Helen Hunt Jackson (October 18, 2010-August 12, 1885) was very much concerned about the plight of the American Indian. She wrote a book called A Century of Dishonor detailing the problems of government policies or lack of them toward the American Indