During the last four decades, California has been proving that demography is indeed destiny. At an ever-accelerating rate the state is becoming Mexifornia. So many Mexicans have flooded into California, nearly all illegally, that instead of the new arrivals assimilating to American culture they are Hispanicizing the state. This means far more than ballots in Spanish.
The Alisal Union School District numbers a dozen elementary schools in East Salinas, which is more than 90-percent Hispanic. About 85 percent of the district’s elementary-school children are classified as “English learners.” At Jesse G. Sanchez Elementary, 94 percent of the students are English learners. Some speak only Indian languages of Mexico. Test scores are abysmal.
A new elementary school under construction in Salinas will be named Tiburcio Vásquez. The Alisal school board voted unanimously for the name. “The real issue here is cultural citizenship,” said John Ramirez, Alisal district superintendent. “And part of citizenship is when people choose to name schools after their heroes.” Vásquez is portrayed as defending his people against the hated gringo. Stelvio Locci, a professor of Chicano studies at Salinas’ Hartnell College, called Vásquez a California Robin Hood. He’s not alone. Nearly all Chicano-studies programs at California colleges portray Vásquez as a hero.
Born in 1835, Vásquez was reared in Monterey by a relatively prosperous family. He was intelligent and talented but preferred gambling and dancing to work. At a little over 5’5″ and no more than 130 pounds, he was ideally sized for riding and became an excellent horseman. He dressed well and kept himself groomed. He spent much of his time pursuing señoritas. When he was 17 he got a 14-year-old pregnant. He continued pursuing teenage girls and impregnating them, even when he was in his 30’s. His own niece, Felicita Vásquez, had his baby when she was 17. He was 39. He also seduced the wives of two of his friends. He didn’t bother to support his illegitimate children.
Vásquez had no reason to turn to a life of crime other than his own narcissistic gratification. He certainly was no social bandit. He began robbing and stealing in his teens and continued to do so until he was hanged in 1875. He was in and out of San Quentin twice. With the exception of one sister, his family was deeply ashamed of him. He rarely robbed from the rich, and he never gave to the poor. Most of his victims were from the working class. Among these were travelers of limited means: a Jewish peddler, stage passengers, a boy with two dollars on him, a sheepherder. He stole horses and cattle from American settlers, but he also stole them from old-time Mexican Californians. He tried to kill Rafael Ponzo and was an accomplice to the murder of his fellow Californian Joaquín de la Torre.
He was seen in all his glory at Tres Pinos in 1873. Standing at the intersection of two country roads, the settlement consisted of a two-story hotel, a livery, a saddlery and blacksmith shop, and a general store that also served as a post office, saloon, and stage stop. Brandishing revolvers and rifles, Vásquez and his gang hit the store first, forcing employees and customers to lie face down. Those who didn’t comply in a timely manner were pistol-whipped. The victims were then tied up. When the gang stepped out of the store, they saw Bernard Bahury, a Portuguese sheepherder, crossing the street in front of them. They ordered him face down in the street, but he took off running. Two gang members gave chase and riddled him with bullets.
George Radford, a deaf teamster oblivious to the gunfire, was climbing down from his wagon in front of the hotel when Vásquez ran up to him and ordered him face down in the dirt. Unable to hear the order but seeing the bandit’s guns, Radford sprinted for the livery. Vásquez fired his Henry rifle but missed, killing instead a horse standing near the livery’s barn door. Vásquez fired again just as Radford reached the door. The bullet struck Radford in the back, and he collapsed dead into a pile of straw.
Hearing the gunshots, hotelkeeper Leander Davison ran to the open double-door of the hotel and began to pull it shut. Vásquez fired, and his bullet struck Davison in the chest. He staggered backward into his wife’s arms and died. The gang then led a bound Andrew Snyder from his general store to the hotel. Threatening to blow his head off, they ordered the women inside the hotel to bring out all the money in the cash drawer. After packing a mule with clothing and goods from the general store and stuffing their pockets with all the money they could find, Vásquez and his gang were off. The brave bandidos had killed a sheepherder, a teamster, and a hotelkeeper.
For the last decade East Salinas has had not only a high illegitimacy rate but also one of California’s highest murder rates. Perhaps naming a school after Tiburcio Vásquez is appropriate after all.