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tv   Early Afro- Mexican Settlers in California  CSPAN  August 21, 2015 3:38am-5:01am EDT

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mexico, and the majority of the population had immigrated from that region, including many with african ancestry. up next, professor carlos salomon talks about the history of california during the 19th century and the many californians who lived in the region. in particular, he focuses on the role of wealthy businessman pio pico, who was the governor of california while it was under mexican rule. >> hi, everyone. welcome. my name is marie silva. i'm the manuscripts librarian here at the california historic society. i'm really excited about tonight's program. it's my great pleasure to introduce our speaker, dr.
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carlos manuel salomon tonight. he is a scholar working in the areas of borderland studies, social movements, oral history, and migration. this portrait of pico challenges the paradigm of the decline of the californians through which that experience has often been interpreted drawing a connection by the battles fought by k californians. like many other early mexican settlers, pio pico was of african descent. the second nonnative settler was also of african descent.
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they were just not aware of the early african roots of california. this is an aspect of our history that's worthy of much greater interest and exploration, and i'm so honored and pleased that dr. salomon will explore it with us here tonight. please do stay after the program to chat about a copy of his wonderful book. his wife owns one of the best restaurants in oakland, so i encourage you to visit that as well. so i hope you enjoy. please give our speaker the warmest welcome. [ applause ] >> all right. thank you very much. thanks to the california historical society and also the mexican museum. it's quite a crowd tonight. thanks for coming out on a wednesday. it's nice. i mean, it took me awhile to get here tonight. so, this book was written a few
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years ago. it took me about six years because i was still learning how to write at the time, going through all the processes of writing a biography. it's very tough because there's so much missing. for example, the spanish documents have very little in it about the spouses of some of these people and it is very male-oriented. a lot of times you're guessing and wondering. i had to make amends to that in the introduction. his wife was a very interesting figure, but this individual right here really is important because he definitely lived a very specific transitional time in california history, so if you think about this individual's life from 1801 to 1894, he was born a spanish citizen. he grew up into a man as a mexican citizen, and then he died as a u.s. citizen without
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ever leaving his native homeland of california, so his life is really indicative of that change. today we're going to explore that, and we're going to explore a little bit about the dynamics of afro-mexican history, which is some of the new research i've been trying to come up with. i have been sort of maneuvered in that direction through interests and my own research and also because it's something that's sorely lacking in mexican history. there's a lot of issues with that subject in mexican history as well. and also because i didn't senatstart out to write this book as something to deal with afro-mexica afro-mexicans. i have a lot of questions from people who have read the book and who are doing this, and they've sort of singled me out as somebody who is a person that
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does afro-mexican history. so, we'll get started with just explaining a little bit about that and how it came to be. i mean, i think there's no doubt in a lot of people's mind when they look at venezuelan history or the history of the caribbean that this is very much an african-american world and very obviously. but with mexico, it's a little bit harder to understand that mostly because those physical traits are only there in a few villages around mexico whereas a lot of it is intermixed with the people. there's sort of a historical amnesia, a lack of memory, that some people have. as you can see here, this is the spanish empire during the colonial period. pretty big. i mean, there's a tremendous
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amount of slavery that came into that, especially after 1550. the spanish slave trade really began to increase and mexico is really no different. it came through the port of vera cruz. because of what was happening, colonialism, they always rebelled, so it is really kind of tricky to pinpoint. let's see. okay. so it comes in the backdrop of the aztec empire. this is, in my mind, the
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founding of mexico city. which is, to me, modern period of mexico in the 1300s when it came, and then this is where the mexican culture started expanding out. the spaniards, of course, one of their main objectives was to colonize the land. they were very jealous about other nationalities in europe coming and occupying their land, of course, so how does a small country like spain -- if we go back -- occupy that entire land? you can probably fit spain into a little portion of the la plata region down there in the south. so one of the ways that did this, of course, was through the mission system. one of the objectives here is to create out of indians spanish citizens, people who
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cultu -- into society. of course, that means that they would be tax paying citizens, so this was a very calculated effort here. because if you look at the spanish government, there isn't too much separation between the catholic church and the spanish government at this point. and obviously, this is one of the main ways this which california became settled by the spaniards. [ inaudible ]. >> this is supposedly a reputation of mission san gabriel. the spaniards diseaecided they
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going to at last settle their final frontier region. we know that concept of frontier is very problematic especially when you look at indigenous people because they're left out of the equation. in the western view, it's deemed a frontier. an unsettled virgin land. but nevertheless, most of these people came from the area right down here. you can see going up to sonora. this is the area where most of the first settlers on expedition came. he was a captain in the spanish military. he was chosen to lead this expedition, and he brought with him a lot of the families who would eventually settle in two different journeys. first, soldiers and then various
