We can reconstruct the life of Joaquín with information from various sources, including news reports of the period, the biography by John Rollin Ridge, as well its imitators and translators, and also the principal studies on Murrieta by Jackson, Latta, Nadeau, Rojas, and so forth.
Ridge wrote the first biography. He indicates that Joaquín was born in Sonora, Mexico. It was not until “C. M.” [Carlos Morla] published his 1867 Spanish translation, taken from the French translation by Robert Hyenne, which in turn had been taken from the Police Gazette version of 1859, that anyone claimed Joaquín was born in Chile. All of the American and Mexican critics state that he was born in Sonora, although not all of them mention the actual place of birth. Not even the 1904 translation published in Mexico City by Ireneo Paz mentions the name of the town. Not until recently have biographers given the name of a town. Manuel Rojas, in his book Joaquín Murrieta, “El Patrio”: El Far West del México cercenado (3rd ed., 1992), after mentioning sites suggested by various other critics, states that “Joaquín Murrieta was born in the Villa de San Rafael ‘El Alamito,’ in the district of Altar, Sonora, México, and the date of birth, pending actual documentation, must have been between 1824 and 1830” (1992: 36). Frank Latta, in Joaquín Murrieta and His Horse Gangs (1980), tells us that “El famoso Joaquín was born on El Camino Real […] in a stone house near the left bank of Arroyo de los Alamos in Pueblo de Murrieta located about 50 miles south of the picturesque old Colonial mining town of Real de los Alamos” (1980: 127). The Diccionario Porrúa states that Joaquín was born “in the Rancho del Salado near Alamos, Sonora” (1964: 991). It is interesting to note that in Chile the belief persists that Joaquín was born in the town of Quillota, twenty miles south of Valparaíso.3
Nor are Murrieta’s biographers in agreement as to the date of Joaquín’s birth, although all of them (with the exception of the Diccionario Porrúa) put it between 1824 and 1832. John Rollin Ridge is the first to mention Joaquín’s age. He tells us that in 1850, when he was working in the Stanislaus mines, he was eighteen years