What a difference between the present time and those that preceded the Americans. If the Californios could all gather together to breathe a lament, it would reach Heaven as a moving sigh which would cause fear and consternation in the Universe! What misery!
During his long life, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo had fought California Indians on behalf of Spain, commanded Californio troops for Mexico, and welcomed the Americans to the Pacific Coast. Then he had watched in dismay as the newcomers dispossessed him of his land and dismissed the role he and his ancestors had played in the history of the West.
Vallejo worried that the legacy of his people was being forgotten. His father had been one of the first settlers of San Francisco. Yet now the city's schools taught French and German, but not Spanish. Immigrants from other countries, he complained, were "fawned upon while we Californios are despised." His vast estate -- once a quarter of a million acres -- was reduced to fewer than 300. Now he was hounded by lawyers, plagued by debts. With his wife Benicia, Vallejo lived in a little cottage which he called Lachryma Montis -- Tear of the Mountain. But sometimes he visited what was left of his old adobe ranch house near Petaluma.
I compare that old relic with myself... ruins and dilapidation. What a difference between then and now. Then, youth, strength and riches; now age, weakness and poverty.
Friends petitioned Congress for a pension for the old man, but before any action could be taken, Vallejo died on January 21st, 1890.
At the time of Vallejo's death, thousands of Mexicans were crossing the border into the United States. Some were escaping political turbulence. But most came north for the same reasons that Americans went west. "My intention is to get a good job, to save some money, and start out for myself," said one, "for... one can make good money in America and there is always work."
"To me, the fact that the Mexican came North in search of a better life is a tremendous epic that hasn't been written. It's an odyssey that we know nothing about. And they came with a dream for a better life. The reality is very different. They left behind a culture in which they felt safe and they had to recreate that here."
They found jobs in the mines, on the railroads, in the vast new agricultural fields of the Southwest. Descendents of the oldest European culture in the West, they were now often greeted as unwelcome newcomers. Still, over the next 30 years, one and a half million men, women and children -- ten per cent of the population of Mexico -- would come north, following many of the same routes once taken by the conquistadors.
"My grandparents hometown is Guerrero. When it was founded, it was the original Texas. My grandmother was born there, and her family was born there, and they go back to the original settlers of that town, back in the 1750s.
Because of a decision to dam the river and build the Falcon Dam reservoir, the town was flooded. When the Falcon waters recede, the people come to the plaza and they dance on the plaza. They play their music at midnight there. They walk around the church and touch it. They clean up the yard of the church and the old cemeteries. They walk over to Flores' grocery store, they walk over to the hotel that was once there. They walk around the residences.
It is really a moment when the whole community comes together and takes pride in it, and they take care of it as if it was still a live and thriving town. I think as long as Guerrero lives, our history lives, our community lives. It speaks for the fact that, no matter all the tragedies and wars and everything that's happened to us, we're still there."
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