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El Monte lies 12 miles 20 km east of downtown Los Angeles. Spanish missionaries and soldiers inhabited the area in the 18th and early 19th centuries and named the location for its meadows an archaic sense of the Spanish word monte. The site, on the banks of the San Gabriel River, is considered the western terminus of the Old Spanish Trail sometimes called the Santa Fe Trailthough it is unrelated to the trail of that name from Missouri to New Mexico.
Early on, the area was merely a camping place for pioneers, but in a stage station was established there, and in the first dwellings of adobe brick and a schoolhouse were erected. A Southern Pacific Railroad depot was established there inspurring the development of local agriculture, with extensive fruit orchards and walnut fields.
The farm housed some African lions including Jackie, one of the lions that was used to introduce Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filmsand many of the lions were used in motion pictures. The city is now a residential suburb of Los Angeles, with some light industry. El Monte is an ethnically diverse city; nearly three-fourths of the population is Hispanic, and nearly one-fifth is of Asian descent.
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