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families. so, a lot of the people who settled these cities up here in the north were from these areas, and many of them were of afro-mexican descent. for some reason, there was a lot of afro-mexican settlers in this part of mexico. what i've come to understand is that this is a part of the afro-mexicans moving from these regions into the big cities to escape some of the racism that took place there. we know there were a lot of free blacks in the colonial period. those people went on to found towns and settle areas in this region. so, this is an interesting part
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of the equation in terms of the pico family. we know that santiago dela cruz pico was on that expedition. his wife was there. she is listed in the books as a
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a lot of people don't understand the missions had their own military detachments at them. there are presideos. a little bit about the mission system. it's a very touchy subject right now. i was talking to a gentleman a few minutes ago. it's a very touchy subject because a lot of people believe he might not deserve that because of the issues with
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indigenous people and the treatment. in this particular case, we know during my research on this i found out there was a massive indian rebellion at san gabriel in about 1875, and the rebellion was led by a woman. and she -- really, she wanted to destroy the entire system of spanish colonial rule. and during the planning of this, what i found out is that jose maria pico found out about the plans. for some reason, he spoke the language of these people. today, they're named after the mission. he spoke that language, so he overheard them. i'm not sure how he learned that language except for close
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proximity and he probably had a lot of indigenous friends. but nevertheless, he, of course, told the spanish officers. they foiled the plan, and jose maria pico was sort of lifted on a pedestal. he was this spanish spaniard of implicit trust. he was hailed as just a brave individual and so forth, and this is what a lot of spanish soldiers want. this is what they came to california for. even though this was a man of indigenous and african descent, they came to places like california because there were better chances for them to get a larger piece of land than the interior of mexico where the spaniards had so much control over mexican society. he served as interpreter and so forth, and they sent the ringleaders to hard labor up
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north and so forth. but this is what he had hoped for, getting a raise, getting promoted as an officer, and of course getting a large grant of land in which he could start a cattle empire. unfortunately, that didn't happen for him. we know that soon after the news about the mexican independence movement came he sided with the rebels. the spanish military found out and they imprisoned him. he definitely suffered because of it. he never became an officer, and pio pico writes later on in his life, "that was very difficult that my father died just before independence because he died without having any money. he didn't leave us a penny or even an inch of land." [ inaudible ] san gabriel mission is just outside of los
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angeles county. it is just about 40 miles east or maybe a little closer. okay. so getting into that subject matter. if you look, there's a really interesting document. the spanish census of 1790. you can get this. the spanish empire did this massive census throughout the whole colonial word. and part of it, of course, was california. and they listed all the settlers there, at least the hispanic ones. next to it they put their caste, their racial caste. and there's a lot of people who are listed as spaniards. many are listed as mulatto and some various other castes, so this sort of compelled me. what is this? what's going on here? what are these racial terms, and what did they mean to the
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individual, especially individuals like the pico family? and so this is a picture. it's called a caste of painting. the caste system in colonial spain was different than the one that exists in india. this one was a mixture of various races, specifically white, black, and indigenous. and so the caste system was a racial hierarchy that was actually -- actually, it was something that was legally binding, and if you had a lower caste, you had less access to colonial institutions and grants of land and so forth. and basically access to a privileged lifestyle. and so quite obviously, this racial hierarchy had people way down here and people way up here. and guess who was on top, right?
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so the spaniards were on top of that and african and mexicans were on the bottom of that, and the castes were the various mixtures in between that. okay? so in this one, you can see a spaniard and an african. they produce a mulatto. what this means is that this individual, this son here, has less rights than the father but more rights than the mother, okay? so what this is teaching society with these paintings and with this type of system that is institutionalized is that if you make the correct marriage choice, the benefits for your offspring are going to be substantially greater. if you make poor marriage choices, it could go terribly
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wrong for you. so after that, this mulatta agrees up and she marries an spaniard. this individual is 1/4 african descent and 3/4s european descent. she has less rights than the father but more rights than the mother. [ inaudible ]. >> that is true. in the spanish system as well. yeah, there's a specific caste
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that i'll show in just a couple slides that talks to that. then she grows up and she marries an spaniard and their child is an albi albino. then that albino grows up and marries an spaniard. the caste term means to revert back or to turn around, so this is very similar to the one drop rule in american history in which if you ever have any african blood in your lineage, it sticks with you. this person of 1/6 african ancestry is painted one shade darker to exemplify that.
