Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ranch of the Gathering Waters: The Other History of Beverly Hills

10/27/16

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I was amazed to discover that the first owner of what is now known as Beverly Hills was a Black Woman. I had grown up in Beverly Hills during a time when a lone black man walking down the street was enough to summon the magical appearance of the B.H.P.D. Her name was María Rita Quintero Valdés de Villa, the descendent of one of the original 44 Pobladores or settlers of the City of the Queen of Angels, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles Sobre El Rio de la Porciúncula), what we now know as Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, 26 of the original founding settlers were full-blooded Africans.

When colonial Spain got nervous about the encroaching presence of the Russians coming down the coast of Alta California from the Pacific Northwest, they decided to buttress their territory, Nuevo España, New Spain, securing the border by colonizing the lands in the north. In 1769, an expeditionary force led by Gaspar de Portola was sent out, and from the vantage point of what is now Elysian Park, spied an “advantageous” site, which was the Native American Tongvan village of Yangna.  El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles was founded on September 4, 1781, and according to Mexican laws and those of the Spanish Crown, each of Los Pobladores were awarded approximately 1 Sitio each, approximately 4,400 acres. Señor Juan Quintero Valdés, was one of the original expeditionary soldiers in the Portola Party, claimed his rightful plot, Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, Ranch of the Gathering Waters. It was named for the streams that emptied into the area from out of the canyons above; Cañada de las Aguas Frias (Glen of the Cold Waters, now Coldwater Canyon) and Cañada de los Encinos (Glen of the Green Oaks, now Benedict Canyon).

María Rita Quintero Valdés married Spanish soldier, Vicente Ferrer Villa and eventually built an adobe in present day Beverly Hills, approximately on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alpine Drive. She received the Rancho title from the Mexican government in 1831.

Rancho Rodeo de los Aquas was a fruitful plain, fed by the waterfalls coming down the canyons and because of this, had an extremely unique micro climate where plants and livestock thrived. However, times were difficult and volatile. By 1844 the initial contact with the Spanish had virtually wiped out the Native populations of Tongvas and Gabrielinos due to repeated abuse and slavery both in and out of the Mission System, followed by a virulent smallpox epidemic. As their numbers alarmingly dwindled, the Native peoples routinely launched incursions into the fertile ranch lands for food and livestock. Then in 1846 President James K. Polk, launched el Guerra del 47 (The War of 1847), and a US Marine force led by military commander Archibald H. Gillespe invaded the Pueblo de Los Angeles. This sparked a popular uprising of the Californios, who launched a vaquero lancer force led by José Antonio Carrillo and Andrés Pico. Ultimately, the invaders were chased out of their occupied headquarters in The Plaza and fled to the hill overlooking the square (Fort Moore Hill) where they eventually surrendered, but not before the women of El Pueblo took their revenge. Native, Mexican and Californios, after having witnessed the degradation of their men and the rape of their daughters, decided on a final act of defiance and offered the departing Gillespie and his troops baskets of peaches which had been rolled in cactus needles.

Following the Euro-American victory, Mexico ceded a large portion of its northern lands, upon the conditions drawn up in the 1857 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which provided that all the original land grants be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852, but it was not until 1871, that María Rita Quintero Valdés de Villa was finally awarded the grant. Prior to the invasion, María Rita had also built a home within the boundaries of El Pueblo on land she had to foresight to acquire, located on current day Main Street.  This would later become the well-known center of social and political life in El Pueblo, the Bella Union Hotel, the very one Commodore Robert Stockton “commandeered” as the American headquarters during the war.  In her haste to flee the pueblo, Maria Rita neglected to take the original papers of ownership issued by the Mexican government, and they were subsequently “lost.”  Sadly, this was a common story for many original rancho claimants from the Mexican era trying to retain their land, and many had to mortgage their properties trying to prove ownership title under the new American laws and “tax codes.” The land grab was on.

