Could this be him? California’s most notorious bandit, Joaquin Murrieta! During the Gold Rush Era fear and dread surrounded the name of Joaquin. Legends, allegations, nightmares all wove together to create a sinister image of this one man and his gang of marauders.
But there is much speculation that he was not villainous, but was fighting for the freedom of his people at a time when the Mexicans were being thrown off of land that they had owned for many years.
As a child, I heard the stories of this treacherous fellow. They terrified me! But as years passed and I began to study California’s history in a deeper way, I came to realize that things are rarely black and white. Like this daguerrotype, there are many shades and nuances in all of our stories, and perhaps more than most in Joaquin’s.
I first began telling stories of Joaquin around 1990, sharing his history with students at Sonora Elementary School. Along the way, I’ve gathered many sources to help develop and understand where his history meets legend. In the week I’ll be posting a list of books, websites and articles where facts (and fictions?) have been gathered to help tell the tale.
And please add your own to the list in our comments box! It will be quite enlightening to hear what others have learned over the years about JOAQUIN MURRIETA!
SOURCES: (More coming soon!):
Boessenecker, John. Gold Dust and Gunsmoke, John Wiley & Sons, 1999, 367 pages. Based on the latest historical research, Boessenecker presents a detailed discussion of the Murrieta legend.
Hobsbawm, Eric, Bandits, Harcourt Brace, 1969, 128 pages. This is an exhaustive examination behind the Latin culture fascination with the bandit as a social revolutionary. Many historical and modern examples are given including that of Joaquin Murrieta.
Jackson, Joseph H., Bad Company, Bison Books, 1949, 346 pages. Jackson was one of the first popular western historians to document the growth of the Murrieta legend.
Rego, Nilda, 12/22/1991 & 12/29/1991, Contra Costa Times. One of the best retelling of the sympathetic version of Joaquin’s life is found here. The columns relied heavily on Frank Latta’s, “Joaquin Murrieta and His Horse Gang” and personal “histories” of some of our local pioneer families.
Ridge, John Rollin, Introduction by Joseph Jackson, The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, The Celebrated California Bandit, University of Oklahoma Press, 1955, 159 pages. In the book’s first chapter Jackson traces the evolution of the Murrieta legend around the world. The book is important also for an interesting biography of John Rollin and his bloody family tragedies by Joseph Jackson.
Secrest, William B., Lawmen & Desperadoes: 1850-1900, The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1994, 343 pages. Secrest exposes the later slander directed against Harry Love for his role in ending Joaquin’s reign of terror.