"Californios! Whom do you support?" El Clamor Publico's contradictory role in the racial formation process in early California.
During the 1850s, California went through a "racial formation process," which codified the racial status of different groups in the state. (1) On the one hand, white males were granted full political rights, favorable judicial treatment, access to free labor markets, and high social standing. On the other hand, people of color were denied the right to vote and the right to testify in court against whites. They were also blocked from unrestricted access to free labor markets, and they were denied equal social status with whites.
Some Californios enjoyed a unique, privileged status compared to American Indians, Blacks, and Chinese because California's constitution established that "white male" Mexicans had the same political rights as other white European men. (2) As Tomas Almaguer has argued, this "decision enabled the Californio elite to utilize their status as free white citizens to effectively challenge and resist more onerous measures European Americans used to subordinate other racialized groups in California." (3)
But because the determination of who is "white" is a social construct, Mexicans were perceived as being white or nonwhite depending on nonracial factors such as class, religion, ancestry, and language. (4) This dichotomy of Californio "whites" versus Californio "mestizos" (people with mixed blood) created an ambiguous social status for some mixed-race Californios: At times they were considered white, and at other times they were considered nonwhite. This was the case for Manuel Dominguez, a mestizo whom historian Leonard Pitt called "one of the most respected Californios" and who served as a Los Angeles-elected delegate to the convention that drafted the state constitution in 1849. In San Francisco in 1857, however, he was considered Indian by a judge who did not allow him to testify in court because the law denied people of color the right to testify against a white person. (5)
It is precisely this conflicting social standing of Californios--privileged yet subordinate--that makes the study of public discourse about race in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century important. This was a time when the formation of new racial hierarchies was at the forefront of society after the end of the U.S.-Mexico War, and the legal and social standing of Spanish-speaking communities was diminished.
Spanish-language newspapers of that era were some of the few public venues in which racialized public discourses that challenged and resisted white supremacy were articulated, even though this defiance could carry a high price for journalists. The editor of El Clamor Publico, Francisco P. Ramirez, recognized this danger. He informed his readers that a grand jury decided not to prosecute a Los Angeles justice of the peace who had decapitated a dead Mexican man wrongly suspected of killing a sheriff and who had been in charge of the hanging of three other innocent Mexican suspects. Ramirez then wrote:
We know very well that in denouncing these criminals we exposed ourselves to be assassinated at any time, but we are just fulfilling our duty as journalists, and we know that in doing this we are supported by all the good citizens and by our compatriots. (6)
In this analysis of El Clamor's coverage, three principal themes are explored: the representations of Blacks, Chinese, and Indians when reporting instances of racial conflict and violence; generalizations about nonwhite, non-Latino groups; and stereotypical representations of these groups.
SOCIAL CONTROL AND ACTIVISM, TWO CONTRADICTORY ROLES OF THE PRESS
According to Felix Gutierrez, who has closely studied Spanish-language journalism in the nineteenth-century Southwest, two social roles the press performed were as institutions of social control and of activism. (7) Regarding the former, Gutierrez argues that some Spanish-language media were products, in financing and content, of the conquering Anglo-Americans. (8) Here Gutierrez talks primarily about Spanish-language sections of English-language newspapers. Government advertising contracts to translate into Spanish and publish new laws helped to establish and sustain these publications, at the same time ensuring that the dominated group of Californios learned about the laws that codified white supremacy in terms of economic, political, and social rights. Spanish speakers were hired, usually at lower salaries, to translate content that generally reproduced ideas of white supremacy and Californio inferiority.
The Santa Barbara Gazette (1855-1858) is a good example of the role of the press as an institution of social control. Since Californios constituted 95 percent of the population of that village and its county, Anglo owners established the Gazette with a Spanish-language section, La Gaceta. The Gazette and La Gaceta were "a publishing forum for Anglo viewpoints." The content of the newspaper promoted a worldview in which Californios found their stories ignored and their subordinate status reinforced. (9) La Gaceta lasted only six months. In this case, social control ambitions wilted in the face of strong resistance on the part of Californios, who organized a boycott against the paper. (10)
Papers acting as institutions of activism proved willing "to make statements reflecting the collective outrage of communities suffering systematic violence and discrimination." The key point here is how Spanish-language newspapers became defenders of the rights of Californios and other Spanish-speaking communities. Gutierrez here uses the example of El Clamor Publico, which "gained an activist reputation for hard-hitting attacks on the behavior of the Yankee conquerors and for consistent defense of the rights of the Californios." (11)
In a similar vein, William Carrigan and Clive Webb have recently suggested that Spanish-language newspapers such as Los Angeles's El Clamor and Tucson's El Fronterizo (1879-1929) were part of the Chicano resistance to ethnic violence in the Southwest, providing accounts of lynchings of Chicanos that were more accurate than those published in the English-language press. (12)
The white mainstream press continued to accept the actions of lynch mobs largely without question. Mexican American newspapers therefore provided an important counternarrative to the conventional discourse of ethnic violence. (13)
El Clamor Publico's strong defense of the rights of Californios is reflected in the negative reaction of Anglo commentators. In 1857, Los Angeles Assemblyman Joseph Lancaster Brent accused El Clamor of spreading "sentiments of treason and antipathy among the native population." (14) On February 7, 1857, the Los Angeles Star called El Clamor an "incendiary publication" because, it claimed, El Clamor's reports about the killing of Mexicans in San Gabriel were inaccurate (El Clamor's coverage was actually the more correct). In a heated exchange between the papers, the Star accused El Clamor of creating and exciting "hostile feelings between the two races of inhabitants ...." (15) On June 19, 1858, another Los Angeles newspaper Southern Vineyard argued that Ramirez had transformed El Clamor "into a Mexican and Anti-American organ, instead of employing his abilities and influential position to the softening of the asperities and the harmonious commingling of two races...."
