The Squatter and the Don

The Squatter and the Don

The Squatter and the Don

The Squatter and the Don

Synopsis

Originally published in San Francisco in 1885, this is the first fictional narrative written and published in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population that was, by 1860, a subordinated and marginalized national minority, despite full rights of citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848.

Excerpt

I think but few Americans know or believe to
what extent we have been wronged by
Congressional action. And truly, I believe that
Congress itself did not anticipate the effect of
its laws upon us, and how we could be
despoiled, we, the conquered people [67]
.

We have had no one to speak for us [67].

The resentment, outcry and appeal evidenced in the words uttered by the Californio rancher, Don Mariano Alamar, in The Squatter and the Don point to three central strategies used by the author, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, in her nineteenth-century novel to create a narrative space for the counter-history of the subaltern, the conquered Californio population. Ruiz de Burton published the The Squatter and the Don in San Francisco in 1885, almost forty years after the United States invaded and occupied the Mexican Southwest. Her novel would be the first published narrative written in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population that, despite being granted full rights of citizenship by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, was, by 1860, a subordinated and marginalized national minority. A writer who witnessed the disappearance of the old order and the disruption of everyday life with the disintegration of past structures, shifts in power relations and the rapid capitalist development of the territory, Ruiz de Burton would seek to reconstruct a bracketed history and to question dominant ideological discourses touting the “American way” as a just, democratic and liberating system. Her acerbic critique, framed by the generic constraints of romance, would, however, necessarily require the appropriation of the very political discourses that she set out to denounce. At a moment when the few histories by Californios themselves remained in manuscript form and were even then already collecting dust in Bancroft’s archives, the very act of writing and publishing this historical romance was a form of empowerment for the collectivity.

The Squatter and the Don, like all romances, textualizes a quest which necessarily involves conflict and resolution, given here as the trials and tribulations standing in the way of the felicitous union of a romantic couple. Because the novel is also marked by its historicity, however, the quest is not merely for the love of a maiden, but also for land and justice. The narrative thus follows two tracks, one historical and one romantic, with the latter serving to frame the reconstruction of a critical period in the history of the Southwest. In this regard, Ruiz de Burton’s . . .

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