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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Report by Galen Hunter


[ Page updated: April 8, 2021 ]


"Arrollo de Tabano"


This report discusses the meaning of some text on a diseño or map of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California. The map is titled "Diseño del Rancho de Los Palos Verde[s]" (Figure 1). The map was created around 1846. The text is "Arrollo de Tabano" and is handwritten on the right side of the map indicating information at the time about an area of land located on the western side of the peninsula. (Figure 2).


[Figure 1]



[Figure 2]


Interpretations already exist about what the name is today of the area of land "Arrollo de Tabano" is referring to. It is the Malaga Cove and Malaga Canyon area of Palos Verdes. Moreover, interpretations already exist about the translation from Spanish to English of "Arrollo" in this instance meaning Canyon or Creek and "Tabano" means Horseflies. So, my initial question was -- could horseflies have existed at Malaga Cove in 1846? I asked Emile Fiesler, President of BioVeyda, Minimally-invasive Biological Inventories, Surveys, and Biodiversity Assessments. Emile kindly replied:

"The "Arrollo de Tabano" is very interesting indeed.
Having studied the biodiversity of the PV Peninsula (PVP) for decades,
I've never seen a tabanid (horse or deer fly in the family Tabanidae) there.
The closest I've seen them is in the Santa Monica Mountains.
It's possible that before the L.A. Basin and coastal areas were built up
that there was more contiguous habitat and that they used to exist ~150 years ago on PVP.
This is however not very likely as the native coastal habitat is different
from that of the hills (Santa Monica Mountains & PVP).
And since there are still (large) mammals on PVP, why would the tabanids be extirpated now.
On the other hand, it could be a different kind of fly, which still exists there.
I'd be very interested in any info you can find about this intriguing "Arrollo de Tabano.""


Here's a summary of what I found out looking at this briefly on and off for a few years:

1) Although there are people familiar with the old Palos Verdes Diseño and know about the text on it, I only found one write-up on the Internet a while back stating that "Arrollo de Tabano" was referring to the Malaga Cove area and that "Tabano" means horsefly and the write-up expressed curiosity. I apparently did not make a copy of this write-up and could not find it again on the Internet.

2) Another aspect to consider is the area noted on the map as "Arrollo de Tabano" is right next to a famous American archaeological excavation site (CA-LAN-138). People have been living there for thousands of years, the native people until 1805 or so. There is evidence it was also a ceremonial site. People and horseflies living in the same spot would be problematic.

3) Ray Clare writes: "The Arrollo de Tabano place-name on the Palos Verdes map was "a blind field." The mapmaker obviously had no direct fieldwalking knowledge of that very difficult terrain. A blind filed was identified by Henri Lefebvre in a keybook 1970 titled The Urban Revolution. There the French sociologist stated, "What we find in a blind field is insignificant, but given meaning through research.""


This brief report concludes by discussing the person who created the map. It is generally believed the Sepulveda family hired William Money to create the map in order to support their claim to ownership of the peninsula. William Money was an early Los Angeles eccentric. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1840. He was a physician, theologian, philosopher, writer, carpenter, naturalist, cartographer, astronomer and historian.

Here's an excerpt from a 2004 Los Angeles Times article about William Money:

"An experienced carpenter, he was hired by the pueblo to repair the plaza church, for a total recorded wage of $126. The Sepulveda family also hired him to draw the Palos Verdes area on a map, which the family intended to use to apply for a land grant.

As the Mexican-American War began in 1846, Money left the pueblo to escape pressure to take sides. While on his way back to Mexico, he, Isebal and their three children were forcibly returned to Los Angeles by U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Kearny. It’s unclear why, but Kearny may have thought Money was carrying documents to the enemy.

He was carrying papers -- about six reams of maps, drawings and items that had “never been in print,” he said, representing much of his life’s work. “My whole 26 years of labor was, in one hour, totally destroyed by the Indians in the employ of the American commander,” Money wrote in an editorial published by the Star, an early Los Angeles newspaper."

Any document contemporaneous with the creation of the Palos Verdes Diseño (Money's field notes if any, for instance) which could have further clarified the meaning of the text on the diseño, is unlikely to still exist.