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so this incredibly racist system stuck with people. and you can imagine the psychological impact that it had on individuals. the colonial period in mexico lasts 300 years. it's longer than mexico has been a country today, so you can imagine that the formation of race in mexican society really took place during that 300 year period. so imagine century after century, decade after decade, of hearing and learning these types of lessons in society. it makes you want to hide who you are, perhaps. okay? and look at what happens if the
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indian and the black person marry each other. their term becomes a lobo, which isn't even human. it's a wolf. there's 20 castes. the spaniards were just so ridiculous and scared about racial mixture that they came up with many. there's one caste term called a chino, which means pig. there's another one coyote, which means coyote. now, the indigenous spanish mixture is a little bit
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different. the term mestisto is still used today. it's hard to tell because they don't take racial statistics like we do, but this term is still very much in use. it is when a spaniard and an indigenous marry. they have more rights than the mother, less than the father. she grows up, she marries a spaniard, and their child is a castisto. on this one, they grow up and marry a spaniard and they revert back to a spaniard. if you don't think this is some sort of lesson as the massive
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amount of indigenous people should do if they're going to make it at all, you're wrong. but, of course, that didn't mean that indigenous people didn't marry each other or were afraid to. many were on the outskirts and they didn't bother listening to this. but for the people in the cities, it was very much true. when you were baptized by the church, your caste would be stamped or written on your birth certificate, so you sort of lived with it in many cases. for the picos, what i noticed in the 1790 census is that jose maria pico was listed as a spaniard while his brothers, who had the same parents, were all listed as mulattos. this was five years or shortly after -- yeah, five years after
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the revolt at san gabriel, which happened in 1785. it was possible in this system to change your caste if you had done some heroic deed or if you had money. we all know today that falsifying documents and so forth is not a big deal. it happens all the time. these guys were doing the same, okay? so that raising him to the status his caste as a spaniard, it shows that he was in line to progress to get land, to have his rank in the military heightened. okay. so this is pio de jesus pico. probably about 80 years old right here. great picture of him.
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one of the things that really sort of bewildered me when i was writing this book was how did this guy, whose father didn't leave him a penny and he didn't have any land at all to speak of, how did he become such a prominent political figure? and so i just couldn't get around it because you were actually needed to own land in early mexican history in order to hold public office. and so i just sort of grappled with it, and then i started looking at his family lineage and where he grew up in san diego and so forth. and san diego at the time had about 40 families living there only, so it was a small town. and of course, pio pico had eight sisters, so there is the trick. they married into some of the most influential families in california. they took young pico by the hand
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and the sisters told their husbands, take my little brother and show him the ropes. okay? bring him up. tell him what's going on, and give him lessons that will allow him to succeed in life. and these types of -- these types of relations were very common back then. eight sisters, a town of 40 families, they're bound to marry -- some of them are bound to marry some influential families. pio pico also had a lot of ingenuity. these spaniards, they come in and judge us by our race and so forth, so we don't want anything
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to do with racial distinctions. that's why today you don't refer to a mexican as a white mexican or afro-mexican. those don't exist because during this period they wanted to wipe those kind of distinctions away. even though they wiped it away on paper, there was still prejudice. in california, there were a lot of afro-mexican families. we know the city of los angeles primarily was founded by afro-mexicans, so it wasn't as big of a deal in california. but they didn't see it as something odd that a person of color could rise to the position that pio pico did. okay? so pio pico, he was -- i read a
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lot of letters about his trials and tribulations as a young man. he had a store in san diego. he sold all kinds of product. he shipped them down to baja, california, all the way up here to the bay area. he had his uncle who lived up here. and by 1826, just about five years after independence, he won his first election in the san diego city council, and then after that sort of skyrocketed. by about 1820, 28 or 29, he's part of the california legislature, so it was really a meteoric rise to power this individual had. pio pico, he was this guy -- he was kind of crazy. he just put himself in the
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middle of the worst situations possible and he just went for it, so he had a lot of guts. he was too daring. he took a lot of chances, and he almost always came out ahead. one of the problems i had to deal with in the research is finding out what was going on with california politics, and what i had to do was i had to see what position california held within the mexican republic. and it was a territory, which meant that it didn't have the population requirements to become a state, so it had -- it was completely ruled over by mexico city and the locals hated that. they hated the fact that mexico city could come in and tell them what to do, especially since their fathers were the ones who
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settled it, right? who came out here and built the villages and so forth. and so at the time, in mexico there were two political ideologies. one was liberalism and the other one was conservativism, which was modelled after more of a centralized political system in which an individual would make the call for everybody, kind of hike a king would do, right? and a lot of people argued, well, you know what, we aren't like the gringos. the spaniards were here 300 years. the other side said, no. that's what we were fighting against. we need to do what the united states is doing because that's a very interesting political model. the californians went towards liberalism. what it meant is they would have
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state rights. they would have at least regional rights. they would have elections here. they would be able to control the political apparatus from california instead of the other way around. 1829 the conservatives took over. they had the president assassina assassinated, who actually was the individual who emancipated -- ended slavery in mexico. he, himself, was an afro-mexican. that's when the mexican government sent over a governor to rule over the californians. pio pico and many of his other colleagues in the state legislature were very angry about that, and pio pico immediately set out to start a rebellion against mexico city and he did. he marched out and sent the governor that was sent from mexico city home.
