Mexican American Manhood and the Shifting Structures of Legal Belonging
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter considers the other predominant figure of late 19th century manhood, one often directed at a middle-class readership, Spanish fantasy heritage. This chapter examines Spanish fantasy heritage as a process of racialization responding to the dual nature of U.S. citizenship that distinguished between state and federal citizenship. This chapter recovers the work of author Adolfo Carrillo whose collection of short stories, Cuentos Californianos, counters the racialization of Mexican Americans within this climate of changing legal structures through its treatment of the fantasy heritage. This chapter further asserts the need to read U.S. culture multilingually in order to understand its full complexity.
- What refuge did you find here,
- ancient Californios?
- Now at this restaurant nothing remains
- But this old oak and an ill-placed plaque.
- Is it true that you still live here
- In the shadows of these white, high-class houses?
- Soy la hija pobrecita
- Pero puedo maldecir estas fantasmas blancas.
- Las fantasmas tuyas deben aqui quedarse,
- Solas las tuyas.
—Lorna Dee Cervantes, “Poema para los Californios Muertos”1
In one iteration of the popular Joaquin Murieta legend, Murieta and his band of brigands avenge his sister’s rape and murder by marauding the California country, showing the gringos no mercy, but sparing the women and children. Murieta hunts down the villain who violated his sister, eventually capturing him and “cortándole por donde más había pecado” [lopping off the place where the villain most had sinned].2 In this particular version, however, Joaquin is not captured by Captain Love, nor is he wounded by the lawmen. In this version, Joaquin and his loyal sidekick Three Fingers Jack choose death over capitulation and, arm in arm, shoot the other in the head with the cry, “Los mexicanos no se rinden: mueren!” [Mexicans don’t surrender: they die!].3
This version of the Murieta story was written nearly seventy years after John Rollin Ridge’s original tale The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta (1854) and nearly as long before Corky Gonzales famously re-envisioned the legend in the Chicano poem “I Am Joaquin” (1967). (p.64) Although the tale has been revised countless times in the one hundred and fifty years since the publication of Ridge’s novel, the particular version summarized above is part of the collection of short stories Cuentos Californianos (~1922), written by expatriate Mexican and California immigrant Adolfo Carrillo (1855–1924). Throughout his lifetime, Carrillo was variously a politically active author, journalist, translator, editor, law student, and government consul. Exiled from Mexico for his opposition of el porfiriato, the dictatorial regime of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, Carrillo would eventually take up permanent residence in California. Carrillo’s fiction, although written in Spanish, is part of a broader cultural movement that capitalized on California’s Spanish colonial past and the national interest in regional fiction.
This chapter connects the multilingual print culture of the period with state, regional, and national shifts in the legal and racialized definitions of citizenship. In particular, I examine how an exclusionary past of imagined Spanish heritage developed as both an English-and Spanish-language cultural phenomenon and how Mexican Americans engaged with this fantasy heritage.4 As I use the term here, Spanish fantasy heritage refers to the narratives and cultural practices that emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century surrounding the Spanish conquest of the current U.S. Southwest, especially in California, that had wide-ranging implications. As a familiar trope of racial and national difference, its popularity would shape how Mexican Americans could publicly conduct and portray manhood. Carrillo was well aware of the fantasy heritage’s reach and power, and turned it to his advantage for a Spanish reading public and as a form of Mexican American manhood.
Spanish fantasy heritage constructed a now familiar story of Old Spanish Californios and the Catholic mission past that celebrated the diverse cultural mixing that shaped California and the Southwest. However, the movement also operated as a mechanism of social control that excluded Mexican Americans from social participation by linking Mexican Americans to the fantasy past.5 This chapter critiques the assimilationist view of Spanish fantasy heritage (typically seen as a white-washing or Europeanizing take on Mexican heritage) and instead identifies ways that Mexican Americans utilized the cultural phenomenon to assert themselves as agents of political change and as part of the social landscape.
(p.65) Spanish fantasy heritage isolated, alienated, and disempowered Mexican Americans by separating living Mexican immigrants and residents from a Europeanized, imagined past. This cultural movement was not historical coincidence but rather the result of a changing legal and political climate, which collectively enabled Jim Crow-style restrictions on Mexican Americans’ political participation. Yet these processes did not flow in one direction, and the multilingual print culture of the period reveals how Mexican Americans responded to the racialization process within the very phenomenon working against them. Mexican Americans capitalized on the familiar cultural landscape to claim a place within and as American citizens, yet such engagement is only visible when American culture is understood as multilingual.6 While Spanish fantasy heritage took myriad forms, the case of California is particularly instructive in unpacking the relationship of citizenship, manhood, and culture, producing a form of gendered political participation that was simultaneously historical and immediately presentist.
Making a Fantasy Heritage
Beginning in the 1840s, increasing numbers of Anglo or European Americans immigrated from the eastern and southern U.S. to California, shifting the demographic makeup of the state. In the 1880s, following the collapse of the gold rush, the Panic of 1873, the stagnation of railroad speculation, and a post–Civil War economic decline, westward migrants displaced the Mexican origin population that resided there. On the heels of the gold rush, the expansion of the railroad, and the rush to complete transcontinental routes came a demographic and real estate boom, with huge numbers of Anglo Americans moving and visiting from the East Coast and the Midwest.7 Hubert Bancroft’s massive history project institutionalized the Spanish origins of California, romanticizing the role of the Spanish or Californio ranchero within American culture, and statewide, California residents turned to the Spanish mission and hacienda past as both tourist attraction and a recruitment tool for Anglo immigration.8
This renewed interest in California’s past developed from widespread and wide-ranging efforts to imaginatively reconstruct the history of the American Southwest and proved a pervasive mythos in the American (p.66) public imaginary, one with material consequences in the lives of Mexican Americans. While Spanish fantasy heritage had numerous regional incarnations, its Anglo California variant can largely be traced through a constellation of three figures crucial to its invention and dissemination: Helen Hunt Jackson, Charles Fletcher Lummis, and Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton. Many historians, notably Cary McWilliams, attribute the inception of the Spanish past to the success of Helen Hunt Jackson’s Native American reform novel Ramona (1884). In the novel, the titular character of mixed Anglo and Native heritage falls in love with a Native American shepherd, Alessandro, and flees from the hacienda where she was raised by her adopted aunt. Together, Alessandro and Ramona begin a life together among the Native Californio tribes, but eventually Anglo settlers force the couple and the tribe from their lands, leading to Alessandro’s death at the hands of a white settler. Ramona reunites with her adopted brother Felipe, who confesses his love for her, and Felipe and Ramona marry and move to Mexico to begin life anew.
The novel spurred interest in both the Spanish missions and in the pastoral California society that inhabited the region from Spanish colonization through Mexican rule until the U.S.-Mexican War. Using the mission past to disguise a sentimental appeal for better treatment of Native Americans—along the lines of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)—Ramona’s ultimate success lay more in the reclamation of an imagined past than in evoking real change for the Native and mestizo population of California.9 Jackson’s “tremendously popular novel became for many a boosterist device, rather than a battle cry,” and wily entrepreneurs quickly created products and attractions to capitalize on the novel’s popularity.10 For example, in May 1886, less than two years after the novel’s publication and one year after Jackson’s death, the Rancho Comulos was positively “identified” as Ramona’s birthplace.11 Stimulating both tourism and real estate speculation on a massive scale, the narrative events would be mapped onto the actual landscape; several geographic locales “became the premier sites identified with the novel, places fictional associations where [what] would become for most, more important than factual ones.”12 The romantic invention of California’s physical and imaginative landscape as a result of the Ramona boom extended far beyond the novel’s immediate fame, lasting decades and generations. Inspired by the newly created public memory, Spanish fantasy (p.67) heritage manifested across the social and cultural landscape in demonstrations of public holidays (“Spanish Days”), in the education system (curricular changes to include the Spanish pioneers), and on the physical topography (in a “mission revival” architecture style), what Phoebe S. Kropp calls “venues”: “physical spaces and building that, if not permanent, persist even while accommodating change, often beyond personal memory.”13 The success of Ramona in California and across the United States also led to its translation into Spanish and publication in Mexico in 1888.14
This imaginative recreation reaches its full cultural realization through the statewide celebrations established by Charles Lummis (1859–1928), founding member of the Association for the Preservation of the Missions (later the Landmarks Club).15 One of the chief proponents of Spanish fantasy heritage, Lummis worked as a writer and editor for the Los Angeles Times, famously beginning his tenure there in 1884 (coincidentally, but opportunely, the year Ramona was published) by walking from Ohio to his new position 3,500 miles away. Lummis published prolifically, moving between adventure stories and histories of the American Southwest, such as The Land of Poco Tiempo (1893), The Man Who Married the Moon (1892), and Some Strange Corners of Our Country (1892). As the titles suggest, Lummis sought to introduce national readers to the cultures and geographies of the Southwest, though often through an exoticizing lens. Lummis capitalized on the growing national desire for regional fiction and provided his readers with stories about a romanticized, indigenous, and pre-conquest past, a world that existed before the arrival of the U.S. as a “civilizing” force. In California, Lummis found in Spanish fantasy heritage a means to conjoin two distinct social needs—how to address the continuing “Mexican Question” and the need to refashion American manhood following, as Frederick Jackson Turner put it, “the closing of the American frontier.”16 As a young man, Lummis suffered from neurasthenia, that ill-defined ailment connected to emotional or psychological unrest that troubled many privileged young white men in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.17 Like his childhood friend Teddy Roosevelt, Lummis turned to the outdoors, the so-called “strenuous life,” to remedy the physical manifestations of the “neurasthenic paradox” and actively styled his professional and personal life accordingly.18 (p.68)
(p.69) In the preface to his book The Spanish Pioneers (1893), Charles Lummis confesses, “It is because I believe every other young Saxon-American loves fair-play and admires heroism as much as I do, that this book has been written.”19 He suggests that “race-prejudice, the most ignorant of all human ignorances, must die out,” but more tellingly, “we must respect manhood more than nationality, and admire it for its own sake wherever found—and it is found everywhere.” Lummis continues, “We love manhood; and the Spanish pioneering of the Americas was the largest and longest and most marvelous feat of manhood in all history.”20 In the hierarchy of ideology that Lummis outlines, racial identity dissolves before other categories, where even national allegiance gives way to desired gendered attributes. In creating a heroic fantasy past, Lummis minimizes the importance of nationality in favor of more generalizable and what he imagines as more universal qualities of manhood. Recasting conquest as an achievement of universalized manhood accomplishes several goals. First, it divests from colonialism the violence and injustice necessary for subjugating populations; second, it allows an adoption of the Spanish past into a triumphalist U.S. national narrative that often privileged northern European conquest above Spanish colonialism; third, it dispels Lummis’s anxieties by claiming his own role in the narrativization of the past as part of an ongoing “pioneering” enterprise.21
And while his display of male homosocial equality purports to supersede national designation, in reality the fantasy heritage facilitated the racialization of Mexicans by using “Spanish” to designate certain classes as distinct from a racialized or indigenous Mexican identity. Aligning Spanish fantasy heritage with national manhood becomes a way of simultaneously obfuscating the racial character of California’s Mexican origin population and of adopting a triumphant history of conquest in the service of national identity. For Lummis, manhood supplants race and nationality as the ultimate determining attribute of character. In Lummis’s account, manhood’s prowess is not energized by racial superiority but by acts of conquest. “Admir[ing] it for its own sake,” he invests in the Spanish colonial past a historical importance attributable to a triumph of gender that does not divide Anglo California from the region’s past, but uses manhood as a way to absorb the Spanish heritage into American Californian history. Such a move emphasizes shared manhood, (p.70) which allows Anglo Americans to claim the Spanish conquest of California as part of a national history.
