Black History Month Spotlight: Maria Rita Valdez Villa, African-Mexican Foremother of Beverly Hills

Every weekday this month, we’re profiling fascinating figures from L.A.’s Black history

For a running list of all our 2021 Black History Month profiles, click here.

In the 1830s, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the formidable granddaughter of Luis and Maria Quintero and great-granddaughter of an enslaved African, was granted the approximately 4,500-acre El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas—which we now know as Beverly Hills. From her adobe at what is now Alpine Drive and Sunset Boulevard, Maria Rita ran cattle ranching, farming, and gardening operations, and was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.

In 1852, three Native Californian outlaws attacked the rancho, culminating in a shootout amongst a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives. Done with the dangers of rancho living, in 1854 Maria Rita sold the rancho to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for a whopping $4,000.

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