I recently picked up a copy of The Founding Documents of Los Angeles: A Bilingual Edition at my local library. Since I don’t think even the most glowing recommendation would send you running to the library, I’ll pull out a few highlights here and save you the trouble.
Many have heard at some point or another that the original name of Los Angeles is actually something crazy long. That is somewhat true, according to a very good, heavily footnoted essay by Theodore Treutlein. He attempts to lay this question to rest once and for all. Unfortunately, if Snopes.com can’t kill email forwards, I don’t think that his essay will singlehandedly kill the mistruths around the original name of the City of Angels. However, he’s convinced me.
According to our dear friend, Theodore, the original name was….(drumroll)….
Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles (Town of the Queen of Angels)
In some early documents, the authors threw in some other stuff which is how the rumor started that the original name was:
Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reyna de Los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula
It’s certainly catchy. Those of you who speak Spanish will be asking at this point, “Where the heck is the Porciuncula River?” Well, right where it has always been, running right down the middle of the pueblo. Only now it looks like the final scene from Grease and is known merely as the Los Angeles River. I supposed the beauty of the name goes down in direct proportion to the beauty of the river.
And now here we find ourselves in a place now known best by it’s initials – L-A. I don’t know whether I miss the more grandiose name or if this means LA has actually ascended into an exclusive club. After all, only three U.S. cities are well-known by their initials alone – LA, DC and NYC. Not bad company at all!