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The Lynching of Juanita

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Title:
The Lynching of Juanita
Series Title:
This week in history
Creator:
Castro, Richard T.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
Richard T. Castron
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
This Week In History
The Lynching of Juanita by
Richard T. Castro
This weeks history lesson comes from a book written by Carey McWilliams titled "North from Mexico." July 5, 1851, a mob of American miners in Downieville, California lynched Josefa Segovia, known as "Juanita." At the time of the lynching, the Mexican woman was three months pregnant. During the
EXCITEMENT OF THE PREVIOUS DAY'S FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION, A DRUNKEN MINER HAD BROKEN INTO A SHACK, WHICH WAS OWNED BY
Juanita, and assaulted her.
When the miner returned the next day, some say to apologize, A DISPUTE arose which ended, wit-h the fatal stabbing of the miner. Stephen J. Field, later a justice of the United States Supreme Court, made an eloquent plea to the miners to spare
THE LIFE OF JUANITA. THE MINERS HEARD HIM OUT AND THEN PROCEEDED WITH THE LYNCHING. WITH INCOMPARABLE COURAGE,
Juanita adjusted the rope with her own hands, smilingly bade
THE MINERS "ADIOS," AND SWUNG FROM THE SCAFFOLD.
McWilliams states that the first person to be lynched in California was a Mexican and that vast research would be
REQUIRED TO ARRIVE AT AN ESTIMATE OF THE NUMBER OF MEXICAN


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LYNCHINGS BETWEEN 1849 AND 1890. IN THE MINING CAMPS DURING THOSE YEARS, EVERY CRIME OR REPORTED CRIME WAS PROMPTLY BLAMED
on a Mexican and lynching was the accepted penalty for crimes in which Mexicans were allegedly involved. "We can see only
INDIRECTLY," WROTE JOSIAH ROYCE, "THROUGH THE FURIOUS AND CONFUSED REPORTS OF THE AMERICANS THEMSELVES, HOW MUCH OF ORGANIZED AND COARSE BRUTALITY THESE MEXICANS SUFFERED FROM THE MINERS MEETINGS."
Crimes of violence had been almost unknown in California prior
TO THE CONQUEST BY THE UNITED STATES IN 1848. "PERFECT SECURITY FOR THE PERSON PREVAILED IN CALIFORNIA" WROTE THE
South American, Don Jose Arnaz, of his stay in the province IN THE YEARS FROM 1840 TO 1843. BUT, AFTER THE CONQUEST, THE LOWER CLASSES BECAME EXTREMELY DISAFFECTED AND THEIR UNREST ASSUMED A COVERT OR "CRIMINAL DESIGN." IT WAS AFTER 1846, WROTE THE HISTORIAN J. M. GUINN, "THAT -A STRANGE METAMORPHOSIS TOOK PLACE IN THE CHARACTER OF THE LOWER CLASSES OF THE NATIVE CALIFORNIANS.... BEFORE THE CONQUEST BY THE
Americans they were a peaceful and contented people. There
WERE NO ORGANIZED BANDS OF OUTLAWS AMONG THEM_____________ THE
Americans not only took possession of their country and its
GOVERNMENT, BUT IN MANY CASES TOOK THEIR ANCESTRAL LANDS AND THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY. INJUSTICE RANKLES, AND THEY WERE OFTEN TREATED BY THE ROUGHER AMERICAN ELEMENTS AS ALIENS AND INTRUDERS, WHO HAD NO RIGHTS IN THE LAND OF THEIR BIRTH."


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This is the general origin of the much discussed "Mexican banditry" of the period, In the 1850's, the country between
Los Angeles and Fort Miller in the San Joaquin Valley was
FILLED WITH "CALIFORNIA AND MEXICAN OUTLAWS" WHO RAIDED THE HERDS OF CATTLE BEING DRIVEN NORTH TO THE MINES AND LOOTED
THE MINING SETTLEMENTS. TYPICAL OF THE ATTITUDES OF THE BANDITS WAS THE STATEMENT OF TlBURCIO VASQUEZ, A NATIVE
Californian, who was executed in 1852. "A spirit of hatred
AND REVENGE," HE SAID, "TOOK POSSESSION OF ME. I HAD NUMEROUS FIGHTS IN DEFENSE OF WHAT I BELIEVED TO BE MY RIGHTS AND THOSE OF MY COUNTRYMEN. I BELIEVED WE WERE BEING UNJUSTLY DEPRIVED OF THE SOCIAL RIGHTS THAT BELONGED TO US."
The local county histories contain many references to the
ACTIVITIES OF THESE BOLD AND DARING "OUTLAWS: VASQUEZ,
Joaquin Murieta, Louis Bulvia, Antonio Moreno, Procopio, Soto, Manuel Garcia, Juan Flores, Pancho Daniel, and many others. Many of these men had fought on the side of Mexico in the war of 1846,
Mexican banditry presumably justified the practice of lynching Mexicans, which soon degenerated from a form of vigilante
PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, TO AN OUTDOOR SPORT IN SOUTHERN
California. In 1857, four Mexicans were lynched in El Monte; ELEVEN IN Los A.NGELES. THROUGHOUT THE 18607 S THE LYNCHING
of Mexicans was such a common occurrence in Los Angeles that