Lummis decouples nation and race in favor of an outwardly more inclusive notion of gender, but effectively separates the fantasy past from the living descendants of the original settlers, resulting in what Leonard Pitt has described as the “cult” of Spanish California that produced a “patina of romantic mis-information” and “Schizoid Heritage.”22 The alteration of public memory effectively replaced complex Mexican American racial history with a fictional, idealized Spanish pastoralism. Spanish fantasy heritage further aimed to “drive a wedge between the native-born and the foreign born,” creating a schism between established residents and newly arrived Mexican immigrants.23 Of its many cultural uses, fantasy heritage’s distinction between historical Californians and contemporary Mexicans hastened the implementation of racist ideologies into California society, of which, in as early as 1946, historian Ruth Tuck noted, “The ranchero period was to spawn a romantic tradition of considerable vitality” that, as “a dressed up version of the Spanish and Mexican occupation,” perpetuated a fiction useful in maintaining segregationist policies in California.24
The convergence of economic and demographic factors enabled the fantasy heritage; however, the fantasy heritage emerged in response to developments in national citizenship. It is an oft-cited truism that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo officially transformed the previously Mexican population into Mexican Americans. The 1848 signing of the treaty granted Mexican Americans federal citizenship and the “enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution.”25 The protection under the treaty ostensibly assured the freedoms of the Mexican origin population that the territorial cession following the U.S.-Mexican War re-nationalized in the U.S. Their status “according to the principles of the Constitution” only guaranteed protection under the Constitution, and thus, as national citizens. However, the treaty ignored the question of state citizenship. According to the dualistic character of American citizenship in the latter half of the nineteenth century, only the states had the authority to bestow political rights. With the omission of Article IX of the treaty, it remained to the individual states to designate state citizenship.
(p.71) One of the crucial consequences in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo’s vesting of citizenship was the intermediary status of Mexican Americans. Laura Gómez points out how “federal citizenship was inferior to state citizenship […] Federal citizenship extended the protections of the Constitution and provided ‘a shield of nationality’ abroad, but it did not convey political rights. Instead, political rights stemmed only from being a citizen of a state.”26 Legal scholar James H. Kettner anticipates and elaborates on Gómez’s point, stating how the courts defined citizenship according to “the relevance of intent, residence, and so forth aimed at providing a working definition of state citizenship for the purpose of establishing diversity jurisdiction; they did not purport to create general criteria that states were obliged to use in identifying their own members,” and “considerable ambiguity thus remained at the heart of this notion of dual citizenship.”27 Consequently, the division between federal and state citizenship enabled the states to bestow and withdraw political rights according to the political exigencies of respective regions. Irrespective of guarantees made by the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1870 (Enforcement Act), and 1875, the division between state and federal rights was affirmed in an 1873 Supreme Court ruling known as the Slaughter-House Cases.28 As a result of the ruling, “while the federal government could and did protect a more narrow list of rights—those traditionally associated with national citizenship, such as habeas corpus or the right to assemble peaceably to petition for redress of grievances—citizens still had to seek protection for most of their civil rights from state government and state courts.”29 It was only after the 1920s that the courts began to incorporate the protections of the Bill of Rights and enforce them at the state level. Thus, state recognition of citizenship was the cornerstone of social inclusion.
Just five years before the publication of Ramona, on May 7, 1879, California revised the state constitution that had been in effect since October 13, 1849. Both the 1849 and 1879 Constitutions were published simultaneously in English and in Spanish, and of the numerous changes, Section One, Article II, defining the rights of suffrage (i.e. the recognition of state citizenship), was revised in revealing ways. The original Constitution of 1849 defined the rights of suffrage with the following statement: (p.72)
Every white male citizen of the United States, and every white male citizen of Mexico, who shall have elected to become a citizen of the United States, under the treaty of peace exchanged and ratified at Queretaro, on the 30th day of May, 1848 of the age of twenty-one years, who shall have been a resident of the State six months next preceding the election, and the county or district in which he claims his vote thirty days, shall be entitled to vote at all elections which are now or hereafter may authorized by law: Provided, nothing herein contained, shall be construed to prevent the Legislature, by a two-thirds concurrent vote, from admitting to the right of suffrage, Indians or the descendants of Indians, in such special cases as such proportion of the legislative body may deem just and proper.30
(p.73) Adopted shortly after the conquest of California by the United States in the U.S.-Mexican War, the original Constitution provided access for its Mexican citizenry to the privileges of local and state government, or at least allowed former Mexican nationals to assume state citizenship by deferring eligibility to national law. However, the Constitution references not the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, but curiously rather the Protocol of Querétaro, the exchange of ratifications describing the changes made to the treaty subsequent to its signing. The Protocol of Querétaro (May 26, 1848) intended to assure Mexican representatives that changes to Articles IX, X, and XII of the treaty did not diminish the protections to civil rights and land ownership that the treaty guaranteed. Despite this obtuse definition of citizenship, the California Constitution of 1849 still affirmed the privileges and rights of citizenship for Mexican Californios. The California Constitution of 1849 defined suffrage specifically with respect to “every white male citizen” of both the United States and Mexico, assuming the latter would soon become full-fledged U.S. citizens. This definition complied with existing federal law, and the Constitution even provided a vehicle for the eventual inclusion of California’s indigenous population. The right to vote was considered an “entitlement,” a privilege of residency that went into effect automatically, and whiteness a legal category necessary for citizenship.
By 1879, the California state legal system had become sufficiently complex so as to require revision to the original Constitution to allow, among other things, more flexibility for the legislative branch to enact change and to regulate taxation. The general population was largely split on whether a constitutional revision was necessary, but eventually the reformers prevailed and enacted changes that further allowed for the state Constitution to be reconciled with federal legal changes following the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Whereas the Fourteenth Amendment defined citizenship and equal protection under law, the Fifteenth guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race or color. These remain among the most significant constitutional changes and the most important pieces of civil rights legislation until the mid-twentieth century. Since the California Constitution of 1849 explicitly relied upon race as a prerequisite for suffrage, in conflict with national law, members of the 1879 Constitutional Convention sought to redress these issues.
(p.74) Because of its political importance, the verbatim proceedings of the floor debate over changes to the Constitution were published in Debates and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention. One of the more hotly debated issues at the convention was women’s suffrage; the delegates debated for days whether to include in the Constitution the possibility of such, and delegates voiced numerous impassioned appeals on both sides of the issue. Mr. Caples of Sacramento presented arguments against enfranchising women. Caples claimed he was there to “perform a solemn duty, to speak the truth […] to defend the virtue of woman, the honor of man, the experience of mankind, and the eternal decrees of God of the universe.” Calling on male chivalry as demonstrable evidence that women are not oppressed, Caples relied on a familiar call for separate spheres for men and women, supporting the idea that female virtue justified the denial of women’s suffrage.31 He even quoted from the Quarterly Journal of Science to provide scientific reasoning for a historical tradition of social difference, concerned that voting would be the first step leading to full enfranchisement and, later, the “dirty vile trickeries of primary politics” which would corrupt women.
