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Nov 29th
Home Sections History How the Hoax About a “Filipino” Cofounder of L.A. Started. And Cofounder (sic) Wasn't Even Filipino?
How the Hoax About a “Filipino” Cofounder of L.A. Started. And Cofounder (sic) Wasn't Even Filipino? PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - History
Monday, 15 October 2007 01:52

By Bobby M. Reyes

In the late 1980s when the venerable Filipino-American historian, Hector Santos, was working at Northrop, one of his fellow employees introduced him to his niece. She was a descendant of the Pobladores (the acknowledged founders of the City of Los Angeles). She was active in the organization which does an annual reenactment of the walk from San Gabriel to the original Los Angeles site. Mr. Santos and Victor Nebrida (who majored in history at the UCLA) cofounded the Philippine History Group of Los Angeles (PHGLA) in 1995.

Mr. Santos asked her if there was an original member of the party whose name was Antonio Miranda Rodriguez. He said the guy could possibly have been Filipino. She checked the organization's records and told him that she couldn't find such a name.

Mr. Santos and this writer checked also the names carried in the plaque honoring the founders of the City of Los Angeles at the El Pueblo Historical Monument, which is site of the original settlement of the Pobladores. The name of Antonio Miranda Rodriguez is not also found in the marker that was put up by the Los Angeles Historical Commission.

Later on when Eliseo Silva was painting that mural on Beverly Blvd. (now at the side of Park Unidad in the Historic Filipinotown District), Mr. Santos asked him where he got his information about the Filipino "founder" of Los Angeles. Mr. Silva told Mr. Santos that he got the information from a Wells Fargo Bank ad that appeared in the Filipinas Magazine. He said such an established institution would never lie about facts. (Editor’s Note: Eliseo Silva appears also in the article, "How Some Filipino Americans Behave Like Second-Class Citizens," at this link

Guess who was the copywriter for the advertisement that started this hoax? Greg Macabenta, the boss man of Minority Media and the public-relations director then of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA), designed the ad. Mr. Macabenta is neither a historian nor even a writer of historical articles.

People still repeat Mr. Macabenta’s hoax today even if nobody can cite a published article or a written document to prove his claim. The mural helps perpetuate this hoax because Filipino-American students from local colleges and universities stop by there and their guides tell them about the Filipino "founder." And worse, at least two Hispanic-American politicians in Los Angeles have pandered to Filipino-American voters and repeated this lie. While these politicians claim that a Filipino was a cofounder of the city, they never bothered to tell the Los Angeles Historical Commission to verify the claim and come up with the required primary or secondary historical document or proof proving the validity of Mr. Macabenta’s allegation.

It was at this time that this writer was able to coin the term, "Hoaxbalahap." I told Poet-pundit Fred Burce Bunao of the undocumented claim of Mr. Macabenta about Antonio Miranda Rodriguez. Mr. Bunao remarked in Tagalog-English (Taglish), "Hoax ba yan ni Lagareng Hapon?" Almost all of the Filipino-American media practitioners call Mr. Macabenta as the personification of the Filipino colloquial term, "Lagareng Hapon," which is used to denote a person who earns from both the seller and the buyer. Or in the case of ad placements, getting commissions from both from the advertiser and the medium (publication).

A historical hoax is such a terrible thing to spread among your own people. Once it has spread, it is very hard to contain, especially if the Filipino-American National Historical Society (FANHS) "authenticates" (sic) it and proclaims as gospel truth that a Filipino was a cofounder of Los Angeles. The FANHS people have not produced also any primary or secondary proof of evidence to back up their claim about Antonio Miranda Rodriguez.

From 2001 to 2004, this writer posted inquiries in several Filipino-American e-newsgroups that asked if any Rodriguez clans in the Philippines (especially in the provinces of Rizal, Iloilo and Zamboanga, where there are numerous Rodriguezes) have any family anecdote that one of their ancestors was named Antonio Miranda Rodriguez. I wanted to know if there were anecdotal sources that could back up the claim that Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, who is buried in Santa Barbara, California, was a Filipino at all. I said that if there was a Rodriguez family in the Philippines that would assert that Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was its ascendant, then perhaps DNA tests could be conducted to validate the claim. No Rodriguez family in the Philippines ever answered my inquiry.

There is a big possibility that Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was a Spaniard or a Mexican Creole who was simply born in Manila and moved back to Mexico as an adult. Because logic would dictate that if Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was a Filipino-Indio crew member of a Spanish galleon and deserted from the ship, then the Spanish colonial authorities would not send him to California as one of the original settlers (founders) of what is now the City of Los Angeles. If he were caught as a deserter, then the Spaniards would have sent him back to Manila on another galleon or put him in prison in Mexico. # # #

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Last Updated on Friday, 02 December 2016 07:19
Comments (3)
1 Friday, 12 February 2010 20:39
If he was born in manila then, wouldnt that make him Filipino?
2 Friday, 12 February 2010 22:06
The issue is not whether Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was a Filipino or not. The fact is his name does not appear in the official city marker that lists the original settlers (founders or Pobladores) of what became the City of Los Angeles. The scions of the orginal settlers do not also recognize Antonio Miranda Rodriguez as a founder -- in fact they never heard of him until Hector Santos mentioned it to one of their descendants. It is, therefore, a hoax. And a cruel one for the Filipino-American community of Los Angeles County.

