Of all the Mexican land grant ranchos in California, only Rancho Boca de Santa Monica and Rancho San Vicente could lay claim to a treasured territory that included the most beautiful shore in North America, Santa Monica Beach. When the land grant Rancho Boca de Santa Monica was awarded to Francisco Marquez and Ysidro Reyes in 1839, little did their families imagine that the sand separating their land from the waters of the Pacific would become one of the most famous beaches in the world, now visited by millions of visitors each year. The Marquez-Reyes union helped define the history of Santa Monica Beach. Now, one of their own descendants has documented that rich and romantic past. Noted Southern California historian and photo archivist Ernest Marquez grew up in Santa Monica Canyon, swam the Pacific waters at the heels of Olympian Buster Crabbe, and snacked on the watercress that grew in the canyon’s creek. As the years passed, he watched what had been known as the Roosevelt Highway become the Pacific Coast Highway, and Hollywood stars build homes along what ultimately would be referred to as the “Gold Coast.” Over the past several decades Marquez has collected both images and information that together define the history of this magnificent beach. With dramatic images by Carleton E. Watkins, H.F. Rile, Valentin Wolfenstein and many more, Marquez’s Santa Monica Beach: A Collector’s Pictorial History is not only the definitive biography, but also the most beautiful and authoritative record of an American treasure.
Ernest Marquez grew up in Santa Monica Canyon on what remained of Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, the Mexican land grant given to his great-grandfathers in 1839. He graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1942, served in the United States Navy during World War II, and eventually became a successful freelance cartoonist in New York during the 1950s. When he returned to California as a commercial artist in the aerospace industry, he grew concerned about the many inaccurate and conflicting stories of his family’s role in early California history. Thus began his study of primary sources rather than published accounts of his family’s involvement in early California, which began in 1771 when his great-great grandfather Francisco Reyes came to California as a Spanish soldier, serving in the Monterey Garrison with Father Junipero Serra. In addition to exhaustively researching written records, Ernest Marquez began collecting original photographs and stereoviews which have since become respected as the Ernest Marquez Collection. He and his children continue to protect and preserve the Pascual Marquez Family Cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon, where family members were buried from 1848 to 1916. It is now registered as a cultural-historic landmark. Ernest Marquez resides in the San Fernando Valley, separated from his birthplace only by the magnificent Santa Monica Mountains.