The debate over female suffrage is particularly revealing because it describes how men understood themselves as men and provides their views on who was qualified and eligible to vote. The debates ultimately had to define what it means to vote, and who was eligible for that privilege. To that end, Mr. Caples, as voice to the anti–women’s suffrage faction, defines the rights of citizenship through a syllogistic notion of martial manhood, where “the right to vote, the power of sovereignty, does rest squarely upon the basis of the ability of men to wield the sword.”32 According to this point of view, it is the universal and supposedly exclusive masculine ability to bear arms that justifies limiting suffrage to men. Moreover, the matter takes on signification beyond the ballot; it is a matter of “equality. Not merely the right to vote, because the right to vote carries with it all the co-relative obligations of citizenship.”33 Numerous delegates rebutted Mr. Caples’s argument, in both serious and humorous ways, but the reference to the ballot as metonym for citizenship is repeated later on and the point is reiterated when the conversation shifts to racial qualifications for citizenship. Offering the opposite position and basing his argument on the Fifteenth Amendment, Mr. Vacquerel of San Francisco rebuts Mr. Caples’s claims that the (p.75) rights of citizenship “applies to white and black; but sir, I have learned in my youth that there were other colors, and I ask you, gentlemen, where is the word or the law that prevents another color from voting when the people of that color shall have been admitted to citizenship.”34 On the one hand, Mr. Vacquerel defends women’s right to vote, but on the other does so to secure white political power and challenge the demographic rise of Chinese immigrants, as evidenced elsewhere throughout his speech. (In fact, Chinese immigration was among the most contested points of debate regarding suffrage, and resulted in exclusionary and racist definitions of eligibility.) Nonetheless, Mr. Vacquerel’s remarks reveal that the admission or denial of women’s suffrage had implications for other ethnic and racial groups.
When debate shifted to which men should have the right to vote, the Convention ultimately agreed upon the following changes. Article II was amended and the right of suffrage now belonged to “every native male citizen of the United States, every male person who shall have acquired the rights of citizenship under or by virtue of the Treaty of Querétaro, and every male naturalized citizen thereof,” and who met certain restrictive residency requirements.35 In the amended text, the language of “white male citizen” was removed and replaced with “every native male citizen,” complying with federal regulations set forth in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Furthermore, for the Mexican Californian, the burden of citizenship is moved from “election” to “acquisition,” from choosing to exercise one’s rights to previous recognition of those rights. Three decades after statehood, when California’s population was increasingly of European American ancestry and included a significant population of U.S. immigrants, the right to vote now carried the burden of proof of citizenship, the rights and documentation of acquired citizenship.
At one point during the Convention, Mr. Beerstecher invokes the distinction between federal and state rights, and reminds the Convention that “the Supreme Court of the United States [holds] that the matter of exercising the right of suffrage was a matter absolutely and exclusively within the supervision of the State, and that the State had a right to decide, had the right to say who should vote at its elections.”36 The strict legal distinction between state and federal rights gave heightened significance to extralegal forms of social control, shifting the ground of (p.76) social inclusion from institutional mandate to civil society. While the federal Constitution no longer allowed for de jure political exclusion on the basis of race, the demographic shift due to immigration exacerbated existing racial tensions. Spanish fantasy heritage emerged precisely in the moment when these legal developments attempted to manage incompatibilities between racial ideologies and legal status, a concurrence that seems more than coincidental. Recognition at the state level was crucial for the attainment of civil, political, and social rights and as a result, California cultural history became a prime, extralegal site for the racialization of Mexican Americans that circumvented legal frameworks for citizenship. Cultural history, like that created by Gertrude Ather-ton, could restrict or provide an avenue toward social and political recognition.
Gertrude Atherton’s California
One of the central figures in this imaginative reconstruction of history and successor to Helen Hunt Jackson was the author Gertrude Atherton. Atherton was perhaps the best-known fiction writer on California’s mission past, at least during her lifetime. Her biographer Emily Leider asserts that by the turn of the century her career was established “on both sides of the Atlantic, and in Europe in the 1920s Atherton’s books […] were the most popular of all American novels,” while “to many, she seemed the embodiment of California.”37 Much of Atherton’s fiction draws upon California history for its source material, and according to California historian Kevin Starr, her fiction was “concerned with the coming of the Americans and their assumption of power after conquest. By the late 1890s Atherton’s sympathies lay with the Old Californians, tragically doomed aristocrats who represented the poetry and romance of California giving way to gringo efficiency.”38
Atherton and her stories achieved national recognition as examples of “local color,” what one editor of Philadelphia-based Lippincott’s magazine praised as the “actual vivid reality” of her California romances and the North American Review applauded as the “paradoxical union of romance with realism.”39 Atherton, with entrepreneurial acumen, seized upon the national appetite for regional fiction that had dominated the literary marketplace since Reconstruction. Leider suggests Atherton’s (p.77) turn to California local color emerged out of “a new perspective on the way the rest of the world viewed California and a new respect for the commercial potential of regional fiction,” hoping “to turn her study of pre-American California to profit.”40 Atherton self-consciously imagined herself a purveyor of the state’s past. Beginning with Los Cerritos (1890), developing in the short story collection Before the Gringo Came (1894), expanded and republished as Splendid Idle Forties (1902), and most fully in The Californians (1898), Atherton created an interconnected, imaginative narrative community, what Starr calls “one ongoing saga.” Characters appear in multiple texts, as the central focus in one and reappearing elsewhere in brief postscripts to the characters’ stories, producing a triumphalist state history that diffuses the violence of imperial conquest and simultaneously rewrites regional history with an eye to national appeal. While Atherton popularized a version of California for the nation in her novels and short fiction, she erases Mexican American males from the California landscape through a nostalgic appeal to a largely fabricated history.
Atherton’s short fiction effaces Mexican American manhood either by substituting “Spanish” racial-national characteristics or by killing off Mexican men.41 In the short story “La Perdida,” the old Californio society marry a young girl to an old man, preventing the attainment of her true love, but “such were the law and justice in California before the Americans came” (Splendid Idle Forties 319). In “The Bells of San Gabriel,” the protagonist, Don Luis de la Torre, is a soldier in the Mexican army, but is nonetheless described as “very good-looking, this tall young Spaniard” (371). The narrative shifts between Spanish and Mexican to discriminate between the Spanish inhabitants of California and the physical nation of Mexico, located somewhere to the South. Sturges, an American character in “Head of a Priest,” rescues and elopes with a young Californian woman alienated by her mother and the church. “The Ears of Twenty Americans” begins on the eve of the American occupation of California in 1846, with the hawkish Californio Doña Eustaquia berating the Californios; she decries the men of California as “cowards” and wishes “the women of California were men” (50–1). Soon thereafter, when the American invasion turns to inevitable conquest, Doña Eustaquia concedes, “All is over and cannot be changed. So, it is better we [Anglos and Californios] are good friends than poor ones” (64). (p.78) Learning that the Californio men are defeated, she belabors the point, stating bluntly, “I like better the Americans than the men of my own race … I shall hate [the American] flag so long as life is in me; but I cannot hate the brave men who fight for it” (69). Doña Eustaquia never relinquishes her dislike for the United States, but when the American captain Russell and the Californio Fernando Altimira compete for the hand of Doña Eustaquia’s daughter Benicia (on the battlefield no less) and Russell emerges triumphant, Eustaquia “forgive[s] him for being an American” and “love[s] him like my own son” (126). Atherton’s short stories focus on female protagonists living under the yoke of patriarchy, and triumphalist narratives of American conquest override the treatment of Mexican American manhood in her short fiction. Her longer fiction more deeply engages with questions of assimilation and the potential inclusion of “Spanish” Americans in the U.S. nation.
The Californians, set in the decades after the American conquest primarily in Menlo Park, a late nineteenth-century retreat for the affluent just outside San Francisco, follows the young protagonist Magdaléna. The Californians differs from Atherton’s short stories in assuming a much more realist tone and style. Magdaléna “dreamed of caballeros serenading beneath her casement,” but the dreams “had curled up and fallen to dust” as she witnesses the decline of Californio society against Anglo cultural and social pressures.42 Magdaléna, “an unhappy and incongruous mixture of Spanish and New England traits,” finds herself a reluctant participant in the idyllic indolence of the Californio lifestyle, uncomfortable and unable to find satisfaction in the sociality expected of a young woman of her class (The Californians 17). Living alone with her father, the oppressively restrictive Don Roberto Yorba, and unimpressed by Californio suitors, Magdaléna eventually falls for an older Anglo male, Mr. John Trennahan of New York, and the two begin a tangled romance. Trennahan and Magdaléna plan to marry, but before they do Trennahan falls for Magdaléna’s beautiful yet capricious friend Helena, abandoning a distraught Magdaléna. After learning of Trennahan’s lurid past, Helena dissolves the engagement and by the novel’s end Magdaléna and Trennahan reconcile, but only after Don Roberto goes mad lamenting the failed marriage.
