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city, Los Angeles county, California, U.S. 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 Trail, though 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 1849 a stage station was established there, and in 1852 the first dwellings (of adobe brick) and a schoolhouse were erected. A Southern Pacific Railroad depot was established there in 1873, spurring the development of local agriculture, with extensive fruit orchards and walnut fields. From 1919 to 1942 the city was home to Gay's Lion Farm, which was established by former circus stars. The farm housed some 200 African lions (including Jackie, one of the lions that was used to introduce Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films), and 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's population grew dramatically in the second half of the 20th century as the urban area surrounding Los Angeles expanded. El Monte is an ethnically diverse city; nearly three-fourths of the population is Hispanic, and nearly one-fifth is of Asian descent. Inc. 1912. Pop. (1990) 106,209; (2000) 115,965.