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and pio pico in 1831, at just 30 years of age, became interim governor of california. he took a chance. he could have been killed or put in jail forever. and it worked out for him. we're talking 1830, '31. so a new governor eventually took over, but this established pio pico as one of the top political names in california. a very young man. and the california legislature, by the way, was composed of individuals whose families were very connected to one another. they were connected through marriage, through baptizing their children amongst each other, and they were a very tight-knit group of people, so
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often they gifted each other large grants of land. and so pio pico got his first grant of land, a meager 8,000 acre ranch. he immediately stocked it with cattle, had an overseer look over the operations there, and he began his cattle empire at a very early age. [ inaudible ]. >> yeah, it's definitely somebody who has african ancest
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ancestry. [ inaudible ]. >> so pio pico had indigenous, he had european and african ancest ancestry. so at this point, pio pico, he begins this process of working in the california legislature. he gains more grants of land by about 1835. this is a picture of him and his family, his wife maria alvarado married in 1835. one of the biggest weddings in los angeles history. it lasted eight days. quite a party, right? so she was from a prominent family as well. they combined their forces and obviously they came out ahead. at this time, pio pico is granted -- by the way, the governor of california is the best man at his wedding, and
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that governor granted pio pico a 130,000 acre ranch called rancho santa margarita. we're here in the bay area, a tiny plot. we're proud of it. but imagine 130,000 acres. okay. some more pictures. i was telling somebody today when i go to los angeles, there's inevitably somebody from the pico family there, and they always want to know what's going on with this guy's children. he did not have any children from his legal spouse. i'm not sure why, but he had four children. one during the time when she was alive. and she died pretty young. she died right after the spanish -- the american conquest of california, but nevertheless you can see pico here with his
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nieces and his wife. one of the things that pio pico is often cited for is being the arch enemy of the catholic mission system in california. and i read those words in a history of the missions actually. the arch enemy of the catholic church in california, all right? it was, in fact, pio pico what was the biggest advocate of breaking down that system. a fancy word for it is secularization, which means you're going to tear down the mission system and maintain them as catholic churches, but you're taking all that land away from them and you're distributing that land to the indigenous people that were there and the rest, of course, goes into the public domain. so that process was a process that was taking place throughout
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latin america, and secularization was a very touchy subject. i mentioned in mexico the conservatives and the liberals were fighting each other. the conservatives and liberals saw california as the perfect model for their views on the catholic church. the conservatives said the catholic church needs to keep its wealth. it needs to keep its land. it is part of our culture. the liberals said no way. the catholic church is the biggest landowner in all of latin america. we need to break that down and individuals need to be landow r landowners and that's how you build a society. the californians, seeing all the lands the spaniards had, or the mission system had, wanted to tear that system down. some historians said you could walk from san diego to the bay area along the coast without leaving mission land, and that was pretty close to being true.
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some of these missions had upwards of 500,000 to 700,000 acres of land in their domain, so that process in california looked a little bit different than what it did in mexico city. in california, of course, we're talking about massive open amounts of land, so these missions were quite large. you can just see the mexican legislatures just salivating at the thought of this land coming open. all right. so what they did is during secularization -- they appointed an administrator and all the big names became administrators and that was the most sought after position. pio pico became the secular administrator of san luis rey,
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and it was the king of the missions. it was the biggest mission there. and so a lot of the mission history when they talk about secularizati secularization, they accuse pio pico of taking the land and selling all the stuff for his own benefit. and what i found was somewhere in the middle. pio pico grazed his cattle on the mission land, and so he was cheating in some ways, but that wasn't exactly out of the ordinary for these families. they all did it. they were all cattle barons. but pio pico, i did find pio pico paid the debts of the mission. he started a few schools. he distributed some of the land to some of the indigenous people. but by and large, this land was
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secularizati secularization. on paper, it was we're going to emancipate the indians. the indigenous population got tiny specks of land. in fact, pio pico's brother became the owner of mission san fernando. there he is. general andres pico. it's kind of strange because even though he's from the same parents, you rarely see historians talk about andres pico as an afro-mexican. he looks more caucasian, but he was equally as powerful. towards the end of the mexican period of california, he was the
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head of the military. in the u.s. period -- i'm not going to get too much into the mexican-american war because it is a long and drawn out story we could spend all day long on. suffice it to say california was one of the absolute conquests for america. it opened up trade to asia and whatnot. so as you can see here, they marched a lot of armies through land. two different parties. and then by sea as well. andres pico defeated the americans at san pasqual. there was another victory at san pedro in los angeles, but the united states really wanted california and they overpowered the californians. the war in california was
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actually over a year before the entire war was over, so andres pico had to sign papers of capitulation by the end of 1827. he tried to raise money. i found letters between him and president santa ana. you guys are very heroic, but we need our money to be spent in mexico city. mexicans are given the right to claim citizenship, okay? but also if they don't declare that citizenship, then they must move to mexico.