THE NEWSPAPERS SCARCELY BOTHERED
TO REPORT
THE DETAILS.
Horace Bell, who was himself once indicted for killing a Mexican, describes any number of murders and lynchings, in
WHICH THE VICTIMS WERE MEXICANS, IN HIS MEMOIRS:
"Reminiscences of a Ranger."
The last reported lynching of a Mexican occurred in August, 1892, when one Francisco Torres was lynched in Santa Ana.
A HOMICIDE A DAY WAS REPORTED IN LOS ANGELES IN 1854, WITH MOST OF THE VICTIMS BEING MEXICANS AND INDIANS. THE PREVIOUS
year Los Angeles had more killings than occurred elsewhere in California. The subordination of Mexicans in the social
STRUCTURE OF THE UNITED STATES CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT KNOWING THE EARLY HISTORY OF THIS PATTERN OF VIOLENCE AND INTIMIDATION IN CALIFORNIA AND ELSEWHERE,
Richard Castro is the.Executive Director of the Agency For Human Rights and Community Relations


Full Text

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY THE LYNCHING OF JUANITA BY RICHARD T. CASTRO THIS WEEKS HISTORY LESSON COMES FROM A BOOK WRITTEN BY CAREY McWILLIAMS TITLED "NORTH FROM MEXICO." JULY 5, 1851, A MOB OF AMERICAN MINERS IN DOWNIEVILLE, CALIFORNIA LYNCHED JOSEFA SEGOVIA, KNOWN AS "JUANITA." AT THE TIME OF THE LYNCHING, THE MEXICAN WOMAN WAS THREE MONTHS PREGNANT, DURING THE EXCITEMENT OF THE PREVIOUS DAY'S FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION, A DRUNKEN MINER HAii BROKEN INTO A SHACK, WHICH WAS OWNED BY JUANITA, AND ASSAULTED HER. WHEN THE MINER RETURNED THE NEXT DAY, SOf-1E SAY TO APOLOGIZE, A DISPUTE AROSE WHICH ENDED. WIT H THE FATAL STABBING OF THE MINER. STEPHEN J. FIELD, LATER A JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT, MADE AN ELOQUENT PLEA TO THE MINERS TO SPARE THE LIFE OF JUANITA. THE MINERS HEARD HIM OUT AND THEN PROCEEDED WITH THE LYNCHING. WITH INCOMPARABLE COURAGE, JUANITA ADJUSTED THE ROPE WITH HER OWN HANDS, SMILINGLY BADE THE MINERS "ADIOS," AND SWUNG FROM THE SCAFFOLD. McWILLIAMS STATES THAT THE FIRST PERSON TO BE LYNCHED IN CALIFORNIA WAS A MEXICAN AND THAT VAST RESEARCH WOULD BE REQUIRED TO ARRIVE AT AN ESTIMATE . OF THE NUMBER OF MEXICAN

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2 LYNCHINGS BETWEEN 1849 AND 1890, IN THE MINING CAMPS DURING THOSE YEARS1 EVERY CRIME OR REPORTED CRIME WAS PROMPTLY BLAMED ON A MEXICAN AND LYNCHING WAS THE ACCEPTED PENALTY FOR CRIMES IN WHICH MEXICANS WERE ALLEGEDLY INVOLVED. "WE CAN SEE ONLY WROTE JOSIAH "THROUGH THE FURIOUS AND CONFUSED REPORTS OF THE AMERICANS THEMSELVES 1 HOW MUCH OF ORGANIZED AND COARSE BRUTALITY THESE MEXICANS SUFFERED FROM THE MINERS MEETINGS." CRIMES OF VIOLENCE HAD BEEN ALMOST UNKNOWN IN CALIFORNIA PRIOR TO THE CONQUEST BY THE UNITED STATES IN 1848. SECURITY FOR THE PERSON PREVAIL ED IN CALIFORNIA" WROTE THE SOUTH DON JOSE ARNAZ1 OF HIS STAY IN THE PROVINCE IN THE YEARS FROM 1840 TO 1843 I BUT I AFTER THE CONQUEST I THE LOWER CLASSES BECAME EXTREMELY DISAFFECTED AND THEIR UNREST ASSUMED A COVERT OR 11 CRIMINAL DESIGN. 11 IT WAS AFTER 18461 WROTE THE HISTORIAN J. M. GUINN I I "THAT A STRANGE METAMORPHOSIS TOOK PLACE IN THE CHARACTER OF THE LOWER CLASSES OF THE NATIVE CALIFORNIANS I I I I BEFORE THE CONQUEST BY THE AMERICANS THEY WERE A PEACEFUL AND CONTENTED PEOPLE. THERE WERE NO ORGAN I ZED BANDS OF OUTLAWS AMONG THEM I I I I THE AMERICANS NOT ONLY TOOK POSSESSION OF THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS GOVERNMENT 1 BUT IN MANY CASES TOOK THEIR ANCESTRAL LANDS AND THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY. INJUSTICE RANKLES, AND THEY WERE OFTEN TREATED BY THE ROUGHER AMERICAN ELEMENTS AS ALI ENS AND WHO HAD NO RIGHTS IN THE LAND OF THEIR BIRTH."

