Land of Luxury

Posted on March 9, 2018 by Holly Hasenfratz in

These stories are brought to you by the Annie Oakley Society of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in honor of Woman’s History Month.

Beverly Hills is known around the world for offering celebrities and tourists alike an indulgent, luxury shopping experience. Rodeo Drive, the infamous two-mile long street that lies in the heart of Beverly Hills, is perhaps its most well-known resident. Elegant store fronts boast designer brands along the drive. Versace. Chanel. Hermes. But, long before these names were associated with the area, one name in particular stands out among historians: Maria Rita Valdez. She owned the historic Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, located in present-day Beverly Hills.


Maria Rita Valdez grew up in the modern-day, southern California region in the early 1800s. Her grandfather, Luis Quintero, was one of the original settlers of Los Angeles. In 1820, Valdez and her husband, Vicente Fernando Villa, established their home in a spot where two mountain streams converged. They received the land grant as retirement compensation for Villa who served as a Spanish colonial soldier. They named their property Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas. After Villa’s death in 1828, Valdez fought many difficult legal battles for a decade to establish her claim as the land’s rightful owner.
In 1848 the Mexican-American War ended, and, under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico ceded land to the United States – including California. Protected under provisions in the Treaty, Valdez kept her land she fought so hard to retain. Under Valdez, life on the ranch was prosperous. During this time, they raised cattle and grew beans and corn – enough to sustain the 29 people working and living on the property. In 1854, due to a changing economy, Valdez eventually sold the ranch for a large sum of money. Although the land looks quite different today, Maria Rita Valdez’s rodeo lives on.



These stories are brought to you by the Annie Oakley Society  and the Dickinson Research Center of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in honor of Woman’s History Month.

The Annie Oakley Society at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum was formed seven years ago to celebrate the past and present leadership roles that women play in Western heritage. The society celebrates the diversity of America’s heritage by honoring significant women who have achieved a remarkable first or who have been a trailblazer of national notoriety. The honorees are recognized each year at the Annie Oakley Society Awards Luncheon, with all proceeds benefitting educational programing initiatives at the National Cowboy Museum. For additional information regarding membership please contact e-mail or call  (405) 478-2250, Ext. 233 Diana Fields for assistance.


About Holly

Holly Hasenfratz is the Digital & Institutional Archivist at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. As a native Oklahoman, she’s passionate about telling the stories of the American West.