Founded in 2011 by Carribean Fragoza and Romeo Guzmán, the South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP) is an arts collective dedicated to engaging with the South El Monte and El Monte community through the arts by rethinking our use of space and transforming how we inhabit it. El Monte’s encroaching centennial in 2012 encouraged new ways of thinking about its history and new methods of conveying El Monte’s present and past to its residents and the broader public.
The South El Monte Arts Posse, in collaboration with La Casa de El Hijo del Ahuizote, used this historical date as an opportunity to launch the community public history and place-making project, “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte,” which was funded by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. This initial grant and communal labor helped launch what would become a multi-year and award-winning project to excavate, organize, and publicize this history. The project has resulted in two major outcomes: the edited book East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte (Rutgers, 2020) and a digital archive, which will be available in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library (CCDL) this summer. Both push against El Monte’s outdated and exclusionary “pioneer narrative.” The CCDL collection will feature photographs, newspaper clippings, city documents, zines, oral history interviews, and other materials that document daily life in El Monte and South El Monte, California, from the 1910s to 2020s.