But what was the predominant role of the paper in covering and portraying other nonwhite groups? Did the newspaper merely reproduce dominant notions of white supremacy? Or did it contest these racist notions? Some of the attitudes of El Clamor indicate that the newspaper contested notions of white supremacy. For example, it was an openly abolitionist newspaper at a time when the predominant view, especially in southern California, was the opposite. The newspaper received constant attacks from other newspapers. The San Francisco Herald called El Clamor "the most violent of all the Free-Nigger organs in the State." (16) After Ramirez's failed attempt to get elected as an assemblyman in the Los Angeles election of 1858, the Los Angeles Star editorialized against him, pointing out the "pernicious principles" of Ramirez: "Should such a calamity as having a Black Republican to represent us in the Legislature ever befall Los Angeles county, there is no one better entitled to that bad pre-eminence than Mr. Ramirez." (17)
Also, in talking about its mission, El Clamor on one occasion addressed issues of diversity related to other people of color, at least indirectly. In an advertisement first published on March 26, 1856, the paper described itself as an independent newspaper advocating for material progress "while firmly resisting the attempts to degrade and proscribe any kind of people because of the diversity of their national origin, creed, or religion." (18) It is difficult to assess how much importance Ramirez gave to this statement, but it does directly contradict the status quo in California, where nonwhite Mexicans were denied full citizenship rights, Chinese were legally prevented from becoming citizens, American Indians were being exterminated, and African Americans faced discrimination hardly less violent.
THE OTHER CALIFORNIANS AND WHITE PRIVILEGE
California's constitution placed white Californios in a privileged position compared to mixed-blood Mexicans, Indians, Chinese, and Blacks. Only white European and white Mexican males were granted citizenship, while legal rights were denied to Indians and Blacks--with mestizos classified as either white or Indian depending on their pigmentation and other factors. The California Civil Practice Act, for example, insisted that "no Indian or Negro shall be allowed to testify as a witness in any action in which a white person is a party." Later, in People v. Hall (1854), the California Supreme Court threw out the murder conviction of George Hall because it was based on the testimony of two Chinese witnesses; the justices decided that the terms Indian and Negro were generic racial categories and included the Chinese, who were classified as nonwhite and therefore "had no rights that a white man was bound to respect." (19)
Although the Constitutional Convention did not allow slavery in California, it made sure to maintain the subordinate political status of Blacks in the state. As Almaguer states, "They were denied the rights to vote, to hold public office, to testify in court against white persons, to serve on juries, to attend public schools, or to homestead public land." (20) Several white politicians wanted to prevent Black migration to California, and although they were unable to do so during the convention, they submitted bills in the California state legislature in 1850, 1851, 1855, 1857, and 1858 that would have prohibited Black immigration. The Black population of California grew at a slow pace during a period of heavy migration of whites to the state, from one thousand in 1850 to only four thousand in 1860. (21)
Indians in California suffered an accelerated extermination in the second half of the nineteenth century. California's Indian population plummeted from 150,000 in 1845 to fewer than 30,000 in 1870. (22) Indians were viewed as ugly, primitive people. They were called "diggers," a short version of the pejorative description "root diggers." (23) The subordination of Indians was guaranteed by various legal means. The state of California "directly subsidized 'private military forays' against the California Indians," something that provoked several massacres. (24) Indians were not eligible for citizenship, not even "civilized" Indians who owned property and paid taxes. (25) The Indenture Act and Vagrancy Act of 1850 allowed the use of Indians as bond servants, creating what was known as the Sunday slave mart:
The Indians were first caught like cattle and accused of being vagrants. They would be condemned to labor for a period and when the period was almost over they would be induced to drink hard liquor. Drunkenness almost inevitably followed, fines resulted, and another period of forced labor followed that. (26)
The Indenture Act also gave people in the state legal means to take custody of Indian minors and make them into "virtual slaves" in an apprenticeship system. (27)
Chinese people, in contrast, migrated in large numbers to California during the 1850s. The number of Chinese people in the state went from 2,716 in 1851 to 34,935 in 1860. Chinese migrants--overwhelmingly male--settled in San Francisco and in rural and mining areas of Northern California. (28)
Whites found Chinese "distasteful" in their "physical appearance, language, manner of dress, food, religion, and social customs." They were seen as "heathen" and "uncivilized." (29) Thus, they were considered nonwhite, and they were ineligible for citizen rights. Furthermore, they were discouraged from competing with white miners. The mining tax law of 1852 affected all foreign miners, but "the Chinese were the primary targets of this social closure." (30) The law required payment of three dollars monthly by every miner who was not a citizen, and the Chinese simply could not become citizens.
Different Latino groups that migrated to California attracted by gold mining (Sonorans, Chileans, and Peruvians) quickly stopped migrating to the state after Anglos came to power. Sonoran miners, for example, migrated to California starting in 1848, and their migration peaked in 1850 but declined rapidly until it practically ceased by 1854. (31)
With regard to Californios, the most dramatic demographic phenomenon was their sharp decline from majority status due to the rapid migration of American and European whites. Almaguer estimates that in 1848 there were ten thousand Mexicans in California, and by 1860, using census figures, Wright estimates only 11,970 Latinos--including 9,150 Mexicans, 2,250 South Americans, 100 Central Americans, and 470 Spaniards, a small fraction of the total half-million inhabitants of the state by 1860. (32)
In Los Angeles, this dramatic demographic shift turned Latinos into a small minority population in a span of thirty years. While the non-Spanish-surnamed population grew from 18 percent of the total population in 1850 to 80 percent by 1880, the Latino population decreased from 82 percent of the total population in 1850 to 58 percent in 1860, to 25 percent in 1870, and to less than 20 percent in 1880. (33)
In the new white-dominated state, Californios helped both to shape and to challenge California's racial hierarchy, which promoted the idea of white supremacy. Seven Californios formed part of the Constitutional Convention and articulated some of the contradictory notions of race that simultaneously questioned and perpetuated racial prejudice.