As part of the Public Land Commission rulings in 1852, Henry Hancock did a second survey of el Pueblo based on partitioning the vacant ejidos, or municipal lands into larger lots. These became known as “Donation Land.” One could acquire the land for a nominal fee of $10, along with property “improvements” of $200. One could either build a small adobe, or plant fruit trees or gardens or all of these. The land had to yield a value. Word had traveled across the country and wealthy eastern Euro-Americans began to flock to the land of sunshine and promise, grabbing as much land as they could. One of the ways this was accomplished was by marrying widowed California women, and thus cementing status and place in the growing town.

Henry Hancock, grew to know good land value when he drew up the second survey and thus,   along with his business partner Benjamin Wilson, eventually purchased Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas from María Rita. She knew a thing about land values herself, as the great drought of 1862-1865 hit and wiped out previously thriving cattle and agricultural businesses.

María Rita retired to her property in the center of el Pueblo, on La Plaza, and lived out her days amongst other California women and descendants. Sadly, the Native American women of the region had all but been wiped out, and those remaining, fled into the interior. The sacred and fertile Tongva site of the gathering waters had slowly all but dried up, and would take years to recover. To this day the only remaining nod to its former glory, is the fountain at the corner intersection of Wilshire (a former Indian Trail) and Santa Monica Boulevards, which features a loin-clothed Tongvan man kneeling as he offers his hands in a prayer of thanks for the abundant flowing waters. 

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Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange.  Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California.   Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.

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Life Abbreviated

10/20/16

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On my way to work this morning, I stopped by the German bakery nearby.

Me: Hi! (Trying my best to greet the young staff with my cheery presence.)

Server (20-something male with bleached blonde spiked hair): no response, a simple nod.

Me: Plain croissant, please.

He reaches inside the display case and from the assortment and selects a flaky croissant which he then places in a small paper bag. He hands me the bag, punches some keys on the cash register and says: “Three.”

Three? Three, what? I wondered. What did he mean? Was he asking me if I wanted three croissants? Was he talking to someone else? Party of three? Then it dawned on me. Aha! It’s the cost. He’s telling me it’s three dollars. The young man didn’t even look up and stared at the cash register. He, the product of today’s Twitter/Snapchat, ‘talk-to-the-screen-and-not-to-my- face-generation’ had pretty much cut through the chase and just like an abbreviated text message or Tweet quoted me the amount. There were no niceties or extraneous words. Straight and to the point, he’d muttered “three.” Gone were the words: “That’ll be three dollars, please.” Or, “would you like anything else?”

I reached into my wallet and handed him three single dollar bills and left feeling disconnected and somewhat forlorn. I realize it’s cliché to rant against technology and social media and how we’re hiding behind our gadgets and avoiding face-to-face communication, but there is truth to it.  Machines are doing all our talking for us as though speaking is just too much of a chore. People aren’t even uttering the words “I love you” anymore. Instead, they join their index fingers and thumbs in the shape of a heart or text an emoji of a happy face blowing heart kisses bookended by multi-colored hearts.

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But, maybe its in our nature to look at shortcuts. Technology and social media are taking care of it for us today, and even as far back as when the Pilgrims rolled in, our forefathers were looking at ways of shrinking words in the English language by cutting out letters they saw as useless. Though, for the life of me, why even have letters in words if they remain silent? For a primer on how this came about, watch this video:

You may be wondering what this rant has to do with international credential evaluations? Absolutely nothing and everything. But, those of you in the world of credential evaluations know exactly what I’m speaking of: there are many in our field who are looking for a shortcut and the quick answer to what are sometimes the gray and complicated areas of international transcripts and degree evaluations.

