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Ramona Memories

Tourism and the Shaping of Southern California

2005
Author:

Dydia DeLyser

Ramona Memories

How the heroine of a nineteenth-century romance novel pervades southern California’s regional identity

Ramona Memories reveals how Helen Hunt Jackson's popular 1884 novel Ramona—and the real places and products that it inspired—helped to make an idealized past visible, permeating southern California's social memory. Dydia DeLyser traces the Ramona myth's emergence within the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tourist industry when landmarks identified with Ramona's fictional life became important parts of a visit to southern California.

Dydia DeLyser's book is the first to explore all the many aspects of the Ramona Myth. She offers a fresh appraisal of the true impact of Helen Hunt Jackson's story, demonstrating its impact on tourism, regional identity, and historical consciousness.

Phil Brigandi, Ramona Pageant historian

The most important woman in the history of southern California never lived. The eponymous heroine of Helen Hunt Jackson’s popular 1884 novel Ramona, a half-Indian beauty raised on a wealthy Mexican rancho, nonetheless left an indelible imprint on the landscape. Within a year of its publication, landmarks identified with Ramona’s fictional life—her birthplace, her home, the site of her wedding, and her grave—became important, even canonical parts of a visit to southern California. One could take the Ramona freeway to town, cook like Ramona, and smell like Ramona. The novel’s romanticized version of California’s Hispanic past also inspired films, songs, musical instruments, jewelry, clothes, beer, wine, canned goods, collectibles, and a play that still draws thirty thousand people annually.

Although historians and other writers have acknowledged Ramona’s importance in the shaping of southern California’s regional identity, there has never been an in-depth study of the origins and evolution of the “Ramona Myth”—until now. In Ramona Memories, Dydia DeLyser traces the myth’s emergence within the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tourist industry. DeLyser explores the establishment of tourist attractions by fans of the novel. She details the stories of individual Ramona enthusiasts who, guided by numerous travel books and articles, wove the text of the novel and its lavishly described locations into their own lives, from pilgrimages to either of the two ranchos acclaimed as Ramona’s home to Ramona-themed luncheons and hopeful honeymoon visits to the Wishing Well at her marriage place.

Based on more than a decade of meticulous research, Ramona Memories reveals how a fiction—and the real places and products that it inspired—helped to make an idealized past visible, permeating southern California’s social memory.

Winner of the 2005 AAG Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography

Awards

Winner of the 2005 AAG Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography

Ramona Memories

Dydia DeLyser is assistant professor of geography at Louisiana State University.

Ramona Memories

Dydia DeLyser's book is the first to explore all the many aspects of the Ramona Myth. She offers a fresh appraisal of the true impact of Helen Hunt Jackson's story, demonstrating its impact on tourism, regional identity, and historical consciousness.

Phil Brigandi, Ramona Pageant historian

A useful analysis of the symbiosis of fiction, tourism, and regional development. The author poses interesting questions about how visitors personalize both fiction and landscape.

Pacific Historical Review

Makes a compelling case for the importance of Ramona in fostering a fictive ‘social memory.’ Well documented and generously illustrated. Recommended.

Choice

DeLyser does more than just offer a social history of the cottage industry that Ramona generated; indeed, DeLyser investigates the convergence between the escapist fantasy of Ramona and the reality of California history and geography. What emerges is a crisp rendering of the ways in which Ramona influenced the development of Southern California history and culture. Ramona Memories is not only academic; those interested in reliving Ramona will be pleased with DeLyser’s accurate guide to the various landmarks and locales that are found throughout the novel.

Women’s Studies

This book is a delight to read. DeLyser’s prose is clear and expressive, and she has a great feel for a story, a great sense of which leads to follow and emphasize.

Annals of Tourism Research

Ramona Memories chronicles landscape reflecting fiction and imaginary people becoming very real icons of culture, tradition, and nostalgia personified. In her work she has accumulated a substantial and Catholic bibliography and good textual discussion of social memories as part of the outfall of the popular success of a romance novel.

The Professional Geographer

The Indian maiden first stole the hearts of readers more than 120 years ago yet arguably still trumps all other fictional characters in their impact on a local landscape, its architecture and a romanticized lifestyle.

San Diego Union-Tribune

Ramona, a 19th century novel that captured the nation’s imagination, is part of the inventive spirit that formed Southern California’s identity. Ramona Memories is a crisply written, useful guide to the state’s Ramona landmarks and a cogent look at the novel’s importance in Southern California history—imagined and real.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Ramona and her story have had an incredible effect on the idealized vision most people have of early California.

The Signal

In lucid and engaging prose, with a host of fascinating images, the book offers a unique compendium of stories and images of personalities and material culture spawned by this important nineteenth-century novel.

American Historical Review

DeLyser’s innovative book makes important contributions to the historiographies of tourism, social memory, and Southern California history.

Lawrence Culver, Utah State University

Ramona Memories

Contents

Introduction

1. A Determined Author and Her Novel
2. Ramona’s Pilgrims: Tourism and Southern California
3. Rancho Camulos: Symbolic Heart of the Ramona Myth
4. A Close Second: Rancho Guajome
5. Ramona’s Marriage Place, “Which No Tourist Will Fail to Visit”
6. Ramona’s Birthplace: Elusive Remnant of an Attraction
7. “Real” Ramonas
8. The Staging of a Novel
9. Ramona Village, from Coney Island to Trailer Park

Conclusion: Ramona and Social Memory in Southern California

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography

Index