that was the end of that,' said Sgt. Gerry Magana, who was then a reserve officer for El Monte Police Department.
Police Lt. Ken Alva said as a child growing up in the East San Gabriel Valley he remembers seeing a group of Neo-Nazis driving up and down Peck Road and up to Myrtle Avenue, waving Confederate flags and American flags, trying to recruit new members.
In the '60s, the El Monte Church of the Covenant of Jesus Christ even had a minister affiliated with the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The church shared a building with the American Nazi Party.
But moving into the late 1970s and early 1980s, El Monte's evolution began with the rapid influx of the Latino and Asian population. Soon, biker bars and western clothing stores closed up shop and businesses reflecting the diverse demographics replaced them.
Today, El Monte is home to 116,000 residents with 70 percent of them Latino and about 10 percent Asian. Three out of five council members are Latino and the city is working with a nonprofit organization to get a large museum built to display the history of the Latino population in El Monte.
City officials believe that even if El Monte was home to Confederate soldiers it should all stay in the past.
"My first reaction to this was 'Why?' it's not like they were heroes,' Johanson said.
@tagline Cindy Arora can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2720, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We need a Museum, but no plaque for you guys....