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3 THIS IS THE GENERAL ORIGIN OF THE MUCH DISCUSSED "MEXICAN BAND I TRY" OF THE PER I OD I IN THE 1850 Is I THE COUNTRY BETWEEN Los ANGELES AND FORT MILLER IN THE SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY WAS FILLED WITH "CALIFORNIA AND MEXICAN OUTLAWS" WHO RAIDED THE HERDS OF CATTLE BEING DR I YEN NORTH TO THE MINES AND LOOTED THE MINING SETTLEMENTS. TYPICAL OF THE ATTITUDES OF THE BANDITS WAS THE STATEMENT OF TIBURCIO VASQUEZ, A CALIFORNIAN, WHO WAS EXECUTED IN 1852, "A SPIRIT OF HATRED AND REVENGE," HE SAID, "TOOK POSSESSION OF ME, I HAD NUMEROUS FIGHTS IN DEFENSE OF WHAT I BELIEVED TO BE MY RIGHTS AND THOSE OF MY COUNTRYMEN, I BEL I EYED WE WERE BEING UNJUSTLY DEPRIVED OF THE SOCIAL RIGHTS THAT BELONGED TO US," THE LOCAL COUNTY HISTORIES CONTAIN MANY REFERENCES TO THE ACTIVITIES OF THESE BOLD AND DARING "OUTLAWS: VASQUEZ, JOAQUIN MURIETA, LOUIS BULYIA , ANTONIO MORENO, PROCOPIO, SOTO, MANUEL GARCIA, JUAN FLORES, PANCHO DANIEL, AND MAN-Y OTHERS. MANY OF THESE MEN HAD FOUGHT ON THE SIDE OF MEXICO IN THE WAR OF 1846, MEXICAN BANDITRY PRESUMABLY JUSTIFIED THE PRACTICE OF LYNCHING MEXICANS, WHICH SOON DEGENERATED FROM A FORM OF Y I G I LANTE PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, TO AN OUTDOOR SPORT IN SOUTHERN CAL I FORNI A I IN 1.857 I FOUR MEXICANS WERE LYNCHED IN EL MONTE j ELEVEN r N Los A .NGEL Es, THROUGHOUT THE 1860 Is THE LYNCH r NG OF MEXICANS WAS SUCH A COMMON OCCURRENCE IN LOS ANGELES THAT

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4 THE NEWSPAPERS SCARCELY BOTHERED TO REPORT THE DETAILS. HORACE BELL, WHO WAS HIMSELF ONCE INDICTED FOR KILLING A MEXICAN, DESCRIBES ANY NUMBER OF MURDERS AND LYNCHINGS, IN WHICH THE VICTIMS WERE MEXICANS, IN HIS MEMOIRS: uREMINISCENCES OF A RANGER.u THE LAST REPORTED LYNCHING OF A MEXICAN OCCURRED IN 1892, WHEN ONE FRANCISCO TORRES WAS LYNCHED IN SANTA ANA. A HOMICIDE A DAY WAS REPORTED IN Los ANGELES IN 1854, WITH MOST .OF THE VICTIMS BEING MEXICANS AND INDIANS. THE PREVIOUS YEAR LOS ANGELES HAD MORE KILLINGS THAN OCCURRED ELSEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA. THE SUBORDINATION OF MEXICANS IN THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF THE UNITED STATES CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT KNOWING THE EARLY HI STORY OF THIS PATTERN OF VIOLENCE AND INTIMIDATION IN CALIFORNIA AND ELSEWHERE. RICHARD CASTRO IS THE.EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AGENCY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS