Stay informed: Sign up for eNews Subscribe
Read Chapter 1


Before the American Civil War

Why is the Cinco de Mayo so widely celebrated in twenty-first-century California, and across the entire United States, when it is scarcely celebrated in Mexico? If the Cinco de Mayo were primarily a Mexican holiday, then the U.S. version ought to be but a pale imitation of the Mexican original, yet it is the other way around. This fact provides the key. Although the holiday celebrates a Mexican victory over the French at Puebla on May 5, 1862, the answer to the question is not to be found in Mexico. It is found instead in California, Nevada, and Oregon during the Gold Rush and the American Civil War-for the Cinco de Mayo is not, in its origins, a Mexican holiday at all but rather an American one, created by Latinos in California in the middle of the nineteenth century.

To understand why Latinos in these western states in 1862 and later responded so passionately to a battle that took place fifteen hundred miles away, first one must understand the changes that took place in their population and culture as this territory evolved from being part of the Republic of Mexico to being part of the United States. It is also vital to understand how Latinos viewed the issues of the American Civil War-freedom versus slavery, broad-based democracy versus elitist oligarchy-through the lens of their experience in Gold Rush California and neighboring territories. Most of all, it is important to understand where Latinos of the time stood on issues of language, identity, citizenship, and political participation. In short, in order to understand why the Cinco de Mayo is celebrated today all across the United States, first the experience of Latinos in California and the far West during the crucial period from 1848 to 1861 must be understood, from the announcement of the discovery of gold in California to the moment Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

Latinos in California

The experience of the native-born Latinos of California, the Californios, may be exemplified by Francisco P. Ramírez, born in 1837 in the Mexican state of Alta California. On the night of February 1, 1848, when he went to bed at his parents' home on Aliso Street in Los Angeles, not far from the plaza around which that city had been founded in 1781, he was an eleven-year-old citizen of Mexico. Later, as an adult, he recalled childhood evenings at home while California was still part of Mexico. "Who does not sigh upon recalling the winter nights when, beside the hearth, we listened to the sad history of the Aztecs, the cruelty of the conquistadors, the deeds of our own parents?" He belonged to the regional variant of Mexican society and identity called Californio ("Californian"). His grandfather, Francisco Ramírez, had arrived in California from Tepic, via Sonora, in 1794. His father, Juan María Ramírez, had been born in Santa Barbara in 1801. Juan had married Petra Abila of the Abila family, who had been resident in Los Angeles since 1783; their family home, the Avila Adobe, still stands on Olvera Street. Young Francisco had Californio roots as deep as it was possible for a Latino to have in a state that had been settled by Latinos only in the late eighteenth century. But that night while he slept, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo took effect, formally ending hostilities between the United States and Mexico after the Mexican-American War and making California a territory of the United States, henceforward to be administered under U.S. law.

When Francisco Ramírez awoke on February 2, he was a citizen of the United States of America. At first, this might not have seemed to have had a significant effect on his daily life. He still spoke with his parents in Spanish, ate the same sort of morning meal-most likely including tortillas and beans-and probably learned his usual lessons and went out to play with his usual friends. The familiarity of daily life, however, changed radically later in 1848, when Sam Brannan brought to San Francisco samples of gold just discovered in the Sierra Nevada and news of the discovery spread around the world. Without leaving his native California, Ramírez would meet strange new people, learn new languages, and become acquainted with new laws, habits, and customs.

Tens of thousands of immigrants, the Forty-Niners, poured in from the Atlantic states of the United States in search of gold. Despite this relocation, they doggedly continued to define themselves in terms of the Atlantic coast. They awaited "news from the Atlantic" brought by ship and sent their correspondence back via "Mails for the Atlantic States." They complained that California did not have the amenities that "nearly every city on the Atlantic has" and shared fond "memories of omnibus riding in the cities of the Atlantic." Life in California frequently eroded their standards of behavior, leading the editor of an English-language newspaper to wonder, "Why is it that some men, when they come to California, throw off all the guards that surrounded them in Atlantic cities?" They assured themselves that they were eager to return to their "homes in the Atlantic States" when their sojourn in California was over, and indeed many of them did. Many others stayed. Their self-identification with the Atlantic region makes it logical to refer to these immigrants as Atlantic Americans, defined as people with origins in the historical experience begun by predominantly British settlers on the North Atlantic coast of the United States, which molded the socialization of people raised in that region, irrespective of race or ethnicity. Therefore, Atlantic American in this book refers to any and all non-Latinos from nonwestern states, including both Yankees and Southerners.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Latino miners and other immigrants came north at the same time, by land from Mexico or by sea up the Pacific Coast from Central and South America, bringing their own regional customs with them. For example, a little over a year after Ramírez awoke as a citizen of the United States, a young gentleman from Guadalajara, Mexico, Justo Veytia, had his first look at San Francisco from the deck of the Volante on April 1, 1849. Veytia had made the decision to travel to faraway California as a gambusino, a prospector looking for gold. He kept a diary of his journey, begun at his elegantly appointed home on the main plaza in Guadalajara. Traveling in the company of friends and relatives, he made his way through various towns in Jalisco to the seaport of San Blas, where he boarded a ship for San Francisco. After suffering four weeks of bad food and seasickness, he finally reached his destination and recorded his first glimpse of California through a traffic jam of ships. "Around ten in the morning, we anchored in the bay, where something like forty vessels, both large and small, swayed majestically up and down.... At last we had in our sight the much-desired Harbor of the Land of Gold, the object of so many hopes. We had finished that sea voyage, so arduous and never to be forgotten."

Veytia traveled in Northern California for nearly eighteen months. He never encountered Ramírez, who was then still living in Los Angeles. Yet although these two individuals never met, the presence of tens of thousands of gambusinos from Mexico and Central and South America helped shape the world of Ramírez and his Californio compatriots. Like Veytia, thousands of these Spanish-speaking gold seekers traveled from their homes to San Francisco, the international point of entry closest to the gold fields. Yet more would-be gambusinos trekked across the desert from northern Mexico to California, many motivated by economic hardship at home. Reports put their numbers in the tens of thousands. "A friend who has connections in Mexico ... says ... the crops have failed in Northern Mexico, and thousands of people have determined on leaving Sonora.... The people, to the number of twenty-five thousand, had determined on moving to this country. Eight thousand have already arrived at Los Angeles. The most of those people will settle about Sonora, near the Tuolumne, and that town will, of course, become a place of considerable importance. Many of them will settle also about the Mariposa, and perhaps farther South."

On the morning that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo took effect in 1848, there were an estimated seventy-five hundred Californios living in the new U.S. territory. Over the next thirteen years, thanks to the Gold Rush, the total number of Latinos in California increased by an estimated factor of five to ten, or possibly more. As a result of this large immigration, the Latino population changed dramatically, from being a small, culturally homogeneous, Californio population to a very large, heterogeneous one, including Latinos representing nearly every country in Latin America, as well as the New Mexico and Arizona Territories (which Mexico had also ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). There were even immigrants from Spain. From 1848 to 1869, this mix of native Californios, Latino immigrants, and Atlantic Americans laid the foundations of Latino society and daily life in California in the centuries to come.

Several potential unifying factors served to bring this heterogeneous collection of Latinos together, but there also existed social factors working to divide them. Latinos in California between the time of Brannan's announcement in 1848 and the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 were pulled back and forth between cohesion and division. A search for balance influenced the men and women who were to respond to the news of the first battle of Puebla in 1862 and thereby shaped what became the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

Language was an obvious unifying factor. The Californios and the immigrants who had just arrived from Mexico and Central and South America all spoke Spanish. Initially, therefore, communication among them would have been easy, even allowing for some variations in accent and vocabulary. During the Gold Rush, two developments particularly facilitated the use of Spanish as a tool of communication among far-flung settlements of Latinos: the establishment of Spanish-language newspapers and, as of 1850, the officially mandated use of the Spanish language by state and local government.

Spanish-language newspapers served to inform the Spanish-speaking public of events in California and beyond. The first publication began in 1851: the Spanish-language section of the Los Angeles Star (sometimes known by its Spanish name, La Estrella), whose pages often featured content and editorial direction independent of the English-language portion of the paper (see figure 1). The lawyer and poet Manuel Clemente Rojo, its first editor, announced that his publication was to be an advocate for Latinos against the problems besetting their community. "The press ... has inexhaustible resources for introducing reform; and when it is proper, it raises its majestic voice to petition for the redress of our ills." A year later in San Francisco, a daily French newspaper, L'Echo du Pacifique, dedicated one or two of its four pages per issue to a Spanish-language publication, called El Éco del Pacífico. As the Spanish-speaking population of the state grew, a third newspaper began in 1854: La Crónica was a four-page newspaper written entirely in Spanish, published three times a week in San Francisco. After two years, the editor of La Crónica, J. Jofre, was hired away by El Éco del Pacífico to head a new, expanded version of four pages a day in Spanish, essentially separate from the French paper. Santa Barbara also had a bilingual newspaper in English and Spanish, the Gazette or La Gazeta, begun in 1855. [FIGREF 1]

On taking up his editorship of El Éco, Jofre reaffirmed the view of the role of a Spanish-language newspaper as being an advocate for a community, which in typical nineteenth-century language he termed "our race": "As Americans and as members of the noble Spanish-speaking race to which we belong, we believe it to be our duty ... to denounce before the supreme tribunal of public opinion the injustices, the abuses, and the outrages to which individuals of our race too often have been, and continue to be, victim. We believe it our duty to station ourselves constantly as a watchtower, which may give our Spanish-speaking countries warning against those illegal aggressions by which people have tried, and are trying, to engulf them."

Francisco Ramírez had a role in the birth of the Spanish-language press in California. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday, he was employed by Rojo as an assistant at the Star, where he learned the basics of running a small newspaper. Ramírez later moved to San Francisco, where in 1853 he worked for the Catholic Standard, a religiously affiliated paper. When that paper declared bankruptcy in 1854, Ramírez traveled to the gold country and worked for an English-language paper, the Weekly California Express, for some months. He returned to Los Angeles later that year, an experienced newspaperman at the tender age of seventeen. He took over the editorship of the Star's Spanish-language pages, recently vacated by Rojo. In the spring of 1855, however, Ramírez decided it was time for him to become independent. He established a weekly four-page Spanish-language paper in his native Los Angeles, El Clamor Público ("The Public Outcry"). When he was criticized as being too young to run a paper, he answered proudly, "We are old enough to discover the needs of our brethren, to defend their interests, and to make them see what is best for them by maintaining the rights and privileges that the laws of this country give them."

While editors' voices were strong in frontier Spanish-language newspapers, the newspapers did not limit themselves entirely to those editors' perceptions of events in the state and the country. The nature of local journalism in the mid-nineteenth century meant they could not do so; most provincial newspapers, such as El Clamor Público, had too small a circulation to afford to employ reporters or even much in the way of staff. Most editors wrote articles, composed editorials, set type, and administered subscriptions singlehanded, or nearly so-and often had to maintain a sideline as job printers, to make ends meet. Consequently, they filled gaps by reprinting articles from other journals, especially to supply national and international news, and by soliciting material from just about anyone who wished to contribute. As a result, multiple voices spoke from the pages, at the editors' invitation. In keeping with this practice, Ramírez proclaimed in his inaugural edition that his paper was open to the general public, with a section titled Comunicados ("Communications")-an early form of a letters to the editor column-in which he would publish letters and other reader submissions. He added, however, the disclaimer that "here, each person expresses his own sentiments, and it will be obvious that we are not responsible for articles that appear under this heading." Communications poured in. A number of contributors were self-appointed, unpaid, semiregular correspondents writing from various locations, giving accounts of events that caught their attention. Most often these correspondents used pseudonyms, although they did occasionally sign their own names. In addition, there were plenty of letters from individuals who wrote only once or twice to the paper, seeking to bring specific matters to public attention; they sometimes signed their own names but not infrequently also resorted to pen names.

Although their absolute numbers of subscriptions were small by today's standards, such newspapers nonetheless circulated widely, in geographic terms, throughout California. One indication of this widespread circulation was the network of newspaper agents each paper used to recruit subscribers and distribute copies. Map 1 shows the location of agents for the Star, El Éco del Pacifico, La Crónica, La Gazeta, and El Clamor Público, from Shasta to San Diego and from Sonoma to Columbia. [MAPREF 1]

When California was admitted as a state of the United States in 1850, its first constitution mandated the use of Spanish along with English. Even while the constitutional convention was meeting, the delegates had resolved to make the proceedings available in both languages. In the original state constitution, Article XI, Section 21, specified, "All laws, decrees, regulations and provisions, which from their nature require publication, shall be published in English and Spanish." In September 1849, provisions were made for both the Spanish and the English version of the state's constitution to be printed and distributed, along with the proceedings of the entire convention leading up to the writing of the bilingual constitution. Once the state legislature began meeting in 1850, its proceedings were printed in both English and Spanish.