Unlike most Californio land owners, Don Roberto “was a man of wealth and consequence to-day” who preserved his fortune through (p.79) careful investment in gold mines, real estate in San Francisco, other ventures, and most importantly in a bank. Yet his pecuniary success was not entirely self-made. Don Roberto strikes a partnership with the “shrewd Yankee” Mr. Polk, who came to California in July 1846 as a midshipman in Commodore Sloat’s navy and was complicit in the taking of land from native Californios through usurious lending practices (12).43 While his “gratitude and friendship for Don Roberto never flickered,” Polk nonetheless sees Don Roberto’s “boots are a comfortable fit, and I propose to wear them,” openly announcing his desire to appropriate Californio manhood (13). As representative of the Spanish conquest of California, Polk’s move corresponds to Lummis’s own valorization of the Spanish conquest. The friendship is cemented when Don Roberto marries Polk’s thirty-two-year-old sister “some eleven years after the Occupation of California by the United States” (15). Polk reciprocates, marrying Don Roberto’s younger sister (also named Magdaléna Yorba) and the two men establish a new Californio aristocracy, merging the military conquest of California and its civil society. Atherton’s novel inverts the marriage resolution common to fictions of interracial or national romance, beginning her novel with a Californio-Anglo marriage. This make possible the conquest of California, yet the transcultural marriages do not resolve the cultural tension in the region but rather set the stage for the subsequent containment of Mexican American manhood.44
Through Don Roberto’s and Polk’s marriages, California presents the possibility for an inherited European aristocracy and its attendant cultural capital. Atherton turns to the Californio past to preserve a European cultural legacy, embodied in Mexican American manhood and represented by Don Roberto. When his daughter’s marriage to an East Coast aristocrat is called off, Don Roberto worries about perpetuating his family, as his desire to see his daughter married is inseparable from his desire to Anglicize his lineage. His fears are imbedded within an apprehension over losing his “Americanness.” Even as Atherton valorizes Californio culture, Don Roberto is plagued by the inevitability and the desirability of Anglo assimilation. Without the security of Anglo posterity to complete the “structure of his Americanism,” Don Roberto is unable to navigate within California society (101). The death of Mr. Polk compounds his inaction and incapacitates Don Roberto, “afraid to trust himself in the world for fear he would relapse into his natural instincts” (p.80) of pastoral idleness (348). Within the racial logic of the novel, class status alone protects Don Roberto from his “natural instincts,” wealth withstanding the pressures of racialization. Without the guidance of either Mr. Polk’s business acumen or Trennahan as future heir, Don Roberto becomes incapable of managing his family and his position in California society. Atherton is sympathetic to the difficulties facing a conquered culture, but she advocates assimilation to combat the threat of racial reversion.
In the final scene, Don Roberto “hanged himself with the American flag” which “had floated above the house of Don Roberto Yorba for thirty years” (351, 339). Through his friendships and professional life, Don Roberto identified with Anglo America and sought to become a recognized, assimilated American, but the novel denies him the possibility of national inclusion, although it leaves open the potential assimilation of his daughter. Roberto dies believing his daughter to be a spinster and overwrought by the lack of a male heir, shattering his dreams of social incorporation. In a desperate act of physical and symbolic integration, Roberto became “no longer so much a man as an ideal” and wrapped himself in the emblem of national unity before removing himself from the California landscape (337). With Roberto now dead, Trennahan inherits his father-in-law’s estate and with it the legacy of Californio aristocracy, paving the way for his and Magdalena’s racially unencumbered future. Don Roberto never lives to see his dreams of social incorporation; rather, the novel’s haunting final image is Don Roberto suspended in death by the American flag, his American dream betrayed.
That Don Roberto hangs himself with the American flag serves as a gesture toward colonization and as an acknowledgment of the tension between Anglo and Mexican American manhoods. His action recalls a story from the U.S.-Mexican War, familiar in Mexican but not U.S. history: that of the “niños héroes,” the boy soldiers who resisted the U.S. invasion of Mexico City and are memorialized in Mexican cultural memory. Defending their hilltop post at Chapultepec Castle against the besieging American army, six teenage soldiers were killed, but the last wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and leapt to his death rather than surrender. Of course, Don Roberto’s suicide is not an act of defiance like that of the niños héroes, but of failure and surrender. The American flag does not incorporate Don Roberto, who “might have been wrought into (p.81) the tissue of that beautiful delicate web,” into the fabric of the nation—he instead perishes as a “grotesque intruder” in his very home (351). In death, Don Roberto fulfills Atherton’s purpose, allowing Spanish history to be co-opted for nationalist ends. In the national imaginary, where “the West is imagined as (masculine) epic [and] is as often dismissed as cultureless,” Californio manhood provides Atherton with the cultural capital necessary to dispel East Coast claims of western crudity, but is ultimately subsumed under Anglo American manhood.45 Reminiscent of Lummis’s desire for the Californio heritage as American cultural capital, Atherton’s depiction of Don Roberto denies that heritage as an explicitly male inheritance. Don Roberto’s attempts at assimilation are incomplete, and he must die so that his successors, his daughter Magdaléna and the Anglo male Trennahan, can carry forward the Californio legacy. The land itself is both redeemed and redemptive, but only when under control of a white American manhood; to perform Don Roberto’s Mexican American manhood is suicide.
Atherton translates Old California for a national audience by managing racial and class problems through the removal of Mexican American manhood, consequently separating “Spanish as a legal category linked to autonomous identity and individual rights, and ‘Mexican’ as a racial category linked to insurgent social problems and secret, hereditary alliances with racial otherness,” where Mexican Americans become available as a landless, history-less labor force.46 Atherton dedicated The Splendid Idle Forties to the Bohemian Club, a “moral, beneficial and literary association” and private men’s club in San Francisco devoted to building fraternal alliances in journalism and the literary arts.47 Dedicating the book to an all-male organization itself dedicated to the preservation of California and regional literature reveals Atherton’s collaboration in the fantastical construction of Mexican American manhood. Relocating Mexican American manhood into a fictionalized past transforms Californios into historical relics, a marketable, consumable product of cultural memory suitable for regionalist fiction. As The Californians protagonist remarks, “It is only the living enemies we fear; the dead and their past are beautiful unrealities to the smarting ego” (323).
In a different context, Marita Sturken defines cultural memory as “a field of contested meanings in which Americans interact with cultural elements to produce concepts of the nation, particularly in events of (p.82) trauma, where both the structures and the fractures of a culture are exposed. Examining cultural memory thus provides insight into how American culture functions, how oppositional politics engages with nationalism, and how cultural arenas such as art, popular culture, activism, and consumer culture intersect.”48 Spanish fantasy heritage provides such an intersection of cultural arenas, and the cultural memory promulgated by Atherton’s fiction dissolved the Mexican presence in California even as it glorified a Mexican (and pre-Mexican) past. This was the cultural environment of California during the first decades of the twentieth century. When Adolfo Carrillo arrived in San Francisco in the 1890s, he witnessed firsthand the ascendancy of this myth, and later reworked the California mission tales to organize the Mexican origin population of California toward political enfranchisement.
A Biography of Exile
While Adolfo Carrillo spent over half his life in California, his formative childhood was spent under Porfirio Díaz’s dictatorship in Mexico. Forced into exile, his early engagement with an autocratic government shaped his political and literary views. Born in the town of Sayula, in Jalisco, Mexico, in July of 1855, Carrillo was educated in a Catholic seminary in Guadalajara, the state capital. He became involved in newspapers at a young age, publishing La Picota in 1877 and shortly thereafter, La Unión Mercantil in 1878, both in Guadalajara. Fluent in Spanish, English, and French, he often translated sources for his newspapers. As a writer for La Unión Mercantil, Carrillo’s attacks on the Guadalajara government quickly drew attention, and he was forced to leave Guadalajara for Mexico City.
Carrillo arrived in Mexico City less than two years after Porfirio Díaz assumed the presidency. Carrillo supported Benito Juarez’s Liberal government legacy, and once in Mexico City, he used the newspaper as an outlet to mount a critique of Díaz’s newly assumed dictatorship. He continued his assault on the local and national government as editor of Mexico City’s El correo del lunes, “de los que mayor circulacion alcanzan el el país” [a newspaper with one of the largest circulations in the country].49 In July of 1885, Carrillo and several other newspapermen were imprisoned for criticizing Díaz, and later that month Carrillo and (p.83)
fellow editor Enrique Chavarri were found guilty of “sedicion, insidia, calumnia y faltas a las autoridades” [sedition, deceit, slander, crimes against the state].50 Sentenced to seven and a half months in prison and a fine, Carrillo’s case was upheld by the Supreme Court, which “de una vez concluye con la libertad de imprenta, fijando una jurisprudencia enteramente contraria a la libertad del pensamiento” [definitively did away with the right to free speech, affirming legal precedent against freedom of thought].51 Carrillo’s sentencing and its subsequent impact on Mexican journalism and freedom of speech became a central and recurring theme in his writing.
(p.84) In the winter of 1886, Carrillo, frustrated by his inability to practice his profession, travelled to the United States.52 In New York City, Carrillo was an acquaintance and regular guest of deposed Mexican president Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, who served as his benefactor for a short time, and claimed to have befriended José Martí.53 Drawing on his intimate knowledge of Lerdo, Carrillo wrote a biography of the ex-president entitled Memorias inéditas del Lic. Don Sebastían Lerdo de Tejada (1889), which for many years was thought to be autobiographical. Published in Brownsville, Texas (the future site of much revolutionary activity), the apocryphal biography and purported autobiography was a potent tool to protest the Díaz government and served as an instrument of organization for revolutionary forces for years to come, republished numerous times on both sides of the border as recently as 1978. The biography represented Carrillo’s first U.S.-published text that used literature to critique government policy.
Carrillo traveled to Cuba and Europe as a reporter for Madrid’s El Dia and Paris’s L’Intransigeant, and also studied law at the Sorbonne, before settling permanently in San Francisco where he founded a printing shop, Voz de Mexico. While the exact date of his entry into California is uncertain, by 1891 Carrillo had established himself in San Francisco after several years perambulating the globe, coinciding with the eruption of interest in California’s Spanish colonial past. In 1897, Carrillo published a picaresque novel entitled Memorias del Marqués de San Basilisco, which chronicles the adventures of the titular marquis Jorge Carmona during the French intervention and advocates for Mexican cultural integrity.54 In 1914, Mexican president Venustiano Carranza appointed Carrillo consul of Los Angeles, where Carrillo provided information to Carranza’s constitutionalist government on the movements of los cientificos (former supporters of Díaz), Pancho Villa, and other rebels, as well as reported on U.S. public opinion of Carranza. As a result of charges that Carrillo “no ha posesionado del deber que tiene de ayudar y proteger a los mexicanos” [does not use his power to aid and protect Mexicans], Carranza removed Carrillo from office.55 His forced resignation as consul was the final straw in a lifelong struggle against state-sanctioned violence. Aged, beleaguered, and insolvent, Carrillo felt betrayed by his country and the revolution to which he had devoted thirty years of his life.