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and so this was a very unfair treaty, but it did at least on paper provide the possibility of citizenship for mexican individuals. pio pico, of course, on the way back from mexico understood right away that california had changed. it was militarized for the first two years. and of course, it gained the population requirement for statehood very quickly because of the gold rush, but nevertheless pio pico -- i just could see him on his horse coming through from tijuana in these areas, stopping at his ranch. along the way, his sisters had various large acreages of tens
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of thousands of acres. one of his sisters owned up there where it says ramona by pine valley, that big purple, that was pio pico's ranch santa margarita, so he was able to ride through all these ranches and so to tforth. in los angeles, his family, of course, had claims down here. semi valley, which was up on top. his brother owned san fernando, which was a ranch. pio pico purchased a small 8,000 acre ranch, which he called the
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little ranch. okay. and it was from the ranch that he began to build his cattle empire. i found out that pio pico was very industrious right away. okay? in the 1850s, california, los angeles specifically, was a very violent place. first of all, most of the u.s. population that came from the east coast settled in northern california because it was close to the gold fields, right? the climate was a little bit more hospitalable perhaps. los angeles had some caucasian settlers in it, but mexicans definitely had a numerical superiority up until about the 1870s. but pio pico was definitely interrogated. they put him under house arrest.
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they accused pio pico of stealing the archives of the state of california. they said, what you did is you just created all these grants for your buddies and your friends and you anti-dated them and that's why all these mexicans own these huge ranches. they were never able to prove it. when the state supreme court came in, even though california entered the union because of the -- what was it -- the compromise of 1850 allowed california to enter as a free state. it was controlled politically in many areas by the democrats, who were pro-slavery. they said, california is a free state, but blacks can't homestead public land. they have limited access and
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limited rights, and what about this pio pico guy? i saw the transcripts. they says he looks like a black man. it's an anomaly. we're in a tight position because he is so powerful and he has so much land, and we're trying to create these laws that will not give blacks the rights, so he was attacked right away. they didn't like him at all. on the other hand, they saw his brother as sort of a responsible administrator because he signed the papers of capitulation with the united states. he became a politician and so forth. pio pico dabbled in politics from behind and then really got into it by about 1855 when the republican party rose up in the united states. pio pico was the chairman of the republican party in california,
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okay? he definitely never came -- i could not find anything that stated, okay, i'm doing this because i'm against slavery. why else would he be there? he was the main supporter and chairman of the republican party for the election of abraham lincoln as well in california. and so he was doing all this work from behind the table. he was very influential in southern california. he was able to run sort of a machine. i encountered a lot of letters which say, hey, primo, tell your people over there in southern california to vote this way or to vote that way. okay? and so this was nothing out of the ordinary in the 1850s anywhere in the united states, i don't think.
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saying -- they argued that mexicans didn't understand the political system. that's why they failed. they didn't understand the judicial system. that's why they failed. they were poor and so forth. they didn't know how to react to this onslaught. pio pio was a dynamic businessman. taking a lot of chances. sometimes maybe not to his benefit. nevertheless, he became wealthier and wealthier. historians say he was a gambler.
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that's why he lost his wealth. he did. one race he lost $15,000. today, if we lose $15,000, we're crying for a couple months, right? imagine back then. to pio pico, at this time, $15,000 wasn't a lot of money. to the average individual, it was an enormous life savings. he was making so much money at this time that he was beginning to expand his business enterprises. pio pico was also one of the -- he was a person that would sue you for anything. if you pissed this guy off, he'd bring a lawsuit against you. there were lawsuits against him, as well. one of the lawsuits i found was that he sued a los angeles gas company because he didn't like the odor coming out of their factory or whatever they had.
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it was affecting his business. people would try to put dams on the waterway to his ranches. he'd sue you. i found 21 cases he had in the california supreme court, which is just unheard of. i mean, to bring the cases all the way to the california supreme court was an enormous, enormous amount of work. but at one toipoint, he had fou different law firms working for him. he didn't have to understand the judicial system. he paid people to understand it for him, to represent him as a citizen. i found evidence, and i was talking with another colleague who found sort of, somewhat of the yellow pages during the day, and pio pico, he said, was listed as occupation, capitalist. [ laughter ]. >> i don't know if that's true.