Californio Pablo Noriega de la Guerra is a good example. As a Santa Barbara delegate to the convention, he contested and reinforced white supremacy at the same time:
Many citizens of California have received from nature a very dark skin; nevertheless, there are among them men who have heretofore been allowed to vote, and not only that, but to fill the highest public offices. It would be very unjust to deprive them of the privilege of citizens merely because nature had not made them white. But if, by the word "white" it was intended to exclude the African race, then it was correct and satisfactory. (34)
The coverage of El Clamor Publico reflects this conflicting stance about race and racial hierarchies. The newspaper both challenged and perpetuated the ideology of white supremacy in its coverage of other nonwhite groups, performing at the same time the two roles of social control and activism discussed by Gutierrez. In some instances, the newspaper disputed the established racial hierarchies, pointing out injustices committed against Blacks and Chinese, and editorializing against slavery in general. In other instances, it perpetuated the racial hierarchies: when it reproduced stereotypes about Blacks and Indians, did not defend the rights of Indians to equal treatment, and justified the mass killings of Indians as a "war."
AFRICAN AMERICANS: EMPATHY AND STEREOTYPING
The stance of El Clamor Publico toward African Americans was ambivalent. Much of the paper's coverage of Blacks was positive and activist in nature. It regularly expressed abolitionist sentiments, usually in opinion articles and framed by partisan politics. On August 30, 1856, for example, the paper editorialized against the Democratic Party because of its pro-slavery attitude. At the end of the article, El Clamor encouraged Californios to vote Republican based on its abolitionist position: "Californios! Whom do you support? If you are in favor of restricting the extension of the traffic of human beings, then you'll support the Republican candidate. If you don't care or are for slavery, you'll support the Democratic candidate for president." (35)
Also, El Clamor was able to see the contradictions between the democratic principles supposedly embraced by the government and the slavery system. In an editorial on March 22, 1856, the newspaper pointed out this contradiction when two Democratic California representatives voted for William Aiken, from South Carolina, for speaker of the House:
Mr. Aiken is owner of more than a thousand Blacks, and he is the richest man in Congress: [he has] an estate worth two million dollars. What does this say about the institutions of the Republic? The largest slaveowner occupies a seat in Congress and makes laws for the free men? Inconsistencies like these are the ones that cause laughter among Europeans, who make fun of our government. They don't understand how promoters of the worst kind of slavery can be honest in their "patriotic" speeches about equality and freedom. (36)
The newspaper always opposed attempts to stop the migration of free Blacks to California, and it even monitored the votes of Californio legislators on this issue. On May 23, 1857, for example, the paper reported about the status of a bill of this nature:
Among those who voted against [the bill], we can say to their honor, were the names of Senores Castro and Covarrubias, because on this and other occasions, they have only been guided by the principle of justice and humanity. (37)
In an article about another attempt to prevent free Blacks from moving to California, "The Crime of Being Born Black," El Clamor linked the injustices against Blacks with the injustices against other people of color, and directly challenged white supremacy in the process:
Is it just for [Blacks] to be punished because they committed the crime of not being born white? ... Is this civilization? ... Is this the enlightened humanity of the nineteenth century? ... After prohibiting the entry of Chinese and charging unjust taxes to foreigners who arrive on our shores, the time doesn't seem far when they will want to remove the right to vote for the native Californios, after they see that we don't follow their hateful principles. (38)
El Clamor strongly opposed the enslavement of Blacks in the Americas. The paper editorialized against William Walker's racist ideals for Nicaragua and Central America in general. (39) But the most interesting piece it published about the topic was an article reprinted from the Mexico City newspaper El Siglo XIX about a settlement of Black people from Louisiana along the shore of Mexico's Papaloapan River in Veracruz. (40) The English-language Mexico City newspaper Mexican Extraordinary had asked the Mexican government to prohibit these settlements, but El Siglo XIX argued that the Black immigrants from Louisiana were hard-working and industrious:
If we are talking about this kind of immigrants, the color is irrelevant.... If we are enemies of slavery, it is because the Black man is a man, because the Black man is our brother.... The Black man enjoys in Mexico all rights given to men by our bill of rights; he can be not only a follower, but also, if he wants, a citizen and a public official, and this is one of the accomplishments of our country. (41)
This positive depiction of the African American struggle for freedom both in the United States and in Latin America, however, was accompanied by some negative depictions as well, such as a scarcity of news reports about lynchings of African Americans. The newspaper did report some instances of lynchings of Black people, but its depictions were never as detailed as those of lynchings of Californios, and they did not question the lynchings' legality. On July 31, 1855, for example, the newspaper reported that a Black man (no name provided) was burned to death by the people of Sumter County, Alabama, because he raped and killed a white woman. The paper included no more details and gave no sense of how accurate the accusation was.
Instances in which El Clamor reinforced ideas of Black inferiority were also common, particularly in cases in which the newspaper refused to acknowledge that Blacks and Indians were equal to Mexicans. For example, to oppose James Buchanan's election as president, the paper used a comment he made when he was a senator. (42) In English, El Clamor asked, "Shall we select and support Buchanan, the man who has slandered the Spanish race of America, by placing them on equality with the slaves?" And in Spanish, under the heading "Insult against the Spanish Race," the paper reproduced the "insulting" comments that put Mexicans, Blacks, and Indians on equal footing: "The Mexican nation is formed by Spaniards, Indians, and Blacks, mixed in all kinds of combinations, who will receive our slaves in terms of perfect equality." (43) Later, on February 26, 1859, El Clamor published an editorial that spoke out with similar tone and content against the San Francisco Herald for saying that Mexicans, Blacks, and Indians were equal.