(p.85) As in his youth, Carrillo again found himself embroiled in national politics, but this time “the partisan divisions in Mexican politics were duplicated in Chicano communities” of Los Angles and, caught between multiple national loyalties, he became the subject, if not the victim, of the very processes of pochismo (Americanization) he had previously combated.56 Carrillo often blurred the distinction between journalism and fiction, and his prose is heavily laden with allegory, allusion, and irony, which his readers frequently misread. His style led to numerous public disagreements and statements asking Carrillo to clarify his outspoken criticism of violence and whether it was state-sanctioned or against the state, a situation that made him unpopular with anarchists and revolutionaries. His termination from office, however, would again force him to reevaluate his relationship to both his home and adopted country. Carrillo would spend the ensuing years traveling through California, collecting material for his next literary project, Cuentos Californianos, before his death on August 24, 1926, in Los Angeles.
Carrillo’s Cultural Haunting
Gertrude Atherton was not alone in aggrandizing California’s Spanish heritage, nor was the deployment of this fantasy heritage confined to Anglo Californian writers. Many novels, like Ruiz de Burton’s romantic and romanticized The Squatter and the Don, put forth a “political future where the civic ethos of an evolving, educated California citizenry takes as its founding mythos a nostalgic embrace of Californio ranch culture.”57 Adolfo Carrillo arrived in California shortly after the publication of Ruiz de Burton’s novels, during Atherton’s most prolific period of California fiction. In 1922, after residing for more than thirty years in California, Carrillo turned to Spanish fantasy heritage and published Cuentos Californianos, a collection of stories set in and drawing on the state’s history. By engaging with this well-worn genre, these tales attempted to translate the state’s cultural narrative for Mexican Americans and to rewrite Mexican Americans within it; reading the stories of old California multilingually enables a more complete version of how state history was the site of racial and ethnic competition. Carrillo’s use of the Spanish past engaged with state history, both for and (p.86) on behalf of the state’s Mexican origin population. Where Lummis and Atherton saw Mexican American manhood as a boon to U.S. cultural capital and assimilation as the best strategy for social inclusion, Carrillo’s stories work transnationally and multilingually for social inclusion and to preserve Mexican American cultural integrity. Within the fantasy heritage, Carrillo challenged the racial and social categories upon which the fantasy heritage depended. His stories emphasize the importance of visibility—of being seen—and de-romanticize the mission past to insert Mexican Americans as central actors in an ongoing state drama, paradoxically linking Mexican American manhood and citizenship through the fantasy heritage.
Virtually the only existing contemporary scholarship on the Cuentos Californianos is by Francisco Lomelí. Lomelí reads Cuentos Californianos in the context of the Mexican short story, locating Carrillo’s fiction in the tradition of “la leyenda novelesca, tan popular en México durante el romanticismo y costumbrismo” [fictionalized legends, so popular in Mexico during the romantic and costumbrismo periods].58 Lomelí astutely identifies how Carrillo is able to “rescatar en los cuentos una cultura que … estaba experimentando el opacamiento por parte de la cultura anglo-americana” [rescue through the stories a culture that was experiencing suppression by Anglo American culture].59 While Lomelí praises the collection, his focus on Mexican literary traditions misses how Carrillo intervenes in both the fantasy heritage and the cultural myth’s connection to citizenship. Carrillo published his collection just two years before the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, which caused a surge in Mexican immigration even as it limited immigration from other national and ethnic groups.60 But those immigrants were overwhelmingly admitted as migrant laborers and not seen as contributing citizens of a state or national society. Manhood was at the center of fantasy heritage as Lummis and Atherton imagine it, and I suggest that Carrillo reworked the fantasy heritage to combat social exclusion and to revise the cultural history essential for recognizing the continued and “permanente presencia mexicana.”
Carrillo’s revisions to the Murieta legend summarized at the beginning of this chapter are particularly instructive, as the performance of manhood functions as “linguistic, legal, cultural, and political repetitions-in-transformation, invocations that are also revocations.”61 (p.87) In addition to having Murieta and Three Fingers Jack commit mutual suicide, Carrillo adds numerous biographical details not found elsewhere: the location of Murieta’s home, that he lived with his mother and sister, and the monetary value attached to his capture.62 In contrast to John Rollin Ridge’s original tale and most subsequent versions, Carrillo rewrites the rape of Dorotea, which catalyzes Joaquin’s move into crime, as Joaquin’s sister, not his wife, shifting the narrative away from marital obligation and dispelling notions of sentimental politics dependent on romantic union. Murieta pillages California carefully, “robando y asesinando a los hombres y dejando en libertad a las mujeres y los niños” [robbing and murdering the men but leaving free the women and children].63 Noting his differential treatment of the sexes grants Murieta a chivalric sense of compassion, but it also de-masculinizes the Anglo population in a retaliatory move against imperial conquest. Carrillo’s Murieta castrates the Anglo assailant that violated his sister, and he subsequently attempts to depopulate the landscape of Anglo men.
Removing Anglo men from the narrative enables the tale to establish heteronormative relations between Mexican American males exclusive of extra-cultural involvement. In the fourth part of the story, Murieta attends a dance in honor of the niece of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the factual Californian whose story was famously captured in Bancroft’s histories. At the dance, Joaquin meets and falls in love with Lina Solano, “[quien] pertenece a una familia de renegados” y “su tio el señor Vallejo, fue uno de los que entregaron California a los gringos” [who belongs to a family of renegades [and whose] uncle was one of those who delivered California to the foreigners] (Cuentos Californianos 41). By introducing Vallejo, perhaps the most famous Californio thanks to a lengthy memoir included in Hubert H. Bancroft’s multi-volume history of California, Carrillo connects the literary banditry discussed in the previous chapter to the fantasy heritage. Juxtaposing Murieta and Vallejo, Carrillo combines the two dominant narratives of Mexican Americans in California state history, merging ideas of national resistance that Murieta symbolized with the fantasy heritage that held the potential for social inclusion.
Joaquin, the hero of Mexican American lore, loves Lina blindly, but that love is misguided. Rather than write Murieta as a symbol of resistance against the U.S. state, Carrillo depicts him as a tragic consequence of national rivalry. At the same time, he emphasizes the importance of (p.88) cultural integrity, here taking the form of homosocial loyalty, in asserting Mexican Americans’ place as citizens of the United States. Joaquin’s judgment was clouded by his love for Lina, and he chooses to stay in California despite Jack’s warnings of imminent danger. The romance endangers the life of Joaquin and his comrades, but the lovestruck Joaquin disregards the warnings of Three Fingers Jack, who “estimaba a su Jefe con el cariño de hermano” [respected his leader with the love of a brother] (41). Joaquin discloses his plans to Lina, who betrays him to the state governor, an action that leads to the dramatic joint suicide. Lina’s surrounds herself with Vallejo and the social environment he represents, and she is unable to distance herself from that space. Her ultimate attachment to that ideal, and her only partial commitment to Joaquin, serves as a warning to Mexican origin people not to accept the fantasy heritage. Carrillo made legible that critique through the popular bandit figure and adjusted the terms through which Joaquin enters the lore.
In place of the romance of the fantasy heritage, Carrillo invokes homosocial obligation to enable a national brotherhood demarcated by shared masculine ideals. The story disavows the romance and marriage resolution as viable options for the reconciliation of masculine authority or as means toward social improvement. The dramatic climax and self-imposed death emphasize the importance of homosocial cooperation in the face of Anglo racism, as the story unequivocally states that Joaquin was persecuted “por el solo hecho de ser mexicano” [for the sole reason of being Mexican] (36). Yet the story’s emphasis on homosocial relations also invokes a diasporic ideology of return—the desire to, as Three Fingers Jack urges, “olivdala y regresemos a Mexico” [forget her and let us return to Mexico] (41). The hero Joaquin, born in Sonora but a resident of California, claims both Mexican and American cultural heritage but stands in contradistinction to the class of Californios here responsible for surrendering the state to Anglo America. Jack goes so far as to say he prefers “un gringo hecho y derecho, que una de esas viborillas de charco” [an honest and upright American to one of those snakes] that would betray his nation (41). Before their suicide, he beseeches Joaquin to return to Mexico, but Joaquin chooses to remain loyal to his adopted state.
Joaquin, a figure of transcultural power, is martyred on behalf of the Mexican population of California. By choosing death over repatriation (p.89) to Mexico, Carrillo ties Mexican American males to the land, both in the diegetic present and the historical past, and places the burden of social change within the Mexican American community itself. Carrillo’s Joaquin defies the threat of cultural dissolution within the Mexican origin community of California at the hands of Anglo society. He instills a sense of collective residence among the Mexican American readership through attachment to geographic space, mediated by a model of manhood that emphasizes tight homosocial bonds. In choosing death at the hands of a fellow Mexican instead of capitulation or death by the American authority, Joaquin remains loyal to the ideals of resistance with which he was associated and serves as a proponent of fraternal allegiance.
This sense of national brotherhood is typical of the narratives of Mexican writers residing in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century.64 Within the Mexican exile population living in the U.S. emerged an ideology of cultural nationalism known as México de afuera, in which “it was the duty of the individual to maintain the Spanish language, keep the Catholic faith, and insulate the children from what community leaders perceived as the low moral standards of Anglo-Americans. Basic to this belief system was the imminent return to Mexico, when the hostilities of the Revolution were over.”65 I give a fuller treatment of México de afuera in the following chapter, but here suffice it to say that those who adhered to these traditional ideals saw themselves as an extension of a Mexican national project.
