South Pasadena Woman's Love of History Brings New Anza Trail Exhibit to San Gabriel
by Hale Sargent, Interpretive Specialist, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
On Saturday, April 5, 2014, at 1PM, youth participating in the San Gabriel Mission's annual mission model contest will take a break from the competition to help dedicate a new sign on the mission's grounds.
The 1PM ribbon-cutting will be a brief moment, but one that Rita Vega-Acevedo of South Pasadena has been working toward for more than a year.
The sign, a low-profile interpretive wayside, tells the story of another group of youth who, with their families, arrived at the original Mission San Gabriel in 1776. Theirs is the story commemorated by the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
Vega-Acevedo is a long-time volunteer working to promote awareness of California's Spanish history. She checks in regularly with the mission gift shop to restock maps and brochures about the Anza Trail.
Her interest is deep. She also serves as vice president for programs and education of the Southern California chapter of the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America.
The mission museum already commemorates this chapter in California history, but Vega-Acevedo began advocating for the National Park Service to recognize the mission's important place along the Anza Trail with a permanent exhibit on the mission's grounds.
The National Park Service, working with Rita and the Anza Trail's official fundraising partner, the Anza Trail Foundation, came together with staff from the mission in 2013 to begin collaboration on the sign. With Rita's substantial input, the partners developed the exhibit's content. The Anza Trail Foundation financed its production, and the mission managed its installation.
For Vega-Acevedo, the sign serves as local recognition for a historical figure she holds in high regard, Juan Bautista de Anza, the military commander who led the 30 colonist families to California in 1776.
"He died at the age of 52, probably from driving himself to the limit," she says. "Tens of thousands of miles on a horse, under rough conditions, often with little food or water and unafraid of the hundreds of ways that people could perish on the frontier. He saw more in 52 years than probably 95 percent of the people he knew. It was a life lived to the fullest."
Anza Trail VIP Rita Vega-Acevedo