A Toypurina Mural : The Spirit of Resistance and Resilience for Gabrielino Indians


Norine Holguin

8/11/20232 min read

Art Heal Mural By Raul Gonzalez, Joseph Montalvo, Ricardo in 2008
Art Heal Mural By Raul Gonzalez, Joseph Montalvo, Ricardo in 2008

Two vibrant works of public art in El Monte, California, pay tribute to the life and legend of Toypurina, a Gabrielino medicine woman known for her involvement in a planned revolt against Spanish colonial rule in 1785. These artworks, a mural in Boyle Heights and an arch and plaza in the Baldwin Park Metrolink Station serve as powerful symbols of resistance, resilience, and community memory. Toypurina's story is not only a part of history but has been woven into the very fabric of the landscape surrounding the specific places where her legendary actions unfolded.

Toypurina and the San Gabriel Mission, 1785

Toypurina, a Kumivit woman from the Gabrielino tribe in Southern California, played a central role in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonizers who established Mission San Gabriel. The mission encroached on the lands of various tribal nations, exploiting their labor and attempting to convert them to the Roman Catholic faith. In October 1785, Toypurina joined a group of Gabrielino neophytes in their plot to destroy the mission in response to a ban on traditional dances and other ongoing affronts.

New Historical Understandings

The historical narrative surrounding Toypurina's role in the uprising has evolved over time. Some historians initially portrayed her as the primary leader and symbol of Indian resistance, while others have offered more nuanced interpretations. Recent research by historian Steven Hackel suggests that multiple individuals, including Nicolás José and Temejasaquichí, played significant roles in the rebellion. The motivations of the participants were likely complex, involving resistance to colonialism as well as inter-tribal conflict and competition.

Toypurina's Importance for El Monte and South El Monte

Toypurina's story resonates strongly with communities connected to the Gabrielinos or with narratives of oppression and resistance. The mural in Ramona Gardens and the artwork "Danza Indigenas" in Baldwin Park symbolize her strength and protective nature, celebrating the role of mothers and preserving cultural memory. Toypurina's life reflects resilience and survival in the face of difficult circumstances, making her a symbol of enduring resistance and determination for present-day communities.


The artworks in El Monte, dedicated to Toypurina, celebrate her bravery and leadership in resisting Spanish colonialism. Her legacy endures as a reminder of the strength of indigenous communities and their enduring will to adapt and survive. By commemorating her life, these public art pieces ensure that Toypurina's spirit of resistance and resilience remains alive and continues to inspire generations to come.


Lesson: How and why is Toypurina remembered in different ways by different groups of people?

Councilmember Huizar Celebrates Mural’s Healing Power with Ramona Gardens’ Community


John, Maria. “Toypurina: A Legend Etched in the Landscape.” Tropics of Meta: Histography for the Masses, 23 Jan. 2014, tropicsofmeta.com/2014/01/23/toypurina-a-legend-etched-in-the-landscape/.

Gardens, Ramona. “Art Heals.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 6 Aug. 2008, Raul Gonzalez, Joseph Montalvo, www.flickr.com/photos/ramonagardens/2900738653/in/photostream/.

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