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Xavier Timoteo Martinez
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Mexican War
World War II
Chicano Movement

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Mexican Americans in California:

Spreckels' "Little Tijuana"
Spreckels, Monterey County

"Little Tijuana" in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County no longer exists. The site is now the location of the Freeze General Construction Company. The site has two wooden structures and a large lumber yard area, all enclosed by a chain link fence. The entire town of Spreckels was originally owned by Claus Spreckels, and the Spreckels sugar beet refinery is located across the road from the construction company.

When Claus Spreckels, the "Sugar King," left Hawaii and established his sugar refinery in the Salinas Valley in 1899, he built the town of Spreckels as a planned community for his Anglo factory workers. Subsequently, Spreckels planned another residential area adjacent to the main town to provide housing for Mexican field worker families, some of whom were recruited from Colorado, while others were imported from Mexico. Spreckels' proposed community for Mexicanos was never built. The small, neat homes and well-plotted streets remained in blueprint form, in the Spreckels' archives.

The site of the proposed Mexican community, however, did become the Mexicano colonia at Spreckels, and came to be called Little Tijuana. While much research remains to be done on the colonia itself, the historical significance of the colonia and of Spreckels is that development of the sugar beet industry was the primary basis for migration of large numbers of Mexicanos into the Salinas Valley in the early twentieth century. The sugar beet industry in California was developed with contract Mexican family labor, and Monterey County was the earliest major testing ground of a large, agri-industrial complex using this type of labor system. The Monterey County experience with Mexican family contract labor became an important wage-labor model for twentieth century agribusiness in California. Further, at Spreckels, as in Ventura County, Mexican farm labor was brought in to replace Japanese farm workers, who also operated under a contract system but who had brought down the wrath of the growers by striking for higher wages. In some cases, as in the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association, organized in Oxnard in 1903, Japanese and Mexican sugar beet workers joined forces, formed a union, and struck the beet growers. However, with the exclusion of Japanese immigration in 1907, Mexicanos became the major sugar beet workers, and subsequently the major farm labor force in California.

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Last Modified: Wed, Nov 17 2004 10:00:00 pm PDT

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