Materializing Fantasy: Myth & Home Construction in Southern California

In early twentieth century, Spanish-Colonial Revival became embedded in the local culture of Southern California. Through community celebrations, literature, film, and place names, images of the romantic Spanish past proliferated in mass media. However, perhaps most important of all was Spanish-Colonial Revival’s implementation in new homes. Both in the 1920s and since the 1980s, Spanish-Colonial Revival dominated the look of new suburban developments in Southern California. As such, red-tile, stucco, and palm trees are ubiquitous markers of not only development, but of regional identity. This presentation intends to explore the past (1920s) in order to make sense of present in two ways. The first is a demystification of Spanish-Colonial Revival via an examination of the political-economy of construction. It is my argument that, through the intersection of architecture, construction, and real-estate, the myth of “Hispanic California” was materialized. Secondly, this presentation seeks to grapple with the problematic legacy of the mythologized “Hispanic California” past. To put it simply, no heads turn when a new community is named after a hacienda, but the same could not be said about the term plantation, despite both terms have the same implications. Thus looking at construction and the iconography around it, we can understand the way in which power and difference is reproduced within both the built environment and discourse.
Presentation for the Pacific Sociological Association in San Diego, CA (April 2009).