Also, El Clamor refused to see the negative stereotypes of Blacks that were part of the popular culture of the era. The newspaper regularly reported about visits by minstrel companies, which were usually formed by white performers impersonating stereotypical Black characters. (44) El Clamor did not criticize these representations of Blacks, and it recommended the shows, pointing out for example that a performer was Spanish or that the performance occurred in the house of a Californio:
The minstrel ("Negritos") company that had great success in Los Angeles two years ago has come back on the last steamer, and last Thursday they had their first performance in the house of Don Jesus Dominguez. (45)
CHINESE: ACTIVIST REPORTING
Although there were fewer stories involving Chinese immigrants, El Clamor Publico was prompt to report instances of racism against Chinese miners as well as lynchings and massacres against Chinese communities. Most of these reports were reprints from newspapers in northern California.
Two 1855 statutes that had a marginal impact on Latin Americans but had a major negative impact on Chinese people were "a $50 head tax to discourage the immigration of people ineligible for citizenship ... and a new foreign miners' tax of $5 a month." (46) On January 26, 1856, El Clamor Publico published an article that described how the anti-Chinese sentiment of the foreign miners' law had economic consequences for everybody, whites included. The law had forced the Chinese miners to abandon the mines, causing lost revenue in sales for white merchants. This prompted newspapers to editorialize against the law:
The newspapers in the interior that relentlessly attacked the unfortunate Chinese, said El Eco del Pacifico, are the same papers that now oppose the law in the most flagrant way. Previously, they had said, "If we don't take an efficient means to expel from the country this population, the state of California will turn Asiatic. Why do we tolerate these people, who are less productive, consume less, and above all, cannot connect with our families?" ... Nobody thought about these inconvenient consequences when [Chinese] were persecuted not only with this law, but also with other inhumane and barbarous attacks, and now that they feel the sour pain, people ask for the law to be changed, and they say the Chinese are honest, useful, and industrious.... We are glad that there is a beginning of justice for all kinds of people, regardless of nationality. (47)
Three years later, on April 9, 1859, El Clamor again used El Eco del Pacifico to make ironic comments on a similar bill that aimed to increase the foreign miners' tax to fifty dollars a month:
Now, people might believe that we oppose the approval of a bill intended exclusively to benefit those who have expelled and abused the unfortunate Asians in a thousand different ways. That is not the case. Quite the opposite, we believe that such a bill will fulfill the desired goal in more than one way: first, because if the Chinese pays $50 as a monthly license fee and the American pays $2, the latter can continue eating chicken every day, and he wouldn't ever complain about a rival who eats only rats; and second, since very few Chinese might venture into the mines for fear of paying $50, an amount they may not recover after a month of work, the Americans would have less opportunities to perform those shameful shows now in vogue of expelling, hanging, and throwing out Chinese for hobby. The passage of such a bill--that preserves the riches of some and oppresses others--can only mark the beginning of a landmark era in the history of the country that is an example of intolerance.... (48)
El Clamor also reported at least three lynching cases against Chinese individuals, (49) and some instances of general violence against Chinese communities in mining areas. The lynching stories were short and lacked the detailed descriptions of lynchings against Californios but were written in a way that follows the anti-lynching stance of the paper, particularly when torture and mutilation were involved. On October 17, 1857, for example, El Clamor Publico ran a brief story titled "Terrible Barbarity":
Some poor Chinese were arrested in the mines near Horsetown for robbery. They were not hanged, but were treated in the cruelest form. After they were beaten until they showed no signs of life, their ears were cut off! a fashion that seems to be in vogue in these times of enlightenment. Indians were paid to beat them, but it was a person of white skin who had the glory of mutilating them. [Italics in original.]
In two instances, El Clamor described how Chinese mining settlements were attacked, looted, and destroyed by whites. On March 17, 1858, the paper ran a story based on the Sacramento Union's account of a Chinese mining settlement near Alder Creek, where white mobs attacked the "pacific inhabitants." The story was titled "The Chinese Are Barbarically Treated."
Around two hundred Chinese were deprived of their homes and property. The unfortunate Chinese escaped scared to the woods looking for solitary places to hide and save their lives. The principal goal of the populace was looting, taking everything of value they could reach. (51)
In another instance, El Clamor used the French newspaper L'Echo du Pacifique as a source to document the expulsion of Chinese people from the mining areas. (52) In Horsetown, the paper reported, one hundred miners got together to "sweep up" (barrer) all the Chinese of the neighboring districts. The sheriff tried to disperse the white miners, but they came back. The worst event happened in Shasta, where people were being stabbed. "How is this going to end?" asked El Clamor. "Will the law or the people prevail?"
In general, the coverage of Chinese communities, although scarce, was predominantly positive, identifying the injustices committed against them as similar to the ones committed against the constructed "us"--the community of Californios that included Ramirez and his like-minded readership. Compared to the coverage of African Americans, which included more opinion articles, El Clamor's coverage of Chinese communities used accounts from Californian newspapers in Spanish, English, and French to report on specific events. Thus, the coverage of Chinese communities was superior in factual reporting of events, but was weak in interpretation of the significance of those events.