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but he was definitely a very powerful businessman. he was somebody who also, despite, you know, wanting to make a lot of money, helped poorer mexicans out in need. i saw many different letters in which he would say to his overseers of his ranch, give senior diaz five head of cattle, a couple of horses and a few hundred dollars to get him started. that was something that i saw throughout that time period. he would also -- people would come -- when i was seeing this, i kind of pictured him as don carleon, but it wasn't like that, but he'd help people in times of need. he'd pay for people's legal fees, as well. the legal fees i found a lot of times are about $75, $100 which,
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again, at that time was a lot of money but pocket change to pio pico. he had about 100 cases in the court. at one point, i found four cases at the same exact time in the california supreme court going on. you can imagine the amount of lawyers he was utilizing to do this. there's his house. he built a mansion. it was destroyed, part of it, in the flood in the 1860s. it was a massive mansion. still there today. this small house in the middle of the two larger buildings is pico's primary business residen residence. that's the plaza. his house has been knocked down, and i'm not sure why. i wish they would have saved it.
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there's the firehouse. the building on the far right is the pico house, which pio pico built for $70,000. an enormous amount of money. it was the biggest hotel, the most luxurious hotel in los angeles at this time. pio pico, after the cattle empire started to sort of dwindle in california, because in texas, they had a lot more, they were selling them for cheaper, pio pico diversified a little bit. i found out that him and his brother, they discovered oil, or one of their workers on the land did. they tried to start an oil company. you know, they hand dug some wells and so forth. then sort of lost interest in it. that company later became a massive multi-million dollar company. nevertheless, pio pico and his
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family were very industrious, creating opportunities for themselves. they had a wells fargo bank, french restaurant, billard's room. pio pico was trying to reestablish it as the center of the mexican buildings, where old town was, as a continuing center of mexican pied aride and busin. this was something that was very much in use. some people thought it was a waste of money because he wouldn't be able to make his money back with the rents. it had his name on it. this was a guy who had a lot of different characters. he had a little bit of many
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people. he thought a lot about himself, but in other cases, he was a very kind individual. towards the end, what really destroyed this individual was his trust. during the period, it was common to do business with a handshake amongst family members, people you knew. that was good enough. john forester was his brother-in-law. married his sister, who was an american citizen, became a mexican citizen before the arrival of the united states. pio pico made him wealthy beyond his dreams. granted him the ranch in southern california. somewhere around the 1870s, pico was trying to get a loan for business activities, and his brother said, brother-in-law said, i'll loan you the money. sign these documents, and that's
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it. all i ask is that you put your ranch santa margarita up as -- what do you call it -- collateral. what p irkpico didn't know is h signed a bill of sale instead of a loan. the court couldn't get over the fact he had signed this document. he fought it many years. pio pico had the ability to pay for interpreters. he could have had lawyers look it over. but it was his brother-in-law, and pio pico lost the jewel of his cattle empire with this. from there, his financial problems just started piling up on one another. he unfortunately did the same thing again with another loan with a man he had known 15 or 20 years.
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bernard cann, a businessman who lived in san francisco. very friendly with pico. he did the same exact thing to pico. this lawsuit, pio pico appealed three different times. even though the main witness admitted to purging himself, the judge finally said, you know what? a little bit of injustice must survive in this case. simply so we can get rid of this case. it's been going on too long. that was the justice that pico got. he tried to fight it a fourth time. he was 90 years old. this was in the 1890s. he was looking to build a case for himself. he tried to get some lawyers behind him. at this point, i found that the mexican government sent him a letter and said, pio pico, you are the governor of california during the war with the united
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states. we are trying to get santa catalina island back. won't you be a witness in our cause? pio pico said, i'm sorry. i can't do it. i know the reason why he couldn't. because public opinion was going against him. he needed to have a very positive public image at this point. he had the right to reclaim all of his property. i mean, it was legally his. because the individual purgered himself. unfortunately, it didn't work out for him. at this time, i found in the press, during the 1850s and '60s, there was a lot of antagonism between anglos and mexicans. there was a lot of violence. by the 1870s, mexicans had lost political and numerical superiority in los angeles. they had fallen as a threat,
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political threat. by this time, the old california leaders were starting to die very quickly. they started to lament the passing of that generation of people. one of the magazines i saw painted them as, what are we going to do when all the adobes are gone? when this generation of people are gone? california will never be the same. i also found a story where school children were studying pio pico in their classrooms, and his accomplishments and what he meant to the state. they went out and they were collecting nickels, door to door, to try to build up a legal fund for him. because he had -- everything he possessed, he'd lost. he also got an offer by the chicago -- the world's fair in chicago, to come in and be displayed as the last of his generation, the last of the
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californios. he wrote a scathing reply. i never saw him having any antagonism to any race. but he said, if they think they can put me in a tent and show me like a freak at five cents a bit, they have another thing coming. he was quite naturally angry at this point, having lost everything, unable to leave his children much. but at his death, at 93 years of age, i read in the los angeles time a beautiful mass took place, where they sang. all the old families gathered. they celebrated this individual's life. i think he's very indicative of that period in california. he brings a very new and fresh perspective to what it meant to
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be a californio during that time, because of this tremendous amount of transition in 19th century california. in the united states. thank you very much for coming. [ applause ] any questions? you in the front. [ inaudible question ]. >> i had not heard that. that's very interesting.
