Ramona Memories: Fiction, Tourist Practices, and Placing the Past in Southern California
Though today it is mostly forgotten, scholars have long written of the impact of Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona, about how it saturated southern California's landscape with new, Ramona-related tourist attractions and ultimately inspired a romanticized false past for the region. In this article, I reevaluate the landscape, the novel, and those scholarly interpretations, discovering what I consider, not simply a false past, but rather a new social memory for the region, one that was felt and practiced by the tourists (and locals) who visited the many Ramona-related landmarks. In particular, I explore the creation of two Ramona sites, the “Home of Ramona” and “Ramona's Marriage Place,” and detail how tourism and boosterism here intertwined to create attractions that were both profitable as well as meaningful. Using tiny traces scavenged in archives and private collections—souvenirs, postcards, photographs, and scrapbooks—I demonstrate how fact and fiction blurred to become mutually constitutive as a new, Ramona-inspired social memory became inscribed on the landscape and in tourists' lives.