Introduction Joaquin Murrieta Controversy surrounds the legend of Joaquin Murrieta. In some stories he is a hero and in others an outlaw. Facts regarding Joaquin Murrieta remain ambiguous and unclear. According to church records, Murrieta hails from the southern part on the Sonora Mexican state (Burns, Noble, 5). Joaquin Murrieta was born to Rosalia and Joaquin Murrieta in 1830. At some point he referred to himself as Joaquin Carrillo because a man named Carrillo had married his mother previously. The name Joaquin Carrillo enhances the creation of many other theories around the Joaquin Murrieta legend.
Not much is mentioned about his upbringing. His history shifts to his marriage to Rosa Feliz of Vayoreca. Together with his wife and her three brothers they moved to California for the gold rush. He and his wife settled in Niles Canyon where he toiled as a vaquero and a mustang catcher. After this point the legend of Joaquin Murrieta begins controversy. The first legend depicts Joaquin Murrieta as a bandit while the other one makes him a hero (Ridge, John, 17).
In the first legend, Joaquin Murrieta joins his brother-in -laws bandit (Burns, Noble, 11). The bandit kills and steals from white people. After the death of his brother-in-law, Joaquin takes over the bandit’s leadership. He continues to lead the men to crime, and specializes on killing and stealing from the Chinese people. Joaquin and his bandit do not have reservations on killing fellow Hispanics and countrymen. The state of California puts a bounty of 5000 dollars on his head due to the endless menace. After the shooting of General Joshua Bean, Joaquin and Reyes (also his brother-in-law) are implicated. Joaquin fled leaving Reyes to be punished by hanging due to the murder of bean.
Overwhelming evidence pointed to Joaquin as the killer (Burns, Noble, 13). Hence a team commandeered by Harry Love was created to hunt him down. Harry Love captured and killed Joaquin. He cut off his head and preserved it in a bottle of alcohol. He later went round the mines to confirm his identity and assure the people that Joaquin would not harm them again. The term bandit is a widely applied in this version of the legend. Joaquin is referred to as a racist, outlaw, murderer, robber and gang leader. Law enforcement and afflicted individuals mainly applied this term. The appropriateness of the term varies depending on the validity of the information. It is hard too tell if the cruelty of Joaquin is exaggerated or not. However, in the context of law enforcers and victims of Joaquin, it is hard to find another word to call him.
In the next legend, Joaquin is termed as a hero. He is the Hispanic Robin hood. This version was first written by a criminal named john Rolling Ridge. Ridge fled Arkansas after killing a man. He borrowed information from gold camp news paper reports in California. He romanticized the story of Joaquin making him a victim in search for justice. In the story’s publication of 1854, Joaquin and his brother were untruthfully alleged of stealing a mule (Ridge, John, 5). His bother was killed and his wife raped and killed. Joaquin was whipped but he survived. Joaquin avenges the act by hunting down and killing all these men.
This is the story that people love to believe most. The story caught on in France and Chile and translated into those languages. Each country added a detail that built the legend further. A good story is more appealing to the general public. Hence, despite primary sources pointing to Joaquin as a bandit, many deny it and call him a hero. In this discipline, a good story is better than studying history. Historians keep insisting that Joaquin Murrieta was a bandit, yet many still hail him as a hero in a biased society. Many stories have been written about Joaquin and many other films and stories based on his legend created.
Ridge, John. Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murrieta: Celebrated California Bandit. California: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.
Burns, Noble. The Robin Hood of El Dorado: The Saga of Joaquin Murrieta, Famous Outlaw of Californias Age of Gold. Miami. NM Press, 2011.