Discovering Joaquin Murrieta, Social Bandit and Folk Hero: Racial Tensions in the California Gold Rush
Ernst, Tobin Patrick (Toby)
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The centerpiece of my work is the story of Joaquin Murrieta. Joaquin Murrieta was one of countless oppressed Mexican Americans of the California Gold Rush. Like many people across the United States, Joaquin and his brother Jesus came to the California gold mines with dreams of building a successful claim to wealth. However, life was not so kind. While peacefully mining their claim, Joaquin's brother was lynched and his wife raped. Unlike many others who endured similar atrocities, Joaquin would not stand for this injustice. With vengeance in mind, Joaquin Murrieta took up arms against people backed by institutions of an oppressive government that seemed determined to make him and his people obsolete. In retrospect, the story that unfolds, further described in the pages to come, was a microcosm of the struggle of the non-white population against a largely oppressive Anglo-American population and government. The story and legacy of Joaquin Murrieta is important in understanding the nature of frontier society of nineteenth century United States and the role of government in solidifying Anglo American dominance of society. By learning about Joaquin Murrieta one can also learn about concepts of the American West such as social banditry, vigilantism and the primitive concepts of law and order that were practiced.