Our History

A Community of Challenge and Promise

Sir Daniel J. Donohue: Santa Marta's Best Friend
The Gala That Built The Hospital - President-elect Richard Nixon
The Sisters of Carondelet
East Los Angeles has always been a community of immigrants. Since the 1800’s, the neighborhood around Santa Marta has been a melting pot of Asian, European, and Latin American immigrants who came to California searching for a better life. Most found opportunity, but frequently they also faced hostility, unfair labor practices, and substandard housing. Chinese and Korean immigrants eventually settled in Monterey Park; the Japanese clustered in what is now Little Tokyo, and for many years, Jewish families forged the enclave of Boyle Heights. By 1939, there were 70,000 Jewish households in the area, and until the 1950’s, Jewish-owned delicatessens, butchers, and bakeries, as well as Orthodox synagogues, were a prominent part of Brooklyn Ave (now Cesar Chavez).

Los Angeles, however, was originally a Mexican town, and Hispanics have always lived in East Los Angeles. The 1920s brought relative prosperity to the area. Whittier Blvd was paved while electric car lines connected East Los Angeles with downtown and, by the 1930s, with Orange County. Mobility meant economic growth. Large companies set up operations in the area, while Mexican-owned businesses prospered along Brooklyn and First. In 1939, the Catholic Archdiocese announced plans to build "a national shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe" on Third St., pattered after the Shrine in Mexico City. Meanwhile, the community’s vibrant social and religious life was reflected in its festivities, church events and Spanish language cinema.

During the 1940s, thousands of East Los Angeles residents served in World War II. The decade was also marked by the rise in gangs in the barrio including "Zoot suiters." As the Civil Rights movement gathered momentum in the 1950s and ‘60s, racial tensions increased and erupted in massive demonstrations in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Today, statistics continue to reveal a community to challenge and promise. More than 40% of East Los Angeles residents are foreign-born with a large number unable to speak or write English. The area’s income and education levels are below the national average. With 8,000 hard-core gang members in East Los Angeles, violence, murder, and drug arrests are a reality.

But there is also good news. There are two colleges, East Los Angeles Community and Cal State Los Angeles. Major industry is located at Corporate Center Drive, as well as in the community’s meat and tortilla factories. In addition, family and faith are still central to the community with 25 Catholic churches in the neighborhood.

One of the area’s other sources of hope is Santa Marta Hospital which has been serving the community with Catholic health care since 1924. Whether it is in the hospital’s Emergency Department, critical care units, maternity department, or outpatient surgery program, Santa Marta Hospital is there, 24 hours a day, to offer the families of East Los Angeles quality medical care in a compassionate environment.

Mission defines Santa Marta Hospital. It is the driving force of the organization. Like the gospel parable of the yeast as leaven for the bread, the mission permeates the organization and gives it substance, shape and life. To understand how mission is integral to Santa Marta Hospital is to describe its history.

Santa Marta Hospital, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has served the health care needs of the people in the East Los Angeles Community since 1924. It was founded as a ten bed maternity hospital and clinic by Doctor Francis Anton and a group of Spanish-speaking women volunteers to attend to the needs of poor people in the East Los Angeles Mexican community.

In its early years, the hospital struggled to remain open in order to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the persons who came for assistance. During the difficult years of the Depression, Santa Marta not only continued to provide health care, but it also fed each day 200 persons, primarily mothers and their young children.

The Daughters of St. Joseph accepted Cardinal McIntyre's invitation in 1961 to administer the hospital. Through many years, under the guidance of the Daughters, the hospital and clinic continued to accomplish its mission of respectful and compassionate quality care to the community.

There came a time, however, when the facility no longer met the requirements of the health and fire departments. A new 100-bed hospital was built and opened its doors to the East Los Angeles community in 1972.

Committed to carrying out its mission of providing compassionate quality health care to the community, especially to women and children, the Daughters maintained sponsorship of the hospital until July l,1994. Realizing the hospital needed affiliation with a Catholic health system, the Daughters asked the Carondelet Health System, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, to assume sponsorship of Santa Marta Hospital.

Fidelity to the mission continues. The values of respectful, compassionate, quality health care to the East Los Angeles community remain integral to Santa Marta Hospital. The tradition of meeting community needs endures today in partnership with the employees, physicians, Board members and volunteers who are responsible to continue to make the mission of Santa Marta Hospital a living reality.

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