Like Mexican American novelists Jorge Ulica and Daniel Venegas, Carrillo utilized popular fiction to communicate with Spanish-speaking, Mexican-origin people living in the United States, founding a print shop in 1897 and the newspapers México Libre (1914) and La Prensa (1912) in Los Angeles.66 In similar fashion to Daniel Venegas’s The Adventures of Don Chipote, Carrillo’s earlier novel Memorias del Marques de San Basilisco used the picaresque form to engage the Mexican origin population and advocate for the perpetuation of Mexican culture. However, Carrillo’s short fiction balances between expressing a desire to preserve cultural integrity and the need to integrate into California and U.S. society. Las Memorias del Marques de San Basilisco demonstrates the dangers of foreign influence for the Mexican expatriate and immigrant community and “how those attitudes applied pressure on families to conform (p.90) to old gender roles and resist the social change that the new American host culture was making imminent”; Cuentos Californianos modifies the staunch México de afuera ideology away from the presumption of eventual return in favor of a more permanent Mexican American presence in California.67 Through his experience as consul, Carrillo was well acquainted with the policies of the Mexican government in the United States. But over the course of his lifetime, Carrillo lived among the Mexican middle-class intelligentsia on both sides of the border, and while only partially effective as consul, the stories seemed poised to make a middle-class cultural argument for the inclusion of Mexican Americans through the California fantasy heritage. After thirty plus years in the United States, Carrillo was more immediately concerned with local issues that determined social inclusion.
Carrillo’s decision to write Spanish fantasy heritage myths for a Spanish-speaking audience offered the appeal of national participation but for a Mexican American reading public more heavily invested in life in the United States. The collection’s prologue begins with a reference to the “Cuento Californiano” column in La Prensa del sábado, a newspaper to which Carrillo contributed several articles and editorials. The stories were eventually collected, but given Carrillo’s long-standing work in journalism, it seems very likely that at least some were published in one of the many daily or weekly Spanish language newspapers then in print in California.68 The Spanish language press was thriving during this period, had significant readership, and had reached a large audience on both sides of the border. Readers in the Mexican American communities of California would have been surrounded by the Spanish fantasy mythos, and Carrillo’s stories of old California would both translate that history for their consumption and constitute their participation in it, working against fantasy heritage’s erasure of the Mexican population.
Carrillo’s choice to enter the genre signals a move toward the establishment of a distinctly U.S.-oriented Mexican American culture in the height of a period still known for its México de afuera ideology. Cuentos Californianos could mediate transnational obligations linguistically, as its Spanish-language readers were still engaged with the literature of Mexico, but the content and context of the stories’ consumption located Mexicans within the territorial, historical, and cultural United States. Cuentos Californianos produced a Mexican American reading public engaged (p.91)
with the rights of citizenship in Mexico and the U.S. cultural milieu, demonstrating the necessity of local engagement for the emigrant community. In many ways Carrillo’s use of the fantasy myth prefigures Aztlán (the Chicano movement ideal of a transnational homeland) in that it enables de-nationalized, universal claims to belonging, yet his appropriation of Spanish fantasy heritage is expressly located within the U.S. and specifically California context.69 Despite his global travels, this is not cosmopolitan universalism, but a politically potent localized response.70 Carrillo rewrote popular fiction to potentially include Mexican Americans within California’s literary economy against the ambiguity of legal discourse that enabled the state to exclude racialized subjects. Carrillo relies on the imaginative construction of the citizen-subject in order to remap those boundaries of civic participation.
(p.92) Of the nineteen tales contained in the collection, eleven are set in the mission past, seven are ghost stories or contain gothic elements, and all are located in precise geographic locations. Unlike in Atherton’s tales, in Cuentos Californianos women, Anglos, or priests commit nearly all of the violence; several of the tales describe priests who break their vows by falling in love or who commit crimes driven by greed, de-romanticizing the mission past. The decision to engage with this genre of regional literature suggests Carrillo’s awareness of the fantasy heritage in defining state identity and his desire to critique its exclusion of Mexican Americans. The fantasy heritage sought to separate living Mexican Americans from or relegate them to the past, and Carrillo’s de-romanticized mission past seeks to expose that false separation. The departure from the otherwise traditional valorization of the mission past culminates in a disavowal of the mission system as corrupted. Additionally, Cuentos Californianos asserts the Mexican origin population as descendants of the mission past, largely through the narrative use of ghosts. Carrillo’s characters are, know of, or encounter spectral presences in many of the stories.
The sixteenth story of the collection, “Los Espectros [or Ghosts] de San Luis Rey,” demonstrates how the mission past haunts the California landscape and how the past affects the Mexican American population. The tale is set at two of California’s missions, San Luis Rey and San Juan Capistrano, roughly 30 miles apart in the area now between Los Angeles and San Diego. In her deathbed confession to Friar Pedro Somera, Doña Claudina confesses an illicit, premarital affair with Juan José de La Serna, former prior of the San Luis Rey mission who “escandalizando la comarca con sus francachelas y estruendosas orgías” [scandaliz(ed) the region with his binges and rowdy orgies] (79). The youthful and sacrilegious romance resulted in Doña Claudina giving birth to two children, who were buried alive by Fray Serna in order to conceal the secret of their affair. Doña Claudina dies, and a few years later Fray Serna is hung from a tree by the pirate Rene Bouchard, a French corsair equipped by an unnamed Latin American country to combat Spanish rule. These events fill the first three parts of the story, but in the final part, the narrative jumps forward one hundred years, to the lobby of a small hotel where several “huéspedes norte-americanos” are staying. Over dinner, conversation turns to local folklore; one of the guests, a Hollywood photographer, (p.93) is determined to find “aparecidos y apariciones” [visions and ghosts], armed with “unos lentes [a que] nada escapa, ni aun los objectos intangibles e invisibles” [photographic equipment from which nothing escapes, not even the intangible or invisible] (81). An elderly man, the only character in the section identified as a native Californian, confirms the presence of ghosts at the mission and recounts the nightly visits of two young children dressed in white and of a young woman, followed by a terrifying silhouette swinging from an old tree. The party ventures out, and by sunrise, the Hollywood photographer successfully captures the ghosts on film. As the guests depart, the photographer triumphantly declaims that “muy pronto aplaudirán en la plantalla la tragedia sin música que acaban de presenciar” [very soon you will applaud on the screen the tragedy without music that you have all just witnessed] (83).
This story about the ghosts of California history haunting the then-present takes as its subject the same mythic California past, but radically reshifts the framework for its interpretation. By rupturing the narrative diegesis and compressing story time, Carrillo forces readers to confront their relationship with the cultural transmission of California’s literary history. California’s missions are alive in the present, though their spectral presence suggests ephemerality and illusoriness rather than historical reality. The photographer brings in the camera a symbol of progress, but a paradoxical one, as the ghosts “que fueron realidades y no fantasias” [that were reality and not fantasy] would seemingly contradict the scientific knowledge the camera represents (83). Successfully capturing the images of the ghosts, the camera at once affirms and denies the California mission lore; by converting myth into scientific evidence or marketable culture, the camera effectively commodifies the legends. In this tale, “la fantasmagoría [es] transformada en símbolos positivos” [the fantastic (is) transformed into absolute symbols], in parallel to how the mythos of Old California is rendered historical fact through the fantasy heritage. In almost the same breath, however, Carrillo infuses the myth with a new legend, as the image of a ghostly woman in white and her two children are eerily reminiscent of La Llorona, a mythic figure widely familiar to a Mexican cultural readership. Though the North American guests are primarily interested in the ghosts’ value as cultural objects, the elderly Californian is a living reminder of the people the fantasy heritage obscures. Consequently, “el efecto ilusionista habia desaparecido” (p.94) [the magical effect had disappeared], and the myth is exposed as a cultural construction (83).
Carrillo repeats this strategy of linking Mexican American men to both past and present through ghosts in several stories. While the ghost of “Los Espectros” connects history to the present, the story “El Resucitado” recasts a Mexican American male as the ghost himself. “El Resucitado” is told through a first-person narrator whose story is relayed as a found object, the purported memoirs of a Californian named José Palau who experienced the American occupation of California. Born in Los Angeles, Palau became a priest at the San Gabriel mission in 1835, but soon relinquishes his priestly garb in the face of the American annexation. Palau explains his departure from the mission as a response to the “hombres de otras razas, de luengas barbas y formidable aspecto,” who offer him “el oro y el moro si yo, José Palau, predicaba haciendo propoganda anexionista” [men of other races, speaking barbarous languages and of formidable appearance, (who) offer gold and riches if I, José Palau, preached separatist propaganda] (51). José Palau is thus rendered the “true,” patriotic Californio, placing loyalty above all else.
The loyalty to California is further emphasized by the romance around which the plot turns. Palau further justifies his decision to leave the priesthood by asserting that “en mi cutis había algo del celibata y mucho del sátiro en mi talante habia mas de soldado que de monje” [in my skin there was some of the celibate and much of the satyr. And in my character more soldier than monk] (51).71 Carrillo charges Palau’s self-identity with the sexuality of a satyr and the martial prowess of a soldier, characteristics incommensurate with priesthood, but appropriate to the “feats of manhood” the state requires. His realization of his true character is made clear when he meets Elena Castro, daughter of General José Castro (general of the Mexican army during the U.S.-Mexican War), in the confession booth. Elena “revelomé entonces las intrigas que se movían entre sus hermanos de California para independer la Provincia, or entregarla a manos de un poder extranjero” [revealed to me the intrigues that moved among her Californian brother to free the province or turn it over to the hands of a foreign power], and after Palau absolves Elena of her sins, he then joins her cause (51).
