The discovery of gold on the magical date of January 24, 1848, when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill near Coloma, started a rush that was unprecedented in all of the world's history.
It was through the failed beachfront resort development of 1923 that the tiny enclave of Punta, California, was renamed La Conchita del Mar and promoted as a seaside paradise. La Conchita, however, was destined to become a different kind of paradise. Abandoned by wealthy investors, it was settled by Filipino farmhands, Mexican railroad workers, and white oil workers, and became a unique, multicultural, working-class neighborhood. Total equality marked this early integrated community.
At a time when the Civil Rights movement wasn’t even on the horizon, in La Conchita, prejudice simply didn’t exist. La Conchita’s distinct sense of place clashed with the affluent, exclusive communities surrounding it on the Gold Coast. Despite attempts to destroy this perceived misplaced community over the years, like-minded people have been drawn to it like magnets.
The recollections of La Conchita residents reveal untold stories of fascinating people, a few with familiar names and others with names that won’t soon be forgotten. This tiny place with a receptive atmosphere also nurtured astonishing historic and cultural landmarks that deserve to be remembered and celebrated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Bonnie G. Kelm, PH.D, served as an associate professor of art history and museum director at Miami University (Ohio), the College of William & Mary, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, over a thirty-year period. She was a Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of a NEH Fellowship, among other honors. Among the author’s best-known publications is Georgia O’Keeffe in Williamsburg (co-authored with Ann Madonia), a critically acclaimed study that details her discovery and recreation of a previously unknown 1938 exhibition by the famed artist. Other publications include the jointly authored Greater Carpinteria, Summerland, and La Conchita, and Madge Tennent: Contested Images from Paradise in Modernism, Gender, and Culture.