“The Church Would Look Foolish Without Them”: Judge Ygnacio Sepulveda, Los Angeles, California

“The Church Would Look Foolish Without Them”: Judge Ygnacio Sepulveda, Los Angeles, California February 25, 2011
Descended from a long line of Spanish-Californian ancestry, Judge Ygnacio Sepulveda, recently returned to the land of his birth after thirty years voluntary exile in the City of Mexico, is a type of the true Californian of an early day, and also a splendid type of manhood. His return to Los Angeles is almost like a fairy tale, for when he left the city it numbered barely fourteen thousand souls, and he returns to find it a metropolis of over half a million. Quaint old Spanish adobes have given place to towering structures of stone and steel; wandering country lanes are busy thoroughfares; and where wide meadows once stretched are now crowded city streets and stately residences, schools, churches, parks, hotels, etc. For during the long years of his absence one hurried visit some six years ago is the only time that Judge Sepulveda has been in his native city since he left it in December, 1883. In so high esteem was he held, however, that his memory has not been lost, and there was a ready place awaiting him on his return.

Judge Sepulveda was born in Los Angeles July 1, 1842, the son of Jose and Francisca (Avila) Sepulveda, both descended from old and honored families of Spain and California. The boyhood days of the present honored citizen of Los Angeles were spent in this city, and later he was sent to Boston (Mass.) to attend school, passing through three of the best preparatory schools of that time. He was admitted to the bar of California, in Los Angeles, in 1863, when he was just twenty-one years of age, and immediately commenced to practice law in his native city. Both in preparation and in native ability the young Sepulveda was far above the average young man of the time, and his rise was swift and steady. Within the year (1863) he was elected to the state legislature, where he rendered distinguished service, and in 1869 he was made County Judge of Los Angeles County. Here again he distinguished himself, and so was further honored in 1874 by being elected District Judge of Los Angeles, and in 1879 became Superior Judge of the county.

It was in December, 1883, that Judge Sepulveda left the land of his birth and took up his residence in Mexico City, Mexico, where he continued to reside until December, 1913. Here again he met with signal success in his business and professional undertakings and was honored by both the government of Mexico and also by that of the United States, receiving at various times evidence of the confidence and esteem in which he was held by both countries. In 1896 he was first secretary and charge d’affaires of the United States in Mexico, and he is a member of the Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation of Mexico. The recent disturbed condition of affairs in the southern republic have been at least partially responsible for the return of Judge Sepulveda to his native land, and he has opened office where he will give especial attention to the care of Mexican interests, for the handling of which he is so ably fitted.

The marriage of Judge Sepulveda took place in Los Angeles, December 13, 1883, uniting him with Miss Herlinda de la Guerra, also a native of California, and born in Santa Barbara. She comes of one of the oldest and most distinguished families of that section, and one which figured prominently in the history of an early day. Of this union one daughter alone survives, Conchita Sepulveda, who is well known from Mexico City to San Francisco, in both of which cities she is a social favorite and society belle. In 1913 she was queen of the Portola festival at San Francisco, and was signally honored by the city in every possible manner, being hailed as a typical daughter of California. Miss Sepulveda is especially well known in social circles in Los Angeles, where she has many friends and relatives, and where she has been a frequent and a welcome visitor in recent years.

Aside from his professional prominence Judge Sepulveda has always been interested in political and social questions. He is a Democrat in his political affiliations, and during his former residence in California was a power in the political world. He has always been a prominent member of the Knights of Columbus, and was one of the organizers of Guadalupe Council (Mexico), of which he is past Grand Knight. He is a member of the Catholic Church, and has always been active and influential in the affairs of the church.

Los Angeles is indeed glad to welcome this one of her favorite sons again to her heart, and sincerely hopes that peace in the southern republic will not again win him away from her.

James Guinn Miller, A History of California and An Extended History of Los Angeles and its Environs: Also Containing a Biography of Well-Known Citizens of the Past and Present (Three Volumes, 1915), Volume II.

The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 , by Father Michael J. McGivney and a group of laymen in New Haven, Connecticut. Its purpose was twofold: to provide a fraternal organization for Catholic men, and to provide practical beneifts for members and their families (at a time when “benefits” as we understand them today didn’t exist). By the turn of the century, it had councils in every state, and was expanding internationally. As noted above, Judge Sepulveda helped organize Mexico’s first council in 1905. Within a few years, a vicious government persecution targeted the Church. Many Knights were martyred for the faith. Since 2000, eight Mexican Knights have been canonized and beatified. For a while, the Knights were actually outlawed in Mexico, but today they continue to flourish.  

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