INDIANS: THE SUBORDINATE OTHER
Most of the time, Indians were portrayed negatively and stereotypically in El Clamor, despite the fact that they were the group most affected by ethnic violence during this period. Indians had a larger presence in the Los Angeles area than Blacks or Chinese: Camarillo registered 2,014 Indians in Los Angeles County in 1860, compared to 87 Blacks and II Chinese individuals. (53)
This negative coverage established that Indians were the subordinate "other" for Californios and other Spanish-language communities, helped to support ideas of racial superiority brought by white Europeans in both Mexico and the United States, and served to justify the systematic oppression and extermination of tens of thousands of Indians both by white Americans and by white and mestizo Californios. (54)
Although the coverage of Indians was regular and more abundant than the coverage of Blacks or Chinese, El Clamor Publico depicted the extermination of Indians in the United States and in the Americas as a war instead of as a series of massacres or as genocide. Urban and rural Indians were depicted stereotypically as savages, thieves, treacherous, alcoholics, and stupid, and the lynching of Indians was criticized only when done by American whites and not when done by Californios or individuals of other Spanish-speaking communities.
In clear contrast to the positive depiction of the African American struggle for freedom from slavery in the United States and the Americas, El Clamor Publico depicted Indian communities in the Americas and in the United States as if they were in a senseless war with society. For example, in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, in a town sixty miles from Merida City, "Indians" were reported by El Clamor as "taking advantage" of the armed conflict in Mexico to enter people's houses, where they "cut the throats of all the inhabitants of the town, regardless of sex and age. More than 500 bodies have been found, and daily more bodies are found in the surrounding woods, mutilated in the cruelest manner." (55)
Similar stories appeared regularly in El Clamor about Indians in Argentina, Central America, Sonora (Mexico), and the United States. (56) In some of the stories about the war against Indians in California, El Clamor depicted individuals with Spanish-language surnames as the ones in charge of the killings. On July 24, 1855, for example, a story about the town of Sonora, Mexico, describes fights against Apaches. In one of these fights, the paper reported, "Don Hilarion Garcia killed one hundred of these savages." (57)
El Clamor Publico depicted urban Indians only as alcoholics. In a column titled "Stories of the Week," for example, the paper ran a story about the death of a drunken Indian next to a story about the weather and another about commercial activity:
The week finished as usual. There is one less Indian in the hands of the worshippers of the God Bacchus. They go to better lands, because they say there is no law that prohibits them to die, and after this operation is finished, there is nothing that prohibits the entrance of their souls to infernal regions. (58)
El Clamor reported a large number of killings of Indians on the streets of Los Angeles. These reports regularly implied that other Indians-usually called savages--committed these "senseless assassinations." On September 18, 1855, the paper ran the following story about the killing of an Indian in Los Angeles:
More than twenty Indians gathered in the plaza on Sunday at 10 in the morning. After they greeted each other, one of them pulled out a knife and stabbed two of his fellows in the coldest blood possible. We believe that one of them died because he showed no signs of life for more than two hours, until his comrades took him away. (59)
Sometimes, the paper did not even verify that other Indians were the guilty assassins; it just assumed that they were. On October 18, 1856, for example, the following story appeared:
Last Thursday, a dead Indian appeared in the morning under the bridge. His face was horribly mutilated. Undoubtedly, he was assassinated by one of his fellows. (60)
In cases where an Indian was killed by a non-Indian, El Clamor Publico expressed trust in the justice system--the same system it denounced as being prejudiced against Californios. For example, on June 7, 1856, the paper ran a story about the assassination of the Indian Pedro (last names were rarely included), stabbed by Sonoran Epifanio Estrada. Estrada was in prison, but, the paper wondered, "It seemed that the homicide was committed in self defense" because the Indian had insulted and threatened Estrada. The grand jury had absolved Estrada, but he was not free yet.
Something similar happened in the few instances that El Clamor reported lynching of Indians. On July 12, 1856, for example, the paper reported that an Indian killed a Sonoran in Watsonville, but the Indian "received at night a visit by the citizens of the place and was executed according to the Lynch Law." (61) The mere fact of reporting the lynching straightforwardly, as opposed to El Clamor's critical reporting when Californios were lynched, shows a double standard, one for Indians and another for Californios. This double standard, although isolated, clearly shows that in terms of racial hierarchies, El Clamor was unable to break from a long tradition of racism against Indians in the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas.
In one instance only, El Clamor portrayed Californian Indians in a positive light. In an editorial about the failure of the state's reservation of El Tejon on November 30, 1855, El Clamor highlighted the peaceful nature of California's Indians:
The Indians have lived peacefully since the memorable insurrection of Antonio Garra in 1851, instigated by people without scruples; they have not shown any inclination to start fighting against whites.... Beyond El Tejon Reservation, in a small valley surrounded by high and pretty mountains, there are small ranches inhabited by pacific and industrious Indians, who have already farmed a piece of land. They live happy there.... That is a true reservation that does not need government support. (62)
Similarly, in one instance only, El Clamor showed the killings of Indians to be part of a racist system that denied them the right of being considered human. The opinion piece, titled "The Indians of California," was published on June 4, 1859, and was about a speech by the governor of California condemning the abuses against Indians. The article introduced the topic by using the example of the white settlers in Round Valley (Mendocino County) who killed 170 Indians in a period of six months because they allegedly stole pigs. The editorial commented:
In California, they kill an Indian as they kill a bird or a ferocious animal. The Indian race is seen as if it doesn't belong to the human family. As if it should disappear. If the isolation, the misery, and the pain ... do not operate quickly enough, the white race intervenes and the butchery starts. (63)
El Clamor Publico was ambivalent in the face of white supremacy during a period of high violence directed toward people of color. Though the paper has earned a reputation as a defender of the rights of Californios, its coverage of other people of color reveals a more complex picture. The newspaper looked at the new racial hierarchies in California in ways that reflected the contradictory position of Californios at the time. The paper both echoed and re-created the ambivalence and the difficulties Californios faced in a social environment in which they were paradoxically privileged and subordinate at the same time. In such an environment, El Clamor Publico displayed an admirable commitment to equal rights but undermined this message because of an inability to fully identify with other, more subordinate racial groups.
