Some Could Work & Live Here But Not Own A Home Here
Our recent quarterly program by the San Clemente Historical Society (SCHS) shined a light on a dark corner of our country’s past. The saga began when Juan Luna moved from Mexico to this area back in the late 1930s. He established himself as a gardener, saved his money and decided to purchase a house in the 100 block of Paseo de Cristobal in the early 1940s. His attempt at home ownership was thwarted, however, by covenants in the deed that prohibited people of Mexican decent from owning property in our Spanish Village By the Sea. Such ethnic, racial and religious profiling were not prohibited by law back then and were actually quite common throughout the U. S. They, of course are no longer legal, though such covenants do sometimes still turn up in property deed searches.
This all happened during World War II, as two members of the Luna family, including Juan’s son Ricardo, were serving in combat for the U.S. military in Europe. When Juan explained this to one of his customers, a Mrs. Williams was outraged by this injustice. She bought the property and immediately resold it to Juan. The house is still in the Luna family today and is listed as one of the historic “Ole Hanson Structures”. It has been beautifully updated and even expanded by grandson Ricardo.
“We worked with the Historical Society to insure it was within the scope of preservation codes. That added some time to the process, but in the end it was to our advantage because the result was wonderful,” said Ricardo Luna, Jr., who lives there now.
Despite the roadblocks their ancestors faced when buying their home the current Lunas never felt discriminated against. “We felt we were treated just like anyone else growing up here. Race wasn’t an issue. We were just another bunch of kids,” Roberto Luna, commented.
Ricardo Jr. and siblings Roberto, Juan, Leonardo and Maria (Pilar), the third generation of Lunas, all grew up in San Clemente. Their father, Ricardo, Sr. insisted that all the kids go to college; which they did. One, Maria, is now a lawyer for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Anaheim. But her brothers all returned to San Clemente and entered the family business, Luna’s Tree Service and Landscaping.
“We’re all college educated gardeners,” Juan laughs.
They’re an amazing family with an instructive life story. Perseverance, education, integrity and a dash of sense of humor will overcome most of life’s problems.