Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Life of Joaquin Murieta

The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit is a book I found online, searching for works to fulfill the 2015 Read Harder challenge. This counts as "A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)". Written in 1854 by John Rollin Ridge ("Yellow Bird"), this is -according to Wikipedia- "considered to be one of the first novels written in California and the first novel to be published by a Native American".
The novel describes the life of a legendary bandit named Joaquín Murieta who, once a dignified citizen of Mexico, becomes corrupt after traveling to California during the Gold Rush. The book was originally published as a fictional biography, but was taken as truth by many historians of the time.
There are chapter summaries here, and the entire work is available online here.

The 1874 edition begins with this:
Sitting down, as I now do, to give to tho public such events of the life of Joaquin Murieta as have come into my possession, I am moved by no desire to administer to any depraved taste for the dark and horrible inhuman action, but rather by a wish to contribute my mite to those materials out of which the early history of California shall be composed. Aside from the interest naturally excited by the career of a man so remarkable in tho annals of crime -for in deeds of daring and blood like has never been exceeded by any of the renowned robbers of the Old or New World who have preceded him -his character is well worth the scrutiny of the intelligent reader as being :a product of the social and moral condition of the country in which he lived, while his individual record becomes a part of the most valuable, because it is a part of the earliest history of the State. We must hero premiso that there existed another Joaquin, contemporaneously with the subject of this narrative, who bore the several titles. of O'Comorenia, Valenzuela, Boteller and Carillo. His true surname was Valenzuela, and he was a distinguished subordinate of Joaquin Murieta. He used, however, by many persons to be mistaken for his chief; and certain individuals who knew him simply as "Joaquin," and who saw him after the announcement of Murieta's death, insisted with great pertinacity that the terrible bandit was still alive. Joaquin Murieta was a Mexican of good blood, born in the province of Sonora, of respectable parents, and educated to a degree sufficient for the common purposes of life in the schools of his native country. While growing up, he was remarkable for a very mild and peaceable disposition, and gave no sign of that indomitable and daring spirit which afterwards characterized him. Those who knew him in his school-boy days speak affectionately of his generous and noble nature at that period of his life, and can scarcely credit the fact, that the renowned and bloody bandit of California was one and the same being. The first considerable interruption in the general smooth current of his existence, occurred in the latter portion of his seventeenth year.
This is an enjoyable story.


  1. Although I don't do much online reading, I will try to get to this one. After all it is CA history, LOL!


    1. The internet is a reader's dream, isn't it! There's more out there than anybody could possibly get around to lol