TO MY MARIA ANTONIA
In this poem, which ran in the September 11, 1855 issue, Francisco P. Ramirez addresses one of the most common themes of Romantic poetry, the pain related to ideal love. Unlike most Romantic poems, this one is rhymed and has fixed verse length (in the original Spanish version), characteristic of a typical redondilla.
I don't know--but I am inclined to believe That you suffer as I do And that the same torment That afflicts me, afflicts you too. I cannot say why your ill-fated luck Is somehow linked to mine, If it is not because the pain you feel With my own is in some way fatally entwined. Your sad misfortune Is reflected in your eyes, I see that your suffering Is difficult to disguise. You, who yesterday lived fully and Enjoyed the beauty and pleasures of life, And were the envy of all, Devoid of all strife. Today you suffer greatly ... as I do ... From the pain and confusion Of embracing a desire That is no more than an illusion. You thought, little one, That love conquers all, But you learned a bitter lesson When you saw all your hopes fall. I too had dreams I too have experienced defeat My dreams were drowned In a sea of deceit. I saw them die ... I calmly watched them go. They fell from the depths of my soul Into the nothingness below. Our souls loved With a passion ill-fated but pure But the love that they dreamed of Their passion could not endure. So you are suffering And so am I, And we are destined To lament our love till the day we die. Come, then, and sit by my side And together we will cry, For I too have suffered great misfortune And to comfort one another we must try. (TRANSLATED BY CYNTHIA GIAMBRUNO) A MI MARIA ANTONIA (POEMA) En este poema, Francisco P. Ramirez toca uno de los temas mas comunes de la poesia romantica: la pena relacionada con el amor ideal. A diferencia de la mayoria de los poemas romanticos, este tiene rima y metrica establecidas caracteristicas de una tipicar edondilla. --Armando Miguelez No se--pero el pensamiento Me dice que ambos sufrimos, Que en un mismo tormento Nuestras almas consumimos. No se por que se encadena Mi triste suerte a tu suerte, Si no es que una misma pena Nos lleva a una misma muerte. --Infeliz! En tu mirada Leo tu triste fortuna Y se que eres desgraciada Porque el pesar te importuna. Tu, que ayer no mas vivias Tan hermosa entre placeres, Y que inocente atraias Le envidia de las mujeres. Hoy sufres mucho ... lo veo ... Sufres, como yo, el martirio De acariciar un deseo Que tan solo es un delirio. Tu pensaste, criatura, Que un amor, amor alcanza Y has visto que en amargura Se ha deshecho tu esperanza. --Yo tambien sufri un engano! ... Tambien yo tuve ambiciones, Y en el mar del desengano Se ahogaron mis ilusiones. --Yo las vi cuando murieron. Las vi en indolente calma, Cuando al abismo cayeron Desde el fondo de mi alma! Si nuestras almas amaron Con funesta idolatria, Si el alma que se sonaron Era una luz que no ardia. Si pues tu tienes tu pena Y yo tengo mis dolores Y la muerte nos condena, Y llorar nuestros amores. Ven--acercate a mi lado Y nuestras penas lloremos: Yo tambien soy desgraciado Los dos nos consolaremos.
By Rodolfo F. Acuna
The most lasting contribution of El Clamor Publico was the bright light it shed on early Los Angeles society, particularly in the literary field. Ramirez, in association with Spanish-language newspapers throughout the nineteenth century, was a literary beacon. Here were people deemed not worthy of equality that produced literature and had greater knowledge of Latin America than of their European American neighbors. The Clamor gave a voice to intellectuals such as Jose Elias Gonzalez, a poet.
Tu cabellera es de oro; Tu talle esbelto, ligero; Eres mi bien, mi tesoro, El idolo que venero. Your long hair is golden, Your figure well-shaped, lithe; You are my love, my treasure, The idol I venerate.
RODOLFO F. ACUNA is Professor of Chicano Studies at CSUN. After receiving his Ph.D. from USC, he became the founding chair of Chicano Studies at then San Fernando Valley State College. He has authored fifteen books, including Occupied America: A History of Chicanos and Anything But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles, and has received numerous academic and community-service awards.
(1) Tomas Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), p. 9. Almaguer's social history applies to California the theory of racial formation formulated by Omi and Winant. They defined the process of racial formation as "the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed." Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, second edition (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 55.
(2) Leonard Pitt, The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), p. 45; Almaguer, p. 55-56.
(3) Almaguer, p. 56.
(4) For a discussion of how the term "white" was discussed by Californio and Anglo elite, see California Constitutional Convention, Report of the Debates in the Convention of California on the Formation of the State Constitution, in September and October, 1849, ed. Ross Browne (Washington, DC: John T. Towers, 1850), pp. 61-70. For a discussion of how the racial hierarchies in Mexico were sustained by class, education, and other nonracial factors, see Claudio Lomnitz, Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001) pp. 46-48.
(5) Pitt, p. 202; Almaguer, p. 57; El Clamor Publico, March 28, April 4 and 25, May 2, 1857.
(6) El Clamor Publico, April 11, 1857. "Sabemos muy bien que denunciando a los criminales nos exponemos a ser asesinados de un momento a otro: pero no es mas que cumplir con nuestro deber como periodistas, y conocemos que en nuestra conducta estamos sostenidos por todos los buenos ciudadanos, y por todos nuestros compatriotas." Unless otherwise noted, all translations from El Clamor Publico are by the author.
(7) Felix F. Gutierrez, "Spanish-Language Media in America: Background, Resources, History," Journalism History 4, no. a (1977), pp. 34-41, 65-67.
(8) Gutierrez, "Spanish-Language Media in America," p. 39.
(9) Albert Camarillo, Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblos to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848-1930 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979) p. 15-16.
