On April 21, Juan Caldera will be inducted into Colton’s Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions in establishing an adult baseball league, boxing program, and public park for Mexican-American residents in the early 1900s.
Historian Mel Salazar said he’s glad the city chose to commemorate Caldera’s contributions to the city.
“Caldera played an important part in developing Colton,” said Salazar. “This isn’t only about him and sports. It’s also about his legacy as a good man.”
Salazar worked with Caldera’s grandson, Augie, to recollect photographs, news articles, and other primary sources that trace the entrepreneur’s life accomplishments. As mentioned in a previous IECN story, Juan Caldera came to Colton at the age of 15 with his family from Zacatecas, Mexico in 1907.
In his younger years Caldera worked at the Portland Cement Plant, before buying land in South Colton to build the region’s first sports complex that included a baseball diamond, a non-segregated swimming pool, and a bullring on the corner of Rancho Avenue and Congress Street.
Caldera–who was known as a reasonable landowner and businessman–owned approximately $500,000 in assets. However, most of it was liquidated during Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s.
“He was able to get [his property] back,” Salazar said. “But he wasn’t able to recuperate from that.”
Caldera’s grandson remembers his grandfather as an “honorable man” that would help others in time of need.
“I remember there were times when people needed meat and Juan would say, ‘OK here’s 20 pounds of meat,” Augie said. “The person would sell the meat, make a profit out of it, and then pay my grandpa back. He gave opportunity to everyone. I think Juan was genuinely open hearted.”
For Salazar, who has been instrumental in ensuring the inductions of several individuals and sports teams in recent years, Caldera’s story is one that should be told to generations to come.
“A lot of these kids don’t know who their [predecessors] are,” explained Salazar. “That’s why I do the work I do. A hundred years from now people will be able to look back and learn about this great man. We need to remember our history.”
The Colton Sports Hall of Fame ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Gonzales Community Center on April 21 at 6 pm.