The original inhabitants of the area now occupied by the city of La Puente were the Tongva. They lived in a village called Awingna, which linguists translate as "abiding place." The Awingna chief Matheo (who also held sway over several other nearby villages) was baptized at Mission San Gabriel in 1774.
In 1769, the Spanish Portolà expedition became the first Europeans to see inland portions of Alta California. On July 30, the party camped on the east side of the San Gabriel River, in today's unincorporated area of Bassett. Father Juan Crespi wrote in his diary that, the next day, they had to build a bridge (Spanish "puente") to cross the miry San Gabriel River.
With the establishment of Mission San Gabriel, the area encompassing Awingna and what is now the city of La Puente became part of Rancho La Puente, established as a mission outpost and ranch. The rancho was visited by the Jedediah Smith party in November 1826, the first Americans to travel overland to California.
Following secularization of the missions in the 1830s, former mission ranchos passed into private ownership. In 1842, John Rowland and William Workman were granted the 48,000-acre (190 km2) Rancho La Puente. In 1884, the area was named Puente (bridge in Spanish; in old Spanish the noun was often feminine, as opposed to modern Spanish el puente).
The area was known for its fruit and walnut groves during the 1930s. The city was even home to the world's largest walnut packing plant. Today, the city is heavily urbanized, but the area still has some historical landmarks from its founding days nearby, for instance, the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in neighboring City of Industry.
Redevelopment of the business districts in La Puente have been ongoing. However, the local government has been relatively unsuccessful in its attempts to attract big-box retailers and restaurant chains. La Puente retains many aging 1950s-era strip malls.
La Puente is located at 34°1′57″N 117°57′19″W (34.032410, -117.955195). The city, which is mostly flat, covers about 3.5 square miles (9.1 km2) of land in the San Gabriel Valley.
The 2010 United States Census reported that La Puente had a population of 39,816. The population density was 11,443.2 people per square mile (4,418.2/km²). La Puente is 49.4% White (4.6% Non-Hispanic White), 1.4% Black or African American, 1.1% Native American, 8.4% Asian, and 0.1% Pacific Islander. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 33,896 persons (85.1%).
The Census reported that 39,773 people (99.9% of the population) lived in households, 43 (0.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.
There were 9,451 households, out of which 5,186 (54.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 5,367 (56.8%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,824 (19.3%) had a female householder with no husband present, 930 (9.8%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 584 (6.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 65 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 989 households (10.5%) were made up of individuals and 472 (5.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.21. There were 8,121 families (85.9% of all households); the average family size was 4.34.
The population was spread out with 11,423 people (28.7%) under the age of 18, 4,640 people (11.7%) aged 18 to 24, 11,468 people (28.8%) aged 25 to 44, 8,619 people (21.6%) aged 45 to 64, and 3,666 people (9.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.5 years. For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.8 males.
There were 9,761 housing units at an average density of 2,805.3 per square mile (1,083.1/km²), of which 5,693 (60.2%) were owner-occupied, and 3,758 (39.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.9%. 24,961 people (62.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 14,812 people (37.2%) lived in rental housing units.
According to the 2010 United States Census, La Puente had a median household income of $53,794, with 14.3% of the population living below the federal poverty line.
As of the census of 2000, there are 41,063 people, 9,461 households, and 8,183 families residing in the city. The population density is 4,542.8/km² (11,757.3/mi²). There are 9,660 housing units at an average density of 1,068.7/km² (2,765.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 39.11% White, 1.96% African American, 1.28% Native American, 7.16% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 45.14% from other races, and 5.19% from two or more races. 83.10% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 9,461 households out of which 50.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.4% are married couples living together, 17.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 13.5% are non-families. 10.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 4.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 4.34 and the average family size is 4.48.
In the city, the population is spread out with 33.8% under the age of 18, 11.6% from 18 to 24, 31.0% from 25 to 44, 15.9% from 45 to 64, and 7.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 100.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 98.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $41,222, and the median income for a family is $41,079. Males have a median income of $26,381 versus $22,018 for females. The per capita income for the city is $11,336. 18.9% of the population and 16.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 24.6% are under the age of 18 and 9.3% are 65 or older.
In the California State Legislature, La Puente is in the 22nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Ed Hernandez, and in the 57th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Ian Calderon.
In the United States House of Representatives, La Puente is in California's 32nd congressional district, represented by Democrat Grace Napolitano.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department operates the Industry Station in the City of Industry, serving La Puente.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the Pomona Health Center in Pomona, serving La Puente.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department operates the following fire Stations: Fire Station 26 Fire Station 43
Both Fire Stations 26 and 43 are members of the LACOFD Battalion 12. Battalion 12 consists of the cities of Rowland Heights, La Puente, La Mirada, Industry and Hacienda Heights.
The income per capita of the city of La puente is $16,899, which includes all children and adults. The city's median household income is $62,709.
According to the City's 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
School districts include:Hacienda La Puente Unified School District
Bassett Unified School District
Rowland Unified School District
Elementary (primary) schools: Lassalette Elementary School, Sparks Elementary School
High (secondary) schools: Bassett High School, La Puente High School, Nogales High School, William Workman High School (in the City of Industry)
Private high schools: Bishop Amat Memorial High SchoolAlfie Agnew - mathematician, songwriter and musician
Sutan Amrull - make-up artist and performer
Tony Baltazar - professional boxer (former resident)
Eric Bieniemy - UCLA and NFL running back, attended Bishop Amat HS
Anthony Calvillo - record-breaking Canadian Football League quarterback
Cecil Fielder - former Nogales High School and Detroit Tigers slugger, father of Prince Fielder
Jeff Garcia - voice actor and comedian; voice for the character Sheen Estevez in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Norberto Garrido - lineman for the NFL's Carolina Panthers
Pat Haden - former USC and NFL quarterback, attended Bishop Amat HS
Dan Haren - MLB pitcher, attended Bishop Amat HS
Efren Herrera - UCLA and NFL kicker, attended La Puente HS
Mike Lamb - MLB infielder, attended Bishop Amat HS
Billy Laughlin - "Froggy" from the Our Gang comedies
Darryll Lewis - Arizona and NFL cornerback, attended Nogales HS
Steven Luevano - professional boxer
Lionel Manuel - U of Pacific and NFL wide receiver, attended Bassett HS
Arturo Marquez - renowned composer of orchestra music (former resident)
Crispin Castro Monroy - municipal president of Santa Cruz Atizapan
Max Montoya - UCLA and NFL offensive lineman, attended La Puente HS
William R. Rowland - Los Angeles County sheriff
John Sciarra - UCLA and NFL quarterback, attended Bishop Amat HS
Hilda Solis - politician, member of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for District 1
Michael Young - 7-time All-Star infielder in Major League Baseball, attended Bishop Amat HS
David Denson - First professional baseball player affiliated with an MLB organization to come out as gay