Thursday, November 12, 2015

When Los Angeles enslaved the Natives (audio)

Frances Dinkelspiel, John Rabe (Off-Ramp); Xochitl, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly
Caucasian ally Lana Del Rey sings in traditional Native American headdress ("Ride").

Tangled Vines (Native history in L.A.)
"Los Angeles had its slave mart, as well as New Orleans and Constantinople -- only the [Native American] slave at Los Angeles was sold [weekly] fifty-two times a year as long as he lived, which generally did not exceed one, two, or three years, under the new dispensation."
- Horace Bell, 19th century L.A. newspaper publisher
If we didn't already know, most of us would not be surprised to find out that Southern California was a major grape-growing center in the 1800's and that the region produced a lot of alcohol.
Natives overtaken by imperial Spain.
Given the grotesque human rights abuses involved in California's wine industry, which began 175 years ago, maybe it's best Los Angeles isn't celebrating this particular slice of its history:

In 1840, a Frenchman named Jean Louis Vignes (pronounced vines) shipped barrels of wine made from his Los Angeles vineyard to Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco. The trip is regarded as the first commercial shipment of wine in California, a baby step that would eventually lead to today's $25 billion industry.
There are just a few reminders now of Los Angeles's significant role in the development of the California wine business, which it dominated until 1890....But Los Angeles has covered up more of its wine history than it has preserved. Union Station, for example, sits on top of... More

Wine and L.A.'s unimaginable history of abuse
"Susan, this might be just the wine talking, but I think I want to order more wine."

Peter, let's eat a dead turkey and get drunk.
Ten years ago today, a massive fire broke out in the Wines Central wine warehouse in Vallejo, California. Within hours, flames had destroyed 4.5 million bottles of California wine worth more than $250 million, making it the largest destruction of wine in history. The fire had been deliberately set by a passionate oenophile [wine-lover] named Mark Anderson...

The "Indians" of Los Angeles
The history of the California wine trade, dating back to the 19th Century, is a story of vineyards with dark and bloody pasts, tales of rich men, strangling monopolies, the brutal enslavement of vineyard workers and murder. Five of the wine-trade murders were associated with [the author's great-great grandfather] Isaias Hellman's vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga beginning with the killing of John Rains, who owned the land at the time. He was shot several times, dragged from a wagon, and left off the main road for the coyotes to devour.

In her new book, Frances Dinkelspiel looks beneath the casually elegant veneer of California's wine regions to find the obsession, greed, and violence underneath. Few people sipping California wine can even guess at the "Tangled Vines" where such alcohol began. More

Drawing of Jean Louis Vignes' wine establishment in 1831 (L.A. Public Library).

There's Vignes Street, after all, and those ancient vines growing at the Avila Adobe on L.A.'s oldest street, Olvera Street. And there's San Antonio Winery, although that came along much later.
In fact, this history goes back 175 years, as journalist and Berkeley historian Frances Dinkelspiel wrote on LA Observed.
"Maybe it's no surprise that Los Angeles is ignoring the 175th anniversary milestone since aspects of the city's early involvement with wine were reprehensible. While many people know that [genocidal Catholic saint] Father Junipero Serra and the Franciscan fathers treated the Native Americans badly during the Mission era, virtually enslaving them to plant vineyards and harvest and press grapes, few realize that the Californios and Americans who flooded the state during the Gold Rush treated them even worse. Los Angeles gets special mention for the harsh and punitive laws it enacted to force Native Americans to make [alcohol]."
It's part of the story she tells in her new book Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, which weaves family and local history to tell a story we should be aware of or know much better.
1865: Vignes orchard and vineyard at Downey Ave. and Hansen St. (Frank Schumacher/LAPL/Security Pacific National Bank Collection)

Listen to this Nov. 4, 2015 "Off-Ramp" interview ( FM) to discover how state and local officials collaborated with local businessmen to enslave local natives and deprive them of life and liberty and how it kept them working without pay or personal freedom.
FRANCES DINKELSPIEL is an award-winning journalist living in Berkeley, California, author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller named a Best Book of the Year by the Chronicle and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. Dinkelspiel is the co-founder of the news site Berkeleyside (YouTube), and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, People, San Francisco Magazine, and other publications.

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