By Michael Collins
Got a hankerin’ to reach your inner Mexican and didn’t at that torpid Marc Anthony concert? Wanna know more about your white Valley roots than you can learn from your brother’s Van Halen collection? No problem, because SoCal has plenty of ways to step back in time for all the Juans and Julietas, Dirks and Dawns.
Pio Pico State Historic Park, home of the historic adobe “El Ranchito,” is located in Whittier off the 605 Freeway east of downtown L.A. Carved from its original 8,891 acres, the palm-studded ranch is one of the oldest state parks, established in 1927. During Pico’s 93 years, Southern California was under the Spanish, Mexican, and American flags. This soldier, businessman, and ranchero became governor of California before dying nearly penniless in 1894, but he’s remembered richly with his boulevard namesake.
Nowadays, the park is ground zero for Mexican Independence Day (September 15), when more firecrackers will explode and more beer will be covertly consumed than anywhere else in the city. Living History Days are October 27 and November 27, with guided tours of the ranch conducted by historically costumed docents. They’ll feature adobe and bread-making demonstrations, Mexican music, and kids’ activities.
The San Fernando Valley’s Los Encinos State Historic Park, in Encino, like duh, also has living history days: September 16, October 21, and November 18. The lovely five-acre park has a natural spring that once supplied the Tongva tribe, who lived at the site for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Today, the waters are a duck magnet and the grounds perfect for picnicking, weddings, and communing with a lovely remnant of Valley nature. See PioPico.org and Los-Encinos.org.