A Community Erased: Japanese Americans in El Monte and the San Gabriel Valley

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Nishida Family in El Monte The Nishida Family of El Monte courtesy of Gail Downs (granddaughter of Rikizo Nishida)

A visit to El Monte, California reveals many official signs and markers that harken back to the town’s pioneer past. The local history museum is designed to look like an American West frontier town, complete with wagon wheels and mannequins outfitted in long skirts and bonnets. With its fertile location between the San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo, El Monte is often presented as a dream destination for westbound wagon trains, not to mention the indigenous populations and the Spanish before them. Not surprisingly, as had happened throughout the West Coast, the verdant farmland that made the San Gabriel Valley attractive to white settlers in the late-1800s would prove inviting to later agricultural migrants, specifically Japanese and Mexicans, a few decades later.

Being Japanese American in El Monte

Japanese immigrants began arriving in the San Gabriel…

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