January 3, 2012: Turbicio Vasquez was a Californio, a Mexican born in California (Monterey 1835) before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 transferred ownership of California from Mexico to the U.S. (The U.S. paid $15 million for what is now California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, and western portions of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. Great coincidences in investment: James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Fort [Sacramento County] on January 24, 1848; the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed 8 days later, on February 2, 1848.)
At left, superintendent John Ramirez, Jr., of the Alisal Unified School District, whose board has voted to name a new elementary school after Vasquez.
Vasquez, bilingual and the son of an affluent family, was 13 when the Treaty was signed and the gold rush began; according to his biographer, San Francisco attorney John Boessenecker, below left, ("Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez"):
...Mexican Californios quickly were outnumbered by the masses of white settlers...They were discriminated against, their land was taken away, and they had difficulty getting jobs. Some were lynched.
"The Californios were the economic, social and political power in the state until the Gold Rush," Boessenecker [told Gosia Wozniacka of the Huffington Post]. "Overnight, they lost everything. They became second-class citizens in their own land."
Vasquez, Boessenecker told Candy Moulton of HistoryNet, was the youngest member of his family "and may have been spoiled." In any case, he opened a dance hall when he was 17, a constable was killed there, and Vasquez became an outlaw, achieving a considerable level of notoriety before he was convicted of murder and hung in San Jose in 1875 when he was 39.
His star has come 'round once again as the Alisal Unified School District (Monterey County) has voted unanimously to name a new magnet elementary school (where every student will receive a tablet computer) after Turbicio Vasquez. As Wozniacka reports:
...Naming a school after Vasquez symbolizes opposition to discrimination and is an act of cultural pride, said Alisal Union School District Superintendent John Ramirez Jr...."The real issue here is cultural citizenship..."
The controversy has reignited the question of whose version of history should be honored and who is considered a hero in a multi-ethnic nation that often glorifies military figures....
The city's new mayor, Joe Gunter, a former Salinas police detective, has criticized the decision, saying the district should not "be honoring people who are criminals." And the Monterey County Deputy Sheriff Association and the Salinas Police Officer Association publicly condemned it...
In a written statement, the Monterey County Office of Education said the naming of a school is done at the discretion of the local school board....