Joaquin Murrieta: Life and Adventures of the Celebrated Bandit : His Exploits in the State of California

By Ireneo Paz; Francis P. Belle | Go to book overview

IV
Joaquín Murrieta as Myth

Preliminaries

To what can we attribute the sudden transformation of Joaquín into a mythical character? Undoubtedly, one factor was the dramatic exhibition of his head in Stockton, San Francisco, and other California cities, and another is the biography published by John Rollin Ridge one year after these events.

But it is also due to the example of romantic European heroes to whom the writers compare him. Among the titles of the works dedicated to him, we find The Fra Diavolo of El Dorado, The Robin Hood of El Dorado, and Joaquín, the Claude Duval of California, this latter a novel in which are mentioned other famous romantic bandits including Jonathan Wild, Rinaldo Rinaldi, Cartouche, and Schneitzer. In the introduction to his version of Murrieta’s story, Hyenne not only compares him to these European figures but claims that Joaquín surpasses them: “Malgré le renom que possède en Italie Fra Diavolo, malgré la reputación bien établie des Cartouche et des Mandrin de notre pays, il nous faute pourtant avoner que Joaquín Murieta, le bandit Californiene, les a tout surpassés” (2) [Despite the fame of Fra Diavolo in Italy, and despite the well-established reputation of the Cartouches and the Mandrins in our own country, we must nevertheless avow that Joaquín Murieta, the California bandit, has surpassed them all].

The American historian Hubert Howe Bancroft compares him to none other than Napoleon. In California Pastoral, he states: “The terms brave, daring, able faintly express his qualities. In the cañons of California he was what Napoleon was in the cities of Europe” (1888: 645). Besides, California did not have a popular hero like Davey Crockett, who had sacrificed his life in the Alamo for Texas independence.15

How can we explain the fact that it was Murrieta and not one of the other four Joaquíns (Carillo, Ocomorenia, Botellier, Valenzuela) who became the most famous popular hero in the history of California? One expert historian, Jackson, explains:

California might have developed its own folk hero sooner if
gold mining had been a more romantic business. […] A hero
hip deep in an icy mountain torrent is only a chilly hero at
best [….] California’s folk hero, then, if there was to be one
at all, had to be something other than a symbolic enlargement
of the patiently grubbing, ragged, homesick, and fever-ridden
“honest miner.”

There had long been such another figure embedded in folk
memory. [….] He was, in every land, the man who took from
the rich and gave to the poor […] In California, in the fifties,
no such hero existed, but that did not matter. Ridge obliging

-xxxvii-

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Joaquin Murrieta: Life and Adventures of the Celebrated Bandit : His Exploits in the State of California
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • I - The Historical Joaquín xii
  • II - Biography xviii
  • III - Translation and Plagiarism of Ridge's Work xxv
  • IV - Joaquín Murrieta as Myth xxxvii
  • V - Joaquín Murrieta in Narrative Fiction xlviii
  • VI - Joaquín Murrieta in Poetry lix
  • VII - Joaquín Murrieta in Theater and Film lxviii
  • VIII - The Corrido of Joaquín Murrieta lxxviii
  • IX - This Edition xcvi
  • Notes xcviii
  • Bibliography cii
  • Chronology cxii
  • Chapter I 1
  • Chapter II 7
  • Chapter III 13
  • Chapter IV 18
  • Chapter V 22
  • Chapter VI 29
  • Chapter VII 35
  • Chapter VIII 43
  • Chapter IX 48
  • Chapter X 54
  • Chapter XI 61
  • Chapter XII 65
  • Chapter XIII 69
  • Chapter XIV 72
  • Chapter XV 76
  • Chapter XVI 80
  • Chapter XVII 86
  • Chapter XVIII 90
  • Chapter XIX 94
  • Chapter XX 99
  • Chapter XXI 107
  • Chapter XXII 113
  • Chapter XXIII 118
  • Chapter XXIV 123
  • Chapter XXV 128
  • Chapter XXVI 135
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