As a Californio first and foremost, Palau’s national loyalties are dependent on what he deems the best interests of the Californio people. (p.95) Set during a tumultuous period of California history when the government changed hands numerous times, the story is thus of shifting and emerging national affiliations, as Californian, as Mexican, and as American. Palau witnesses Governor Micheltorena’s entrance into Los Angeles at the head of an army of cholos—the mercenaries and criminals who made up the Mexican-appointed governor’s army. Observing the way that Micheltorena’s army pillages the town, the next day Palau “colgue los habitos, y ciñendo las espada, fuíme con Elena a refugiarme en la casa de Pio Pico” [hung up my monk’s habit and grasping the spear, Elena and I took refuge in the home of Pio Pico], a third-generation Californian and future governor (52). Renouncing his vows and rebelling against the Mexican government, Palau disclaims both the church and the Mexican authority, choosing instead a native Californio political position.
Palau joins an army of horsemen who, as native Californians, are “dispuestos a rechazar a laos audaces invasores” [ready to repel the audacious invaders] (52). On August 18, 1847, a gruesome battle ensues, during which an explosion traps him under his dead horse and he is consequently buried alive. Emerging from the grave three days later, perhaps alluding to Christ’s resurrection, the reborn Californio searches for his beloved, only to find her bedded with the American Captain Gillepsi. Palau feels betrayed by both his beloved and the lost cause, having died in the defense of California only to be quickly forgotten. Returning from the dead, furious for having lost his land and his woman, Palau plots his revenge.
Donning his priestly garb once again, this time as a disguise, Palau sneaks into Gillepsi’s home to murder Elena. Assuming that Gillepsi would sacrifice his life to defend Elena, Palau, “sentíame capaz de embestir contra todo un batallón” [feeling capable of attacking an entire battalion], nevertheless proceeds with an inflated sense of masculine power (55). Palau takes on Gillepsi, fighting “cuerpo a cuerpo de salvaje contra salvaje” [hand to hand, savage against savage] (55). In the ensuing battle, Elena is murdered and Gillepsi badly wounded, and Palau becomes an outcast and a wanted man. Energized by a speech “exitándolos a que fueran hombres” [rallying them to act like men], Palau equates martial achievement and manhood with success, but his blind rage only results in the death of his beloved (55).
(p.96) Elena, daughter of a Californio and lover of an American, trading her affection between the two, at least partially symbolizes the U.S., a construction perhaps familiar to allegories of national conquest. While Elena is able to shift her national loyalties, assuming that her former lover has fallen victim to the American occupation, Palau is unable to make the transition. From Palau’s perspective, the story takes a decidedly less sympathetic stance toward Americans, but the mere act of writing in this genre suggests Carrillo’s engagement with American cultural practices. Palau, both ghost and man, priest and Californian, also represents the conflated and conflicted loyalties that Mexican American Californians faced.
Palau attends Elena’s funeral, where in remorseful passion he pleads to the heavens, “Perdonala, Dios, misericordioso, como yo la he perdonado!” [Forgive her, merciful god, like I have forgiven her!] (56). Whether Palau makes this plea as layman or as clergyman is unclear, but in either case Palau does not excuse his murderous behavior, but rather beseeches the heavens to forgive Elena for choosing the American captain. This somewhat perplexing request speaks to the quandary in which Mexican American national status and cultural affiliation was placed. In the story, the attachment to land and place supplants personal and national loyalties, but that attachment was grounded in a fantasy heritage of the mission past. The fantasy heritage made the performance of manhood difficult if not impossible for Mexican Americans, and at one point in the story, Carrillo openly critiques the Spanish heritage myth, stating, “Mas bajo la superficie de ese idilio patriarchal, bullian infernales ambiciones” [Beneath the surface of the patriarchal romance were teeming diabolical ambitions] (51). Unable to cope with his contradictions and left with the broken dreams of state inclusion, Palau seeks “expiación de mi crímen” [expiation from my crime] and, like Joaquin and Don Roberto, commits suicide (56).
Carrillo portrays Mexican American males as agentive—agents of both historical change and their own destruction. The ghosts of Carrillo’s fiction function much in the way of what Kathleen Brogan identifies in contemporary ethnic literature, where ghosts “attempt to recover and make social use of a poorly documented, partially erased cultural history” and point to “the degree to which any such historical reconstruction is essentially an imaginative act.”72 The social marginalization (p.97) of California’s Mexican residents took place in part through the creative rewriting of state history, so Carrillo turns to this cultural arena to advocate for social inclusion. Carrillo’s ghosts are less about the spectral than about the continuing historical presence of Mexican American manhood. The repeated inclusion of the native narrator as or alongside the ghosts of the mission past emphasizes the presence of Mexican Americans in both historical and contemporary California.
The tale “El Hombre Invisible” illustrates the spectral presence of Mexican American men. The story takes place on San Francisco’s Kearney Street in 1902, the same year Atherton published Splendid Idle Forties. The protagonist is a Mexican tailor named Pepe Pérez de Perezcano, “tan trigueño, que al verle uno no sabia si era de dia o de noche” [so dark-skinned that upon seeing him one could not tell if it was day or night] (84). Engaged to a German woman named Celendina Ham, Pepe is very jealous and suspects her infidelity. One day a sorcerer from South Asia visits his shop, promising a potion that will make him invisible. Upon taking the potion before bed, “nadie la verá aunque se halle usted presente” [no one would see you until you make your presence known] (84). The sorcerer touts the advantages of being invisible, suggesting to Pepe he could rob a bank unnoticed. Pepe immediately and fiercely protests, “Yo no soy ladrón” [I am not a thief]. Changing his pitch before one of “los hombres honrados,” the witch doctor instead promises that the potion will allow Pepe to test Celendina’s fidelity, and the tailor immediately accedes. The next morning, having drunk the potion the previous evening, Pepe returns to his store as usual. The first customers come in, and although Pepe offers clothes in many styles (“tengo de todos: franceses, ingleses, y …”), the customers leave angrily, appalled by el “sastre tan flojo” [the very lazy tailor] (85). Eventually, Pepe realizes the potion functioned as promised, rendering him invisible. He quickly departs to the home of his “Dulcinea,” where his suspicions are confirmed: Celendina and “un hombre peludo” are locked arm in arm. Lamenting “los malditos polvos,” Pepe throws himself into the sea, and “como nadie le veía, le dejaron ahogarse” [since no one could see him, they let him drown] (85).
This is one of few stories that distinguish between Californios and Mexicans. Pepe is explicitly racialized here, and his skin color acts as his sole defining physical characteristic. In contradistinction, Celendina’s (p.98) “cabellera color de panocha y ojos de azul celeste” [caramel colored hair and sky-blue eyes] invoke whiteness (84).73 In racial terms, the two characters function as referents for Anglo Mexican relations, portrayed here as romantic betrayal. The dark-skinned Pepe tries to foster a relationship with his white girlfriend, who has “dado su palabra de casamiento” [given her word in marriage] (84). Celendina had promised to marry Pepe, to convey upon him the legal and institutional recognition of their relationship. Pepe himself fully commits to their relationship, more interested in his love for Celendina than his desire for “el banco,” the promises of wealth insinuated by the witch doctor. Pepe’s romantic attraction suggests the primacy of social relations over pecuniary gain, yet he remains highly suspicious of the promises previously extended.
Pepe’s suspicions are ultimately well founded. He catches his sweetheart in the act of betrayal. Curiously, Celendina’s hairy “amante” more resembles “un oso escapado del Golden Gate” [a bear escaped from Golden Gate Park] than a lover (85). While the peculiar description of the lover as hairy carries less overt racial overtones, the comparison to a bear makes a historical analogy. The bear holds a celebrated place in California history, immortalized on the state flag and, as part of the Bear Flag Revolt referenced in “El Resucitado,” a lasting symbol of the U.S.-Mexican War.74 The nameless man, a symbol of California’s “independence,” intentionally or unknowingly wrests Pepe’s lover away, and both Celendina and the man are oblivious to Pepe’s protests. His efforts futile, Pepe, left isolated and unheard, is left with few options.
His death does not go unmarked, and Pepe’s story is still remembered by “sus deudores, colmando su memoria de bendiciones” [his debtors, who fill his memory with blessings] (85). The survivors of California understandably bless Pepe’s memory, whose absence allows them to profit from his efforts. It is not his friends or family who note his disappearance, but those that carry debts unpaid. In the context of the story, this concluding remark implicates California in bearing the fruit of Mexicans’ efforts without recognition, remuneration, or recompense for their labor, politically, economically, socially, or otherwise. The “polvo” that transforms Pedro implies more than the literal potion of the story. In Spanish, “polvo” carries several meanings. Though it literally translates as “powder”, the phrase “hecho polvo” is idiomatic for “to be ruined”; similarly, “morder polvo” is “to be overcome.” In “El Hombre Invisible,” (p.99) the Mexican male protagonist is rendered powerless by the powder, divested of his connection to state and society. Carrillo recognizes Mexican American manhood’s invisibility as social syndrome, the result of cultural displacement. If Atherton conveniently dispenses with Mexican American men by consigning them to history as cultural artifact, Carrillo critiques the cultural relegation and attempts to remedy the displacement. His Mexican male is reminded that “nadie la verá aunque se halle usted presente” [no one would see you until you make your presence known] (84). The story makes available the possibility of social enunciation, the affirmation of Mexican American manhood in California culture.
