By: Moses Kamuiru
Pio de Jesus was born in 1801 as an African Native Mexican American politician and businessman. A son of a soldier; Jose Maria Pico, Pio Pico was born in the Sam Gabriel Mission in Mexico. Pico was born fourth in a family of ten children and had the heritage blend of Native American, Hispanic, European, and African roots. He was a revolutionary youth who turned out to be the last Governor of Mexican Alta California, which is the current American state of California and the region above what is now the country of Mexico.
Pico took the gubernatorial office in 1845 after a revolt that yielded a bloodless artillery duel that ousted the incumbent Governor Manuel Micheltorena near the Cahuenga pass. Campo de Cahuenga is the state’s historic site opposite Universal Studios that marks the spot on that day. Pico completed the secularization of the missions during his tenure as the last Mexican governor. As the American takeover of California neared, Pico was accused of sorting out mission property to allies and friends irresponsibly. The Governor feared the growing migration of Americans to the state of California. He once noted in a speech that Americans were establishing vineyards, cultivating their farms, erecting mills, lumbering, building workshops, and a thousand other things which Californians despised or neglected that to the American immigrants seemed natural.
Pico was for England or France annexation, having the firm belief that the European Powers would be more tolerant to the California way of life. Pico bowed to the inevitable when American troops invaded Los Angeles, which Pico had made the state capital and San Diego, and he finally escaped to Mexico. Pico would later return home as a private citizen two years later when California was now a territory of the United States where he became an early member of the Los Angeles County Council and a businessman. Gambling took a toll on Pico’s fortune over the years, and he eventually sold his ranch in San Fernando Valley, which was his last major asset and later build Pico House; a deluxe hotel that was the largest of its time. He then lost the hotel too.
He died at the home of his daughter Joaquina Pico Moreno in Los Angeles in abject poverty after living off the charity of his friends and was buried in a pauper’s grave in 1884. The Pio Pico home still stands in Whittier California.