Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bigots in Old California

In the late 1800s some Americans had a bigoted attitude toward Indians, and Mexicans too. A useful case study might well be the history of Juan Jose Warner and the Cupeno. If you look carefully at a road map of southern California you are likely to find the place name Warner Hot Springs. That place can be the geographic center of your study.

You may discovered that in California, as in much of the U.S., bigotry was often associated with greed. The kinder bigots of those days tended to think of Indians and Mexicans as many present day parents tend to think of their children. That is they thought of them as liabilities rather than as assets. A Mexican who knew her place could occasionally have some value, but Indians were generally unredeemable.
Other bigots were not so kind. Some even considered Indians and Mexicans to be vermin to be exterminated. Indians might be drowned or poisoned like gophers in a vegetable garden. Mexicans might be shot like a fox or bobcat in a hen-house. 

Don Juan Jose might have been a bigot, but he was certainly of a better sort than any mentioned here.

One may begin in a variety of times and places to explore the realities of these attitudes of closed-minded intolerance. I suggest that you begin in 1849 with the arrest of Juan Jose Warner. Warner was neither an Indian nor a Mexican. He had learned the ways of the "Dons," the ways of the "Californios" and he respected them. As a law abiding citizen of that time and place he had become naturalized as a Mexican citizen.

He came to occupy extensive lands in the far southern hills of California. He learned to live and work with  Indians in a mutually beneficial and somewhat respectful ways. He felt it natural and a source of pride to deal with fellow Californios as peers.

Google his name and check out the the history to see how a gentleman became 'vermin' in the land of the free. Or you could Search 'Cupeno.' To be correct one needs to remember the tilde over the 'n' in Cupeno.

No comments:

Post a Comment