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The Pascual Marquez Family Cemetery in Pacific Palisades

Feb 04, 2011 by Lisa Newton

On a small street in the Pacific Palisades history lives.

In 1839, as the result of a 6,655 acre Mexican Land Grant, Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, which is now Santa Monica Canyon, the Pacific Palisades, and parts of Topanga Canyon, was formed by Ysidro Reyes and Francisco Marquez.

Subsequently, Francisco Marquez built the first known house in the Santa Monica Canyon, and within close proximity to the family cemetery.

This large plot of land remained within the Marquez family, until tragedy struck:

On December 31, 1909, Maria Donicia Valdez, the daughter of Franicso Marquez’s widow, Roque Valenzuela, and her second husband, while hosting a family gathering celebrating the New Year. Unfortunately, the menu included some home-canned peaches. The peaches, however, turned out to have been infected with botulism. Over the next five days, tragically, thirteen family members died, including an infant who had not eaten the peaches, but instead died of exposure due to the toddler being left by a window unattended in the subsequent anguish and confusion. Afterward, ironically and due to cruel fate, a large grave was dug at the very same family cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon that Francisco Marquez originally built, and the family members who were swept away during this horrible tragedy were laid to rest–side by side. Source:

In 1916, the last person to be buried in the Family Cemetery was a close relative, Pascual Marquez. Although there aren’t any formal records of the burials, it’s been estimated that at least 30 persons from the Marquez clan lie in the tiny cemetery.

Then, when Pascual Marquez passed, in his will he provided specific instructions that the family property in the upper canyon be divided into eight equal parts, to be bequeathed for the benefit of his widow and children; but that the adobe house and cemetery be given to the last close relative, Roman Marquez. But, in 1926, each of these parcels were sold to the Santa Monica Land & Water Company, who then subdivided this huge swath of land into different housing tracts.

During the process of subdividing the lots and grading the street, a worker for unknown reasons, be it by accident or design, destroyed the last remaining ruins of the original adobe house which was originally built by Francisco Marquez. Afterward, it became a moral, cultural, and historical imperative that the cemetery had to be protected and preserved, for the future of Los Angeles’ requirement to protect its architectural infrastructure and historic landmarks.

Based on that fact, the Santa Monica Land & Water Company determined that the land remain as part of the Marquez family’s name, so in 1944, they deeded back the cemetery to Pedro Marquez, Roman’s brother.

Due to its historical significance. the remaining heirs of the Marquez family felt the need to preserve and protect their family’s cemetery. So they initiated the process for the cemetery’s heritage and recognition.

So it came to pass, that on October 17, 2000, the Pascual Marquez Family Cemetery was designated as a Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument–No. 685. (PDF)

But, that’s not the end of this story. It subsequently became apparent that this special plot of land had no street frontage, sans a narrow path which only allowed for ingress and egress solely for the Marquez family members to enter and exit.

Even though the land in front remained undeveloped, the family wasn’t comfortable that other Los Angelenos and interested parties were excluded from being able to visit this very much storied and historical site.

And rightfully so, because just recently, in October of 2010, the street frontage property owners began construction for a new house.

However, due to the assistance of both the Cultural Heritage Commission, and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, in January 2011, a deal was struck :

The agreement entailed for the La Señora Research Institute, a Canyon Nonprofit, to pay $35,000 for the parcel next to the street.

The rest of the land’s $127,500 value then becomes the consideration which comprises the charitable donation from the frontal property owners–Fred Marcus and Davida Rochlin.

Based on that, La Señora has agreed to raise the requisite funds needed to remove the current wooden fence that’s now in front of the parcel and replace it with an iron fence. After the terms and conditions are met, the final intention of the Marquez’s will be satisfied:

That will allow visitors and passers-by to see what will be known as the San Lorenzo Garden. The institute is also required to landscape the long-neglected property and be allowed to hold six events a year on the cemetery’s grounds.

While Travelin’ Local, the greatest gift of living in Los Angeles isn’t material possessions; rather it’s the chance and ability to both discover and see history come together.

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Culture, Family, Pacific Palisades, SoCal
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