For the newspapers just beginning in California, a contract to publish laws and legislative proceedings in Spanish represented a sought-after steady source of income for those fortunate enough to secure it. The Los Angeles Star was among them.

The Los Angeles Star was selected by the last Legislature as the medium for the early publication of the laws of this State in the Spanish language.... When it is remembered that there are in this State at least 30,000 persons who speak no other than the Spanish language, and that the Judges of some of our Courts even are familiar only with that tongue, the importance of the early publication of the Laws in Spanish, must be manifest to all. The Convention which framed the Constitution, were aware of the necessity and provided that all laws which required publication should be published in the Spanish language.

Therefore, a good portion of the Star's Spanish-language page often was devoted to printing translations of laws newly passed by the state. Counties and cities were likewise required to publish their laws and regulations in Spanish.

After an initial burst of enthusiasm for the promulgation of state, county, and city ordinances in Spanish, however, such efforts began to lag; this deterioration was one of the first things Latinos began to complain about in their newspapers. In 1855, Ramírez, by then the editor of El Clamor Público, reminded state representatives of their duty to provide laws in Spanish. "We call the attention of our representatives to the lack which the Spanish-speaking population of California feels because the laws are not published in Castilian Spanish. One of the first articles of the State Constitution stipulates that 'all the laws will be published in English and in Spanish.'" Two years later, he revisited the theme: "We ask that our constitutional privileges be complied with. Article 11, Section 21: 'All the laws, decrees, and regulations whose publication may be necessary, will be published in English and in Spanish.'"

Culture also could be a unifying factor. The first settlers who came from Mexico to California in 1769 brought with them the customs and culture of the late-colonial Mexican frontier, specifically the northern regions of Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California Sur. These became an integral part of Latino society in California-reflected in particular tastes in food, clothing, housing, furnishings, and horse gear-which provided a good market for those with such items to sell. The arrival of miners during the Gold Rush would add new dimensions to this set of cultural norms.

Latino and other merchants provided goods and services that the Latino market wanted, and a number of Latino-owned businesses soon were established. One of the early retail stores set up by Latino merchants in San Francisco was the Tienda Española ("Spanish Shop"), founded by José Díaz and Juan Cima on Washington Street. By 1852 it was offering dry goods of particular interest to immigrants recently arrived from Mexico and other places in Latin America, including Mexican and Californian saddles, bits, and spurs, and Barcelona playing cards. As the Latino population grew, the Tienda Española began to offer services, including arranging passage for its customers on ships sailing for Mexico and brokering real estate deals, such as the sale of a ranch in Bodega Bay in Sonoma County and another one at Corral de Tierra in Monterey County. Another dry-goods store, La Amarilla, operated in the vicinity of the Tienda Española. Latino-owned hotels and restaurants also set up in business, such as Francisco Gonzáles's Hotel de la Aguila de Oro ("Golden Eagle Hotel"), at the corner of Montgomery and Pacific. Other professionals arrived to provide services. The Sánchez brothers-J. Ramón, Manuel, and Bernardino-were originally from Chile. They undertook business as commission merchants and general commercial agents.

Towns in the Central Valley served as jumping-off points for miners heading to the gold country, and a Latino business presence soon appeared in these locations. Once at the mines, a gambusino easily could find Latino-owned businesses. The town of Sonora had a large Latino population and consequently a number of Latino-owned businesses, such as Jacinto Barretto's store, restaurants like José María Cabezut's Sonora Restaurant, and the ubiquitous "fandango houses," as houses of ill repute were locally known. Similar mixes of Latino-owned businesses were described at Camp Calaveras, Mokelumne Hill, Vallecito, Rough and Ready, and Shasta.

Religious activities also played a unifying role in the social life of Latino California. The daily, weekly, and annual cycles of services and celebrations, including public processions and holy days, brought large portions of the community together on a regular basis. For example, the Mexican Día de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") continued to be observed during the Gold Rush. In Los Angeles in November 1857, "the second day of the present month, the day devoted in the Catholic church to praying for the dead, was observed... . In the afternoon, a large crowd left the church for the cemetery, where they went in order to offer their prayers for the souls of their parents, siblings, relatives, and friends whose mortal remains rest in that sacred enclosure... . Everywhere, one could see women and men kneeling by graves." During Holy Week, Latino Catholics in California followed the old custom of burning Judas in effigy. As the English-language paper Alta California noted in 1853, "The Catholics of several countries, particularly Mexico, have a custom of making an effigy of Judas Iscariot every year, on Good Friday, which they trot about on an ass, with his face turned towards the tail of the animal. They make a great parade of it, after which they hang him. He is then cut down, his pockets and mouth stuffed with fire crackers and all sorts of combustibles, and he is then publicly burnt at the stake. During the process, men, women, and children follow after, beating and calling him all kinds of hard names."

