Marcus and Rosie Belardo at a sunrise service, circa 1917Courtesy Palm Springs Historical Society. All Rights Reserved
ATTRIBUTION: MARCUS & ROSA (ROSIE) BELARDO
LIVED: Circa 1860 – 1/18/1928 (Marcus)
LIVED: Circa 1867 – 7/5/1927 (Rosa)
Marcus Belardo was an early leader of the Agua Caliente people and a staunch defender of tribal autonomy. He fought the Indian Service’s insistence on its “right” to appoint reservation leaders rather than allow Indian people to select their own.
In 1914, Belardo signed a letter demanding that Adrian Maxwell, a federal agent sent to oversee reservation affairs, be removed from his post and vacate the tribal bathhouse where he had taken up residence. This same letter proudly described the hot spring as the ancestral property of the Agua Caliente where they had “domiciled for hundreds and hundreds of years… before white people ever came to this country.”
Playing a vital role in the maintenance of traditional Cahuilla life and ritual, Belardo was a paha (assistant to the net, or ceremonial leader). Pahas made sure that ceremonies were properly performed; and they assisted in making important economic decisions on behalf of the community.
Belardo’s concern for his tribe’s traditional resources at times had far-reaching consequences. In a 1903 letter to the federal government, Belardo requested that Chino Canyon be set aside for tribal cattle grazing. This letter resulted in the discovery that the land in question had earlier been set aside as reservation land. In addition to its importance to tribal history and as a place to raise cattle, Chino Canyon was also a valuable source of water – a scarce commodity at this time.
Belardo belonged to a group who felt that funds earned from early tribal enterprises such as bathhouse entrance fees were best reinvested in long-term improvement projects. He disagreed with tribal members who felt that profits should simply be divided among them.
Marcus and his wife Rosie, after whom Belardo Road is jointly named, were known for hosting fiestas on their property, honoring both traditional rituals and new holidays. Food served at these events was a mixture of the old and the new: hominy, biscuits, tortillas, potatoes, beans, wiwish (acorn porridge), coffee, and “desert tea” brewed with local herbs.