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[ inaudible ]. >> he asked, first, whether or not, you know, there was news during the time in california, they promoted him as a white individual. i've not seen any information on that. the other question he had is did he have dinner with vasquez, the so-called bandit. i'm not sure, but i know pio pico's nephew is one of the individuals they modelled zorro after. it was a bandit in southern california. he didn't need money. he didn't need to rob anybody. he was just extremely angry at the treatment that the newcomers gave to mexicans. there was a lot of violence. but we know that that hurt
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business, and so i've found evidence that pio pico talked to his nephew, and that was that. in terms of vasquez, i'm not sure. if there's any questions, there's a microphone in the back. that'd be great if you could -- >> hi. whoa. i wanted to talk a little bit about the south spain, if any of the spaniards -- because south of spain being so close to africa, and along the coast, there is the rigid cast system, but we have a lot of blackness, also. i was wondering if you can speak about the spaniards, and did that have any bearing on some of the stuff going on. we're in an interesting time.
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we're actually being able to talk about this, which is exciting. >> yes. >> thank you. but i'm wondering if you can speak a little bit about that, if you know anything. >> sure. so the cast system was crazy because it suggested that the spaniards were pure. >> which is bull. >> anything but true. yeah, there was a tremendous amount of mixture of the ancest ancestries. they brought over the cast system. it was in existence in spain before here. >> the inquisition, so yeah. >> well, they had a cast system, and it transitioned from jewish and moorish and caucasian, so forth. in mexico, there is a town which means, kill the moor. there was a lot of antagonism. maybe the spaniards, you know, a lot of them who came over wanted
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to hide that aspect. but it's definitely there. it's in the spanish culture, for sure. >> thank you. >> thank you for your fascinating presentation and, actually, i'm glad you asked that question because that was one of my questions, too. i wanted to go back also about cast. you talked about his sister marrying into spanish families in southern california, right? so it kind of confused me because if the cast system was in place, were there no restrictions against marrying across casts, and were these marries legy iey iey ies -- mar? >> there was no restriction. the catholic church itself promoted the idea of racial intermixture. it prevented men from otherwise raping individuals, which happened quite often with the
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indigenous and african population. the catholic church stepped in and said, wait a minute, you need to marry these people. you can't just sit there and commit these heinous crimes. we're a catholic people. so, no, they didn't restrict them from inter marries. in fact, they promoted that. >> [ inaudible question ]. >> genes are a funny thing. in mexican population, some of us pop out lighter than others. it just happens. with them, i mean, i saw a few pictures, and they seemed to look like a typical, you know, mexican individuals. yeah. they weren't, by no means, you know -- they didn't look typically white or anything, but they were mixed. you could tell they were mixed. for some reason, pio pico really -- those traits really came out in him, for sure.
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a lot of the letters that i uncovered during the early u.s. period, people criticized pio pico, criticized him by calling him black or other horrible terms. so that was something that people were definitely, they associated pico with. >> [ inaudible ]. >> most of his sisters were older than him. >> could you discuss the mexican mystiso, and did it go to the african mexican? >> it was basically a document that you could have sort of
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verified, which would suggest that you have pure spanish ancestry with no mixture whatsoever. it was used in order for families to unit with one another. if you wanted to unite with another powerful spanish family, first, you had to have that document. so those -- that was very -- something very much enforced during that time period. during the mexican period, it was just something that was mostly spoke about informally. a lot of those racial distinctions disappeared. but i mean, we know that the racism of the spaniard, just because they had independence, did not disappear with independence. it continues to the present day, unfortunately, in mexico. >> [ inaudible ].
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>> okay. so he asked if the spaniards brought african slaves to mexico. in fact, they did. they brought them to the port. they used them in many different aspects. a lot of times, because the indigenous population had no -- they had no built up i mmmuniti to old world diseases, they died easi easily. especially from things like smallpox. they really relied on african
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slavery to do a lot of the hard work. also, just like in the united states, african people understood a lot of things about european techniques and farming and mining that the indigenous people didn't. they used them a lot of times as overseers and whatnot. just like in the united states and other parts of latin america. but the indigenous population, the slavery, it did continue in various forms during the colonial period. they had something which was a rotating, forced seasonal labor, where for example, a population of indigenous people one quarter would have to go during the fall to work in the mines or whatever, then they'd return after that season. then the next quarter would go. the spaniards said, we're doing this because you owe us tribute for having civilized you and protecting you and so forth.