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Churning out evaluations by the hundreds, like a sausage-making factory, oblivious of the nuances surrounding each case and the needs of the specific institution and applicant by skirting standards and ignoring good customer service is becoming more and more de rigueur. (Yes, I thought since I’m on a rant, I might as well show off my 5th grade knowledge of French). I get it, time is of essence…time is money, blah, blah, blah. Institutions and private (profit and non-profits) organizations all have a bottom line, They need to be productive and show healthy numbers and a fast or quicker way of doing it is the desired method. Except, when we do it at the expense of research, critical analysis, and veer off the path of best practices. Then we’re in trouble and trouble has a way of catching up with us, maybe not today, but soon, in the near future. Price of becoming a society of ‘short-cutters’.

Frustrated
Frustrated Evaluator

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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What Sparked the Student Protests in South Africa?

October 13th, 2016

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University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. (Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, October 10, 2016 was supposed to be the start of regular classes at the University of Witwatersrand but this did not happen as students continue their protests against tuition hikes.

Here is some background and update on the ongoing student protests in South Africa:

1. In 2015, tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% were proposed.

2. The demonstrations began last October at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Students blocked the entrance to the university campus in protest against proposed hike in fees by 10.5% for 2016.

3. Under the banner #FeesMustFall, demonstration caused the closure of some of the country’s top universities. President Zuma ordered a freeze on tuition fees for a year.

4. Students have been protesting since September 20th, following the education minister’s announcement that universities can raise tuition up to 8 percent.

5. Protests at many universities have been peaceful. But at the University of Cape Town, protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

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Students protesting under the “FeesMustFall” banner. (Photo credit: BBC)

 

6. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

7. Fires were set at Cape Peninsula of Technical (CPUT).

8. Students at Rhodes University put up burning barricades on campus streets.

9. President Jacob Zuma says the damage has cost the government more than $40 million.

10. According to President Zuma, the government has also absorbed $1 billion after similar protests forced a tuition fee freeze last year.

11. Annual increases in student fees differ between universities as fees are determined by institutions. Fees also vary by degree programs.

12. The government subsidizes tuition for poorer students, but undergraduate fees can be as high as $5,000 a year, which makes it unreachable for many black students.

13. More than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africans continue to face extreme income inequality. The students want the opportunities they were promised when apartheid ended.

14. Protests show growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress (ANC), which took power after 1994.

15. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, President Zuma announced the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to resolve the current impasse at institutions of higher learning. Those invited to serve on the  Task include heads of the following Ministries: The Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Minister of Police, Minister of State Security, Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, and Minister of Home Affairs.  Absent from the team is the Minister of Finance who is set to answer a summons to appear in court on November 2. Ultimately, it is the Finance Ministry that would be tasked with finding the funds to address the funding issue for higher education.

For an audio/webinar presentation of this blog report on student protests in South Africa, please click here: http://www.anymeeting.com/mwemfxacpupn/E954DD83804B3F

Sources: 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/10/497380342/photos-students-police-clash-in-south-africa-over-free-tuition demands?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2036

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37607757

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34615004

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/president-zuma-leaves-pravin-task-team-deal-feesmustfall/

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/buildings-torched-overnight-wits-cput-ukzn/

http://www.dontparty.co.za/latest-news/is-feesmustfall-the-most-significant-protest-of-the-new-south-africa/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Top 5 Countries Ranked Best for Education

October 6th, 2016

maps

The USNews recently released it’s 2016 Best Countries rankings and included the Best Countries for Education in its survey results.  In partnership with brand strategy firm BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania they asked more than 16,000 survey participants from four regions to associate countries with specific attributes. The Best Countries for Education, according to USNews “are ranked based on scores on a compilation of three equally weighted country attributes: has top quality universities, well-developed public education system and would consider attending university there. Nations with federally run education systems ranked first, as with the United Kingdom, and last, as with Iran.”

The top 5 countries ranked for best education are:

1. United Kingdom

2. Canada

3. United States

4. Germany

5. France

Take a look at the full list of the USNews Best Countries for education: http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/education-full-list and let us know your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree? And, why?

Thank you!

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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