Bring on the Cake: It's Our Storied City's 241st Birthday

We remember Los Pobladores each year on Sept. 4, and the final nine-mile journey they made from Mission San Gabriel to El Pueblo.

Betsie Van der Meer/Reinier Snijders/EyeEm

What to Know

  • Sept. 4
  • The august occasion marks the day in 1781 when the first families settled the area
  • Modern-day pobladores, led by the settlers' descendants, have made the morning-long walk from San Gabriel Mission to Olvera Street in recent decades

Finding 241 candles on your cake definitely falls in the "really, really, hugely big deal" category, for all the obvious reasons, including the fact that your semiquincentennial, or 250th anniversary, is less than a decade away.

Los Angeles will mark that major milestone in 2031, a year that will likely see all sorts of celebratory civic happenings flower around the beginning of September.

For September is LA's birthday month, and Sept. 4 is its most special occasion, the day when we remember the first families to make a home in El Pueblo de la Reina de los Ángeles.

It's an occasion that has traditionally been marked by the Los Pobladores Walk, though that has been on hold in recent years, at least in its full form, starting with the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

Participants, led by the descendants of the original settlers of the city, would cover the nine-mile route, from Mission San Gabriel to El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the fabled birthplace of our city, starting out around dawn, usually around 6 o'clock.

That storied stretch, the final miles covered by those early pobladores, would usually end with something sweet, with convivial components such as birthday cake, merry music, and the spirit of a well-completed community goal adding joy to the meaningful celebration.

And making the walk right on Sept. 4? That didn't always happen; past years have seen the modern-day pobladores start out on a late August morning, or whatever Saturday fell closest to the city's official birthday.

Still, even with things looking a little different in recent years, the big birthday wishes for our big town have continued to pour in.

LA2050, a "community-guided initiative driving and tracking progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles," created an e-book in honor of the city's 241st birthday, a document brimming with metrics detailing "how LA is faring" as well as wishes from a number of local "leaders, doers, and social innovators."

Sept. 4 in 2022 is a hot one, and any walk made, even early in the day, would face extreme temperatures.

But if you and your history-minded friends or family members are interested in exploring the route on your own on some cooler morning down the road, the City of San Gabriel shared go-on-your-own maps of the history walk in 2020.

Olvera Street, long the ebullient endpoint for the Los Angeles birthday walk, has a number of celebratory occasions on its 2022 schedule, including a Muertos Artwalk on Oct. 8. The El Pueblo de Los Angeles landmark is also famous for its Las Posadas tradition ahead of Christmas.

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