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it's not slavery though. yes? >> so i'm finding -- thank you very much. your talk is very enlightening, and i never heard of pio pico until tonight. so thank you for that. i was really inspired by his story, so i looked up, there's a pio pico state park, you might have mentioned it, and there's a big celebration june 13th there in california. for those that are interested in continuing this. the thing that really disturbed me about this whole story was the fact that he had amassed all this land and it was taken away from him. that pattern exists really all over the world and in this country in particular. we can see it happening tonight in front of our eyes here in this city. i'm just curious what your take is on his story and how he can inform our lives today, on dealing with issues as people of
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african decent. >> that's a very good question but a tricky one, as well. because pio pico, in terms of, at least in the archival record, never referred to himself as a black person. you see evidence of him promoting things like, hey, let's get abraham lincoln elected. let's fight the democrats because they're promoting slavery, which we don't agree with and so forth. also, where did pio pico get the land? how were the indigenous population displaced by mexicans and so forth? that's a very tricky issue. in terms of it as an example, definitely, he -- there wasirbz racism toward pio pico. in california, there was racism toward black people and so
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forth. his example is a very tricky one, simply because he was an elite mexican who was able to gain access to land because of things like nepotism and the break down of the catholic church. he was no different than any of the other californios in that aspect. i wanted to -- when i was looking at this as a graduate student, as a topic, i said, man, i want to write something about us, right? i'm interested in history not because i'm interested in certain topics, i'm interested in history because i want to find out more about myself and where we come from and so forth. so that was a very, very, very big wakeup call, when i found out that this was an aggressive businessman. he did some things that weren't altogether proper.
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but he did a lot of great things, as well. so in terms of him as an example, and you mentioned the state park and the holiday, he was born on cinco de mayo. i wound lild like us, instead o having beer going around, let's celebrate the life of this man who was an afro-mexican pioneer, who changed the californian history in dramatic ways. if he had not broke down the mission system, and he did, he signed the final breakdown of the mission system as governor, california, the cities and counties of california would look much different. he broke that down, and then those land parcels were parc parcelled out. from that, they formed the various counties and cities and so forth of california. he did something that was, you
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know -- whether or not you are pro-mission or not, this was a very big and monumental undertaking. we definitely need to look to individuals like that. everybody is not a saint, right? but he made some changes that were important and lasting. yes? >> [ inaudible ]. >> i don't know. i'm going to take a 23 me test, and i imagine i am. i mean, i'm mexican, but you know, that could mean a lot of things. my last name is salomon, which is not exactly a spanish name. >> i just have a question in relation to the indigenous people during the time of the mexican occupation of california, because he crosses over both.
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in terms of, what was the status of the indigenous population in california, like just before 1848, and how would they feel the secularization didn't benefit them tremendously. how rapid was the decline really that happened in that post period after 1848? because he has all three european, african and indigenous ancestry in him.ingi specifical about him, but what was the feat of the indigenous people. >> the mexican constitution said everybody who lives in mexico became a citizen. that was different than the spanish period, where indigenous people were definitely second-class citizens and had very little rights. like i said earlier, that -- the
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spanish racism carried over. the mexicans treated them as second-class citizens. there's no doubt about that. they still do. but i read a testimony of an indigenous person at a mission, and he had a lot to say about pio pico. he had a lot to say about the mexicans in general. didn't like them much. believed they treated them incredibly unfair and so forth. however, at least they were putting into motion laws that would eventually, at least on paper, benefit them. during the u.s. period, crazy, right? you can imagine, a lot of people, lot of indigenous people moved east, because the spaniards and the mexicans occupied the costal region, right?
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so if you wanted to get away from that, you would move into the sierras. when the gold rush happened, people came, those people were annihilated. >> it was basically a lot of land loss already, the indigenous people already pretty much lost control of their own land by this time? >> well, yes and no. in the costal regions, definitely. interior -- or the eastern part of california, they were living as they always had. with knowledge that the spaniards were there and the mexicans, but they were at a far distance from them. during the u.s. period, all that changed for them. american indians didn't get citizenship until 1924. so it was very different. california was even worse because they were so dispersed. that's why in california, we don't have reservations, we have ranches. some of which are an acre in
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size. it's really difficult. >> [ inaudible ]. >> yes, it was. abolished around, what, 1829, 181 1830, around there. all right. well, thank you very much. [ applause ] >> i'll be up here signing books if any of you want to come up. our coverage of presidential candidates at the iowa state fair continues all week. on friday, republican senator ted cruz of texas takes the traditional "des moines register" soapbox stage live at 11:00 a.m. new jersey governor chris christie is scheduled for noon
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eastern on saturday. bobby jindal is at 1:00. you can go to c-span.org to see our coverage, including bernie sanders, hillary clinton, jim webb and martin o'malley. each week, american history tv sits in on a lecture with one of the nation's college profe profess professors. you can watch every saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and midnight. next, paul mapp talks about the interactions between european colonial powers and native american tribes on the great plains during the 1700s. he describes the importance of owning horses and guns for determining which groups, whether tribes or colonial settlers, had the upper in both trade and war. this class is about an hour and ten minutes. >>

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