Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936

Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936

Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936

Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936

Synopsis

Spanning the period between Spanish colonization and the early twentieth century, this well-argued and convincing study examines the histories of Spanish and American conquests, and of ethnicity, race, and community in southern California. Lisbeth Haas draws on a diverse body of source materials (mission and court archives, oral histories, Spanish language plays, census and tax records) to build a new picture of rural society and social change.

A borderlands and Chicano history, Haas's work provides a richly textured study of events that took place in and around San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana in present-day Orange County. She provides a vivid sense of how and why the past acquires meaning in the lives that make up the historical identities she discusses. The voices of Juaneño and Luiseño Indians, Californios, and Mexicans are heard along the shifting faultlines of economic, social, and political change.

This is one of the first truly multiethnic histories of California and of the West. It makes clear that issues of multiculturalism and ethnicity are not recent manifestations in California--they have characterized social and cultural relationships there since the late eighteenth century.

Excerpt

In 1889 a young woman, Modesta Avila, was brought to trial in Orange County Superior Court, accused of placing an obstruction on the tracks of the Santa Fe railroad, which had recently been laid some fifteen feet from the doorstep of her home in San Juan Capistrano, a former mission and Mexican pueblo. the obstruction was simply a heavy fence post laid across one rail and another one hammered into the ground between the tracks, with a paper stuck to it that read: “This land belongs to me. and if the railroad wants to run here, they will have to pay me ten thousand dollars.” Max Mendelson, merchant, postmaster, and express agent in San Juan, was waiting for the daily train when he discovered the obstruction. As he quickly dismantled it, Modesta Avila sat quietly watching from her door. Mendelson reported that he told her not to do that, as someone could get hurt; she responded, “If they pay me for my land, they can go by.” Avila reported forcing the railroad to compensate her to individuals who represented the new economic order and legal authority established in the American era: a banker, bank teller, sheriff, and judge, all from Santa Ana, the American town that had been founded in 1869, some twenty miles to the north of San Juan. At the bank she inquired about the quickest method to receive the anticipated payment of ten thousand dollars. She then asked the sheriff whom she could hire to keep peace at a dance . . .

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