(10) Muir Dawson, "Southern California Newspapers, 1851-1876. A Short History and a Census," Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly 32 (1950), p. 156; Camarillo, pp. 24-25; Walter Tompkins, "Santa Barbara Journalists, 1855-1973," Noticias-Santa Barbara Historical Society, no. 19 (Winter 1973), pp. 1-2.
(11) Gutierrez, "Spanish-Language Media in America," p. 41.
(12) William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, "The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin of Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1938," Journal of Social History 37 (2003), P. 426.
(13) Carrigan and Webb, p. 426.
(14) El Clamor Publico, 2 May 1857; Pitt, 186; Felix F. Gutierrez, "Francisco P. Ramirez: Californio Editor and Yanqui Conquest." Media Studies Journal 14, no. 2 (2000), p. 21.
(15) Los Angeles Star, February 21, 1857.
(16) Quoted in the Los Angeles Star, December 6, 1856.
(17) Los Angeles Star, September 4, 1858.
(18) "En sus columnas se abogan las teorias para la meiora del bienestar general, y el fomento de la industria y el progreso; mientras que ha resistido firmemente los atentados para degradar y proscribir a cualesquier clase por causa de la diversidad de su nacion, creencia o religion."
(19) Robert G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999) p. 49.
(20) Almaguer, p. 38.
(21) Robert. F. Heizer and Alan F. Almquist, The Other Californians: Prejudice and Discrimination under Spain, Mexico, and the United States to 1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), p. 117-120.
(22) James J. Rawls, Indians of California: The Changing Image (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984), p. 171.
(23) William B. Secrest, When the Great Spirit Died: The Destraction of the California Indians, 1850-1860 (Sanger, CA: Word Dancer Press, 2003), p. xi; Almaguer, p. III.
(24) Almaguer, p. 121.
(25) Almaguer, p. 132.
(26) Ferdinand F. Fernandez, "Except a California Indian: A Study in Legal Discrimination." Southern California Quarterly 50 (1968), p. 164.
(27) Almaguer, p. 136.
(28) Almaguer, p. 156; Doris Marion Wright, "The Making of Cosmopolitan California: An Analysis of Immigration, 1848-1870," California Historical Society Quarterly 19 (1940), p. 340.
(29) Almaguer, p. 157.
(30) Almaguer, p. 165.
(31) Wright, 324-326.
(32) Almaguer, pp. 26-29; Wright, p. 340.
(33) Camarillo, p. 116.
(34) California Constitutional Convention, p. 63.
(35) "!Californios!, ?en donde estan vuestras simpatias? Si estan a favor de restringir la extension de este comercio de seres humanos entonces soportareis al candidato Republicano. Si estais indiferentes sobre el asunto o a favor de la esclavitud, soportareis al candidato Democrata para Presidente."
(36) "Mr. Aiken es dueno de mas de mil negros y es el hombre mas rico del congreso: dos millones de dolares su propiedad. !Que comentario tan sublime sobre las instituciones republicanas! El dueno mas grande de esclavos ocupa un asiento en el Congreso y hace leyes para los hombres libres! Inconsistencias tan manifiestas como esta son las que causan risa a los Europeos, y se mofan de nuestro gobierno republicano. No miran como los fomentadores de la esclavitud mas vil pueden ser honestos en sus discursos 'patrioticos' a favor de igualdad y libertad."
(37) "Entre los que votaron en contra, sea dicho para su honor, estan los nombres de los Senores Castro y Covarrubias, porque ahora y en otras ocasiones, parece que solamente se han guiado por el principio de la justicia y de la humanidad."
(38) El Clamor Publico, March 5, 1859. "?Es justo que [los negros] sean castigados porque cometieron el crimen de no haber nacido blancos? ... ?Es esta la civilizacion? ... ?Es esta la humanidad ilustrada del siglo XIX? ... Despues de prohibir la entrada a los Chinos y recargar de iniustas imposiciones a los extranjeros que pisen nuestras playas, no es nada remoto que quieran privar a los nativos Californios del derecho del sufragio, luego que vean que no siguen ciegamente sus odiosos principios."
(39) El Clamor Publico, November 14, 1857.
(40) El Clamor Publico, September 19, 1857.
(41) "Tratandose de inmigrantes de esa clase, el color importa poco ... Si somos enemigos de la esclavitud, es porque el negro es hombre, porque el negro es nuestro hermano ... El negro goza en Mexico de todas las garantias que concede al hombre nuestra acta de derechos; no solo puede ser colon, esta llamado, si quiere, a ser ciudadano, a ejercer funciones publicas, y este es uno de los timbres honrosos de nuestra patria."
(42) El Clamor Publico, November 1, 1856.
(43) "La nacion mexicana se compone de espanoles, indios y negros mezclados unos con otros en toda variedad, los que recibiran a nuestros esclavos en terminos de perfecta igualdad."
(44) El Clamor Publico, February 9, 1856, January 9 and 16, 1858, July 16, 1859.
(45) El Clamor Publico, February 9, 1858. "La compania de los 'Negritos' que tanto divirtieron al pueblo de Los angeles hace dos anos, han vuelto en el vapor pasado, y en la noche del jueves dieron su primera funcion en la casa de D. Jesus Dominguez."
(46) Pitt, pp. 197-198.
(47) "Los diarios del interior, dice el Eco del Pacifico, que tan inflexibles se manifestaban contra los infelices chinos, son los mismos que atacan ahora esa ley del modo mas imperterrito. Antes decian: --si no se toma una medida eficaz para expulsar del pais esta poblacion, el Estado de California se va a convertir en una poblacion asiatica. ?Por que toleramos a estas gentes, cuyo trabajo es poco productivo, que consumen poco, y sobre todo que no pueden enlazarse con nuestras familias? No se tuvieron presentes estos inconvenientes al perseguirlos no solo con esta ley sino que con otros atentados inhumanos y barbaros, mas ahora que se siente de un modo amargo, se pide la reforma de la ley y dice que los chinos son honrados, utiles e industriosos ... nos alegramos que se comience a ser justo con todo genero de individuos, cualquiera que sea su nacionalidad."
