I’m from a small town in Southern California called Yucaipa. I’m sure almost none of you have heard of it; it’s in the San Bernardino area. Hopefully at least a few (or at least more than none) have heard of a nearby town known as Redlands. Although my family and I resided in Yucaipa for most of my life, we spent a lot of time in Redlands as it was the bigger nearby city with more things to do (shopping, church, family-friends, movie theater, etc.). Almost every time we had to go to a place in Redlands we would pass by some sort of orange grove. As a fellow orange-lover myself, my family would have a running joke where they said they would leave me in the fields to have all the oranges to myself.
This spring break, when I went to go see a movie at the Krikorian theater in Redlands, which is coincidentally (or not) off of Orange Street and Citrus Avenue, I passed by a huge, privately-owned orange grove, and remembered the role citrus had in bringing immigrants to Los Angeles. Curious about the Redlands-specific history, I looked it up and found some interesting information, which was cool to actually learn about considering I saw some of these groves in the flesh.
In 1882, according to Wikipedia, a guy from Wisconsin named Mr. E. J. Waite planted the first orange grove, and at 15,000 acres, it was the largest in the world for about 75 years. Because of this (not just in Redlands but throughout Southern California and via the transcontinental railroad, the rest of the U.S.), oranges have become almost an icon of Southern California. Now only 2,500 acres remain. Why? Probably because the advertisements that oranges make you more athletic and that they were fresh and natural were found to be lies rooted in inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs, hybridizations, mutations (to make it seedless, sweeter, and ripen in California’s Mediterranean climate), cloning, and Mexican and Native American workers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had oranges from here, and they were delicious and healthy, but they were way too hyped for their actual worth, which makes sense because they were trying to persuade more people to immigrate into this “imagined space” of a city. As we all know, LA has now become very populated urbanized city (once they got enough people here), so somehow this second “Orange” Gold Rush worked, and the rest is, as they all say, history. Just goes to show how powerful advertisement is. Although California’s Sunkist (until now I didn’t know that it was referring to how the sun “kissed” the citrus) heritage (beginning with Father Junipero Serra planting the first citrus seeds while building Spanish missions, to navel oranges being the most popular) isn’t as popular as its urbanization in contemporary times, California still produces more than $1 billion, second of all the U.S. states only to Florida.