For the record,

Antonio Miranda Rodriguez being Filipino was discovered by Bill Mason, a well known historian who specialized in the early Spanish history of California. He was also the former curator of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. But not just Bill Mason, other historians also have come across Antonio Miranda Rodriguez from Spanish documents.

Why isn't Antonio Miranda on the Founders Plaque?

Antonio Miranda y Rodriguez, along with his daughter, were among those chosen to be the original settlers of the City of Los Angeles in 1781. He did start the expedition with the other pobladores, but while en route his daughter got sick with small pox causing him to stop and delay to take care of her lingering illness. Miranda's name appears in the 1781 first census for Los Angeles, and in the 1782 census as well, however, in the census of 1783 his name was dropped and his allotment was re-assigned to someone else. His daughter eventually died of her illness, and Miranda subsequently arrived in Los Angeles, even though some stories erroneously say that he never arrived. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Miranda found that his allotment had already been assigned to another, but that the presidio in Santa Barbara wanted him.

Miranda's highly valued skill as a gunsmith or armorer was desired for the Presidio of Santa Barbara. The Presidio in Santa Barbara was in charge of protecting the area missions and settlements, including San Gabriel and Los Angeles, as the closest other presidio was in San Diego. Miranda settled in Santa Barbara in 1783 and lived there until his death. He was buried in the chapel of this Presidio in Santa Barbara. Presidio life is an interetsing study of the soldiers in these garrisons.

When in Southern California, go to the Presidio in downtown Santa Barbara and in the Presidio Chapel see the wall plaque by the chapel's main entrance, which lists him (Antonio Miranda) among those buried in the Presidio Chapel. Also, do not miss the commemorative tile at the foot of the altar, which was placed there by the Filipino Community of Santa Barbara.

According to the research of William Marvin Mason, former curator of the History Division of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Antonio Miranda Rodriguez was not just a settler but also a soldier, a soldado de cuera, and was literate (unusual for that time), as at least one report has been found that was written by him.

We owe a lot of what we know about Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, beyond Los Angeles, to William Mason, who had been doing this research until his untimely death in late 2000. Mason, who wrote an article about the Chinese in Mexico, found "chinos" (not Chinese, but Filipinos from the nao de china, or Manila Galleons) mentioned in church records of marriages in Mexico. His daughter will be donating his papers, hopefully to UCLA.

In a tribute to Bill Mason, veteran California Historian, I compiled what he shared with me in regard to his research on Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, when I was requested to deliver the lecture for a special event held at the Santa Barbara Presidio on June 13, 2004. This "Historical Lecture on the Occasion of the Life of Antonio Miranda Rodriguez" was also published in 2004 in La Campana, the quarterly journal of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

ADDENDA: Antonio Miranda was not a Spaniard, and he was not Chinese; he was ethnically Filipino according to some leading and very respected academic historians. As your teachers warn you, question what you find on the Internet and judge them by the sources they cite for their information. Here are documented sources by men of great reputations as academic historian, provided by a librarian from a major university.

Mason, William M. Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag (So. California Genealogical Society, 2004. 116p)
Page 15: "Antonio Miranda Rodriguez ... was listed as a chino on one of the lists of pobladores. ... But to people in Mexico, chinos were from Asia, irrespective of nationality. ... [Miranda] was from Manila, and was quite likely a Filipino."
________________ "The Founding Forty-Four", Westways, Vol. 68, No. 7, July 1976, pp. 20-23.
Page 23: "Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, chino. Miranda, as he was usually called ... On Mexico's west coast chino was the term applied to natives from the Philippines, to distinguish them from Mexican Indians, since both were called indios. Miranda was a native of Manila, and apparently a Malayan Filipino."

Bancroft, Hubert Howe History of California, Vol. I. 1542-1800, Vol.18 The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft
Page 345: "Antonio Miranda, chino, 50 years, ... was not a Chinaman, nor even born in China, as has been stated by some writers, but was the offspring probably of an Indian mother by a father of mixed Spanish and negro blood."

(While the term Filipino was used in the 17th century for full-blood Spanish born in the Philippines to differentiate them from the full-blood Spanish Peninsulares (Spanish in the New World who were born in Spain); because Miranda, as described above by academic historians, was not full-blood Spanish, this argument is irrelevant in Miranda's case.)

• El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park - Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
• A Southern California Chronology - Historical Society of Southern California
• Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag by William M. Mason (So. California Genealogical Society, 2004). [First Census of Los Angeles (1781) appears on page 66]
• The Garrisons of San Diego Presidio: 1770-1794 by Bill Mason - Journal of San Diego History

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