(48) "Ahora bien, cualquiera creeria que nosotros somos opuestos a que se apruebe una ley, cuyo exclusivo objeto es recompensar a aquellos que han expulsado y de otra y mil maneras abusado a esos infelices asiaticos, nada de eso; por el contrario, somos de sentir que una disposicion tal llenaria el objeto deseado en mas de un sentido: primero, porque pagando el chino cincuenta pesos de licencia mensualmente y al americano solo dos, este ultimo puede seguir comiendo gallinas todos los dias, y no se quejaria jamas de tener por rival a aquel que se alimentase con ratones; y segundo, porque siendo pocos los que se aventurarian a ir a las minas por temor de pagar cincuenta pesos, que acaso no recuperaria con la faena del mes, los americanos tendrian menos oportunidades de dar esos vergonzosos escandalos, ahora tan de moda, de expulsar, colgar y tirar chinos por via de pasatiempo. La aprobacion de este bill conservador de riquezas para unos, y opresivo para otros, no podra menos que marcar una epoca bien senalada para la historia del pais modelo de intolerancia...."
(49) El Clamor Publico, May 24, 1856, October 17, 1857, October 30, 1858.
(50) "Unos pobres chinos fueron arrestados en las minas cerca de Horsetown, por robo, no los ahorcaron, pero los trataron de la manera mas cruel. Despues de azotarlos hasta que no mostraban senales de vida, !les cortaron las orejas!, moda que parece estar en boga en este tiempo de ilustracion. Se les pago a los Indios para azotarlos, pero un ser con piel blanca, fue el que tuvo la gloria de mutilarlos."
(51) "Como doscientos Chinos fueron privados de sus hogares y propiedades. Los infelices huyeron despavoridos a los bosques en busca de lugares solitarios donde esconderse para salvar sus vidas. El objeto principal del populacho fue el latrocinio, tomando toda cosa de valor de que pudieran echar mano."
(52) El Clamor Publico, April 9, 1859.
(53) Camarillo, pp. 200-201.
(54) In Mexico, the conflicts with Indian communities translated into regional conflicts known as "caste wars" by Mexican elite. Among the most famous were the Mayas in Yucatan (1847-1901) and Chiapas (1868), and the Yaquis in Sonora (1885-1909); see Lomnitz, 49. In Sonora, the Yaquis were hunted, deported, and enslaved. Alan Knight, "Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo: Mexico, 1910-1940," in The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870-1940, ed. Richard Graham (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), p. 79.
(55) El Clamor Publico, December 19, 1857. "Los indios del interior aprovechandose de la revolucion, entraron a mediados de septiembre pasado, a un pueblo que se halla a sesenta millas de Merida, de una manera amistosa, y habiendo obtenido admision a las casas, empezaron a degollar a todos sus habitantes sin respetar sexo ni edad. Mas de 500 cuerpos han sido hallados, y diariamente se descubren mas en los bosques inmediatos, mutilados de la manera mas cruel."
(56) See for example El Clamor Publico, February 6, 1858, April 5, 1856, April 30 and August 27, 1859.
(57) "Don Hilarion Garcia mato como [a] cien de estos barbaros."
(58) El Clamor Publico, July 24, 1855. "La semana paso como siempre. Hay un indio menos en las falanges de los adoradores del dios Baco. Ellos van a mejores tierras, porque dicen que no hay ley que les prohiba morir, y despues de esta interesante operacion no existe otra que prohiba la entrada de sus almas a las regiones infernales."
(59) "El domingo a las mo de la manana se congregaron mas de veinte indigenas en la plaza, y despues de haberse cumplimentado entre si saco uno de ellos un punal e hirio a dos de sus companeros con la mayor sangre fria. Creemos que murio uno porque estuvo mas de dos horas sin mostrar senales de vida, hasta que sus camaradas se lo llevaron."
(60) "El jueves pasado amanecio un indio muerto cerca del puente. Tenia el rostro horriblemente mutilado. Sin duda fue asesinado por sus mismos companeros."
(61) "y en la noche recibio una visita de los ciudadanos de ese lugar, y fue ejecutado segun la ley de Lynch."
(62) "Los Indios han vivido pacificamente desde la memorable insurreccion de Antonio Garra en 1851, instigada por hombres sin principios, no han mostrado la menor disposicion para comenzar hostilidades contra los blancos. Mas alla de la Reserva del Tejon, en un pequeno valle rodeado de altas y pintorescas montanas se encuentran unas pequenas rancherias habitadas por Indios pacificos e industriosos, que ya tienen cultivado un buen pedazo de terreno. Alli viven felices --y con el tiempo el numero de la poblacion aumentara considerablemente--. Esta es una verdadera Reserva, que no necesita que el gobierno la soporte."
(63) "En California matan a un indio como matar a un pajaro o un animal feroz. La raza india es mirada como si no forma parte de la familia humana. Debe desaparecer. Si la dispersion, si la miseria y el dolor, estos dos agentes de destruccion, no operan con bastante celeridad, la raza blanca interviene y comienza la carniceria."
JOSE LUIS BENAVIDES is Assistant Professor of Journalism at California State University, Northridge, where he has developed an interdisciplinary minor in Spanish-language journalism. He is also Director of the Center for Ethnic and Alternative Media. The second edition of his book Escribir en prensa was published in 2004 in Spain.
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|Author:||Benavides, Jose Luis|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2006|
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