“El Hombre Invisible” works within models of civic participation that would only emerge in the later half of the twentieth century. Carrillo’s Cuentos Californianos asked the Mexican origin community to reevaluate its relationship to the state and to cooperate as a permanent ethnic presence. Carrillo’s stories present an early effort at organizing cultural belonging by creating an inclusive shared mythos for Mexican Americans against the prevailing exclusionary histories, claiming Spanish fantasy heritage on behalf of the Mexican origin community. He uses Mexican American manhood to create an alternative mode of civic participation, citizenship through cultural inclusion, asserting historic connections to the geographic space and to cross, in Laura Lomas’s words, “the gap between the existent and the possible to stress the role of the imagination as a force for creative political change.”75 While others reached beyond national boundaries in crafting modes of citizenship, Carrillo retreats to the region to reconfigure the parameters of belonging. Like Ruiz de Burton, Carrillo “works within existing frameworks of U.S. citizenship (and its accompanying racial hierarchies) rather than challenging such frameworks with a discourse of hemispheric citizenship.”76 Spanish fantasy heritage as a cultural form operates as a particular practice of citizenship, outside of legal and juridical frameworks.
At the same time, in the context of American literature more broadly, Carrillo’s fiction reveals his attempt to inscribe the Mexican origin community into state history in ways that do not require assimilation. Reading the stories of old California multilingually enables a more complete version of how state cultural history was the site of racial and ethnic competition. Carrillo’s stories openly contest the disavowal of Mexican (p.100) heritage that the California fantasy heritage attempted, with considerable success, to enact. Cuentos Californianos lays claim to cultural inclusion as a necessary prerequisite for California to obtain state’s rights and a first step toward the state’s eventual granting of political citizenship. The contest over Mexican American manhood in California puts into conversation multiple locations and discursive arenas (national, regional, local) that are collectively and intersectionally formative.
In a different context, Rosa-Linda Fregoso has described the “ways in which fantasy heritage represented the phantasmagoric convergence of racial, economic, and cultural domination in the region.”77 Fregoso examines early Mexican and Chicana/o film history to make a case for the contradictions inherent in cultural genealogies that rely exclusively on Chicano movement models of interpretation and that often neglect conflicting representational politics of early Mexican American culture. What is so fascinating about Carrillo’s work is how he uses fantasy heritage itself as the very site to make visible the contradictions of civic participation. Carrillo, who had a vexed relationship to both his home and adoptive countries, is both a participant in and demonstrates the limits of transnational cultural belonging. The cultural objects discussed in this chapter, although informed by Mexican, U.S., and Mexican American cultures, are only legible within a nation-based and regionally specific cultural economy. Including Carrillo in American literary history underscores the need for new interpretive models that account for multiple linguistic and national affiliations obtained across historical moments.
(4) Throughout the essay, I use Carey McWilliams’s term “fantasy heritage” in reference to the legends and cultural practices surrounding Old Spanish Californios, the mission past, and boosterism (locations and events such as parades and “fiesta days” festivals) that emerged as a result of the imaginative recreation of historical California. See McWilliams, North From Mexico.
(5) William David Estrada discusses how the Spanish past influenced a variety of social relations and public spaces, particularly in the Los Angeles central city plaza. See Estrada, The Los Angeles Plaza.
(6) While I deploy the term “multilingual,” this book generally focuses on the bilingual Spanish and English Mexican American culture. Bilingualism does not adequately describe the linguistic complexity of Mexican American and Latina/o life and in part represents my own linguistic limitations. In keeping with Werner Sollors’s imperative to reimagine American literature through a multiplicity of languages that better represent its cultures, I use the term “multilingual.” See Sollors, Multilingual America.
(8) Throughout the 1880s, Bancroft chronicled the history of California and the western U.S., collecting documents and narratives from both the English-and Spanish-speaking population. See Lopez, “Political Economy of Early Chicano Historiography,” and Robinson, Mexico and the Hispanic Southwest.
(9) See Gillman, “Otra Vez Caliba/Encore Caliban.” For a discussion of the novel in the context of Latin America and the Mexican borderlands, see Irwin, “Ramona and Postnationalist American Studies.” In relation to novels of domesticity, see González, “Warp of Whiteness.”
(10) The novel was published in multiple editions well into the twentieth century and still remains in print. Along with tourist sites claiming to be the real-life locations of fictional events, Ramona also spawned numerous consumer products such as perfume and beer, and businesses renamed themselves in reference to the novel. Since 1923, the novel has been staged at the annual Ramona Bowl in Hemet, California, and has been made into at least four films, including a 1910 version by D.W. Griffith and a 1928 version starring Mexican superstar Dolores del Rio. See DeLyser, Ramona Memories.
(13) Kropp, California Vieja, 13. Kropp notes how fantasy heritage paradoxically and “simultaneously celebrat[ed] the Spanish past and denigrated the Mexican present […] a central method Americans have used to express race and nation” (7).
(16) Turner, “Significance of the Frontier in American History,” 1893.
(17) Neurasthenia was thought to be the result of excessive mental activity, domestication, or “civilization,” but was a widespread and influential cultural phenomenon during this period. See Lutz, American Nervousness, 1903.
(19) Lummis, The Spanish Pioneers, 11–12. In curious parallel, Lummis dedicates The Spanish Pioneers to Elizabeth Bacon Custer, wife of General George Custer, who was largely responsible for disseminating the propagandistic legend of Custer’s Last Stand as heroic at the Battle of Little Big Horn during the Sioux War of 1876–77. The dedication reads, “To one of such women as make heroes and keep chivalry alive in our less single-hearted days”; the seemingly paradoxical domestic imperative of praising a woman for the maintenance of male chivalry and creating heroes bears noting.
(24) Tuck, Not with the Fist, 15. Analyzing mestizaje in the population around Descanso, California, Tuck sees this social phenomenon among both Anglo and Mexican communities. She ultimately concludes that the colonization of the Mexican was a product of his “passive and apathetic” nature (100).
(28) Where the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1870 (Enforcement Act), and 1875 “recognize the equality of all men before the law, and hold that it is the duty of government in its dealings with the people to mete out equal and exact justice to all, of whatever nativity, race, color, or persuasion, religious or political” (echoing the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Amendments), the Supreme Court’s Slaughter-House decision (1873) made the individual states the guarantors of civil rights. Justice Marshall, who authored the majority opinion, stated, “There is a citizenship of the United States and a citizenship of a State, which are distinct from each other, and which depend upon different characteristics or circumstances in the individual” (Labbé and Lurie, The Slaughterhouse Cases, 215).
(31) Willis and Stockton, Debates and Proceedings, 1006. Mr. Caples concluded that women should not be entitled to vote since “they lack the physical power, the (p.233) physical courage, the endurance—not to say it would interfere with and defeat the great end of creation, the reproduction of our species,” giving voice to a notion of republican motherhood (1006).
(35) “Constitution of the State of California,” as published in California Statutes of 1880 (Sacramento: J. D. Young, Superintendant of State Printing, 1880), Article II, Section I, xxiv.
(43) It seems reasonable to surmise that the character Polk is perhaps named after President Polk, who held office during the U.S.-Mexican War. Polk’s arrival and rise to power in California becomes a thinly veiled metaphor for the nation’s aspirations in and conquest of the state.
(44) Various scholars have discussed at length the trope of marriage resolution in nation formation and imperial conquest. For a discussion of the family in early American fiction, see Samuels, Romances of the Republic; for marriage resolution in Latin American novels, see Sommer, Foundational Fictions; and for post–Civil War national reunification through marriage, see Silber, Romance of Reunion.
(52) It remains unclear whether Carrillo’s exile was coerced or self-imposed. His movements and ability to work were limited by the porfiriato, though immediately following his arrest Carrillo publicly asserted that his departure from his home country was voluntary. See Agüeros, El Tiempo, Diario Catolico, February 28, 1886. However, Carrillo left Mexico City promptly upon his release, suggesting that his “voluntary” departure was either a gesture of defiance or forced. Furthermore, in an interview shortly before his death, Carrillo discusses his expulsion, and claims to have been forced aboard the steamship, penniless and distraught (Cué, “El Autor de las Memorias de Lerdo,” 5). At minimum, the inconsistent accounts suggest the conflicted relationship Carrillo had with Mexico.
(54) Carrillo’s novel is thought to be a fictionalized account of the life of Marquis Jorge Carmona. When originally published, the cover mistakenly read Memorias de San Basilio, perhaps intended to create the impression that the text was a biography of a saint. Curiously, Hector R. Olea published a purported biography of Jorge Carmona in 1951, titled Andanzas del marquees de San Basilio. Oleas mentions Carrillo as the original source for the work, but it is unclear whether Olea was misguided or if he intended the novel as a strange retelling of Carrillo’s original tale.
(68) Chabrán and Chabrán state that the story “Los primeros gambusinos” was published in Tuscon, Arizona, in 1924, but I have been unable to locate any extant copies. The search is ongoing, but I have found other interviews and reports attributed to Carrillo in various U.S. newspapers between 1886 and 1926.
(71) In the story “El Sacrilegio,” which is also framed through a found object, the dying priest regrets his vows and casts doubt on the value of the Spanish mission, inquiring, “Para que sirve un monje? Pues ni para hacer un monje” [What purpose does a priest serve? Alas, not even to create another monk] (Cuentos Californianos 18). Through the narrative layering of ghosts, history, and survivors, the rhetorical question superimposes historical legacy on reproduction and sexuality.
(73) “Panocha” functions as a double entendre here. In Spanish, “panocha” translates as an ear of corn or a candy made from flour and piloncillo. However, the word is also slang for female genitalia, the latter connotation suggesting how the story operated differently for different readers.
(p.235) (74) Around the turn of the century, Golden Gate Park housed a menagerie, including a bear named Monarch—this specificity further contributes to Carrillo’s geographic embedment.