As one of Walk to Los Angeles’ organizers, Imelda Bermejo doesn’t see the nine-mile journey from San Gabriel to Los Angeles as a mere walk. Instead, the trek – to her – symbolizes the importance of embracing and recognizing history in a real and substantive way. “I really believe that activities like Walk to Los Angeles allow us to link history to something tangible,” Bermejo said. “We sometimes don’t see the beauty and history that’s right in front of you.” Indeed, Walk to Los Angeles has become an annual event meant to recreate the historic route from San Gabriel that led to the creation of Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles exists because settlers came from San Gabriel. After traveling, they decided to settle in San Gabriel before establishing de pueblo Los Angeles,” Bermejo said. At the time, the mission was seen as the region’s economic and cultural hub, with church bells that could be heard along an 18-mile radius. “When the mission was founded in 1771, there weren’t any buildings that would constrict the mission, so people could tell time based on the bells,” Bermejo notes. Several years after the San Gabriel Mission was established, a small group of settlers – known as Los Pobladores – then began the trek to Los Angeles, leading to the creation of one of the largest metropolises in the world.
While turnout has varied over the years for Walk to Los Angeles, the event was originally created to showcase the Los Angeles region’s roots by allowing participants to follow the historic route originally established by Los Pobladores. While not an exact recreation given the region’s urban development, Walk to Los Angeles will closely follow the historic path along city streets from the San Gabriel Mission to El Pueblo de Los Angeles. At approximately nine miles, the trek usually takes around three hours to complete.
“We wanted to bring back a sense of how Los Angeles was created. As Father Tony of the San Gabriel Mission would often say, ‘San Gabriel is the mother of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles recognizes its roots,’” Bermejo said.
This year’s walk will be held on August 26 at the footsteps of the San Gabriel Mission at 6:00 a.m. beginning with a small ceremony. Water will be provided along the pathway, and complimentary DASH shuttles will be available for walkers who wish to return to the mission between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
For those who do participate, Bermejo believes the walk will serve as a catalyst for individuals to unearth their own history along with the history of the region. “You need to know where you came from so you have a better sense of where you want to go, and sometimes it takes a little extra to discover the history that we’re all a part of.”