The use of the Spanish language, shared customs and culture, and the influence of the Catholic religion all worked to unify the Latino community. There were, however, a number of potential divisions within this population as well. Some were endemic to all the societies of Mexico and Latin America, such as class, race, and regional identity, and indeed were hardly dissimilar to such divisive factors in any other contemporary society. New sources of potential fragmentation developed among Latinos in California as a result of its acquisition by the United States, including questions of national allegiance and Atlantic Americans' insistence on classifying people by race. The Spanish-language newspapers provide ample evidence of these potential dividers.

Among Latinos themselves, race had the potential to be a divisive factor. In the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, the Spanish crown had categorized individuals in its American colonies according to their race (e.g., Indian, African, European) or multiracial heritage (e.g., mestizos were of mixed Indian and European parentage; mulatos were of African and European parentage). This was known as the casta ("caste") system. The lighter-skinned castes were granted certain social privileges, while restrictions were placed on the darker-skinned ones. Once Mexico achieved independence, however, it abolished this system of racial identification. But while official racial classification thereafter was no longer legal, social consideration of a person's racial background nonetheless continued informally, and in fact continues in Mexico today.

Caste classifications quickly came to have little legal significance in California, although unofficial, social divisions based on ethnicity doubtless continued to some extent, as in Mexico. In the generations following the original settlements in the late eighteenth century, members of ethnically varied families intermarried and individuals held positions of social and political responsibility with little apparent consideration of racial heritage. By the early nineteenth century, caste terminology was being applied haphazardly at best or even abandoned altogether in favor of a simple binary distinction between gente de razón ("people of reason")-which is to say, anyone born a Catholic and culturally Latino, regardless of ethnicity-and unbaptized Indians.

With statehood, however, came the imposition of a U.S. legal system that made sharp distinctions between persons on the basis of race. Anyone of Indian, African, or other nonwhite descent-such heritage being calculated by the proportion of nonwhite ancestry in an individual's background (the "blood quantum") or sometimes simply presumed from the person's appearance-had no right to vote, hold political office, serve on a jury, or even give valid testimony for or against a white person in court. During the first years of statehood, this provision was in practice largely disregarded by Californios and elite Atlantic Americans, who apparently preferred to classify Californios according to their socioeconomic status rather than their ancestry or skin color, especially in the Californio-dominated south.

The first well-publicized debate on the subject of race and legal capacity in California occurred in the spring of 1857. Manuel Domínguez, a wealthy Los Angeles-area rancher who had helped to write the California constitution of 1849, was of Indian heritage and appearance, but this had been no bar to his being a respected member of Californio society before 1848 or even an elected official in his native county after that date. At some point before March 28, 1857, though, he had been scheduled to be a witness in a San Francisco trial, only to be unexpectedly denied the right to testify, "despite having been one of the men who signed the state constitution, because he had Indian blood in his veins." Assemblyman Pablo de la Guerra of Santa Barbara testified about Domínguez's racial background, pointing out that when that very constitution was being written, Domínguez's mixed-race heritage had been well known, but no one had raised any objections to his being a signatory to the document. "I know he has Indian blood in his veins, and I know that this came to the attention of the Constitutional Convention.... I have known Don Manuel Domínguez since he was a boy, and he held high office under the Mexican government. He also has enjoyed high office under our [present] government. I know that his character has no stain upon it; never has anything been said, nor can it be said, against him."

Editor Ramírez of El Clamor Público seized on the story with the vehemence he customarily displayed in denouncing Atlantic American assaults on Latinos' rights or dignity.

Señor de la Guerra ... knew that having Indian blood in one's veins was not disagreeable or disparaging to anybody. Señor Domínguez has occupied honorable posts in the state, in Mexican times. He frequently has been a witness in the courts, without opposition. He is highly esteemed, and at present is a supervisor of his county... . We think that, if it were possible to perform a chemical analysis of our brethren from the United States, there would be very few persons who would emerge as not having at least a drop of Indian or black blood. The age of bluebloods, if it ever existed, is assuredly not the present one.

Manuel Domínguez's ethnic heritage and appearance had been no barrier in the Mexican California of the 1830s and 1840s to his possession of wealth and social prominence or to his full participation in politics and legal matters. Only with the introduction of contemporary Atlantic American notions did race become a legally divisive issue.

Questions of national allegiance sometimes also were divisive, especially between Californios and people who emigrated from Mexico in the decade following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Prior to 1848, Californio culture had been merely a regional variant of Mexican society, just as Tapatíos from Jalisco and Jarochos from Veracruz enjoyed their own regional cultures. Thereafter, however, with the transference of California from Mexico to the United States, these feelings of regional identity threatened to divide Californios from Mexicans. Some Californios had not disapproved of this change of government, but many others had, and some of the latter group felt their former country had betrayed them in acquiescing to it.

As a result, a certain amount of name-calling went on between the Californios and the recent immigrants during the 1850s. A letter published in El Clamor Público in 1856, signed by Un Californio ("A Californian"), generally agreed with the editor Ramírez's earlier stated opinion that Californios had been better off under Mexican rule. But Un Californio reminded him that while Californios had actually fought the U.S. Army in defense of their homeland and won several engagements-albeit not the war-the Mexican government had meekly sold the state to the United States. "Who has caused this misfortune for us, and who gave us into foreign hands? In order to keep our situation and our happiness, we threw ourselves into the battles of the Gutiérrez, [Rancho] El Chino, and San Pascual; but our brethren sold us, just as Joseph's brothers did him." A correspondent identifying himself only as El Curioso ("The Curious Fellow") wrote a letter to El Clamor Público in 1857 in which he commented on tensions between Californios and other Mexicans. "It is very sad to see the indifference and antipathy that prevails amongst Mexicans in California ... and this is observed especially in the majority of the native sons of the country, who look upon those Mexicans who are not born in California with more scorn than they do the Indians."

Given the anti-Latino attitudes of many Atlantic Americans, some Latinos began to wonder whether they were better off remaining in California or emigrating to Mexico. A few individuals organized groups of Californios who decided to relocate to the Mexican state of Sonora, but most Californios opted to stay. The question of whether a "real" Latino born in the United States ought to feel loyalty to that country or to Mexico (or another Latin American country of parental origin) has been debated ever since.

California Conquered

As the Gold Rush continued, similarities of language, culture, and religion united California's burgeoning Latino population in significant respects, but that population also faced divisions created by socioeconomic factors, race, and national allegiance. Yet nearly all Latinos, Californio and immigrant alike, shared one overarching experience after 1848, which to one degree or another transcended whatever social or political differences might otherwise divide them. Characterized in 1856 by a representative of the Mexican government as the "experience of what has happened to them in California," it was the situation of being considered undesirable strangers in a society to which they did not belong and which did not want them. Nearly all Latinos shared it, to a greater or lesser extent, because it was essentially imposed upon them by the growing influence of Atlantic American culture, which on the whole did not trouble itself to distinguish between Latinos on the basis of their national allegiance but instead viewed them collectively through the prism of its own preconceptions about race. Because most Latinos were demonstrably of mixed-race origins, the majority of Atlantic Americans increasingly lumped them into the disparaged category "not white" and therefore considered them inherently inferior to themselves. Wealthy upper-class Latinos were to varying degrees spared some of the effects of this cultural and racial prejudice, but as the case of Manuel Domínguez shows, even they were not always immune. This rejection by Atlantic American whites was codified in governmental policy, as well as experienced in daily life by many Latinos. Yet for the most part, it did not move Latinos to leave California; instead they reacted against it, both by forming organizations devoted to self-help and political activity and in other ways.

President James K. Polk's secretary of state, James Buchanan, had promised Latinos in California that under the government of the United States, their lives and society would be better off than before. Some ten months after the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Buchanan declared of these former Mexican citizens, "These our new citizens ought to be, and from the justice and generosity of the American character, the President is confident that they will be treated with respect and kindness, and thus be made to feel that by changing their allegiance they have become more prosperous and happy."

During the Mexican-American War, most of California's Latino inhabitants, as citizens of Mexico, had been the enemy. Viewed from this perspective, the Californios' defense of their homes and property had simply been enemy action. Following the United States' defeat of Mexico and acquisition of California, these former enemies now became the conquered. Initially, it was hoped that these conquered Californios would attain peaceful coexistence with their conquerors. Reporting on the signing of the state constitution in 1849, the San Francisco Alta California painted an idealized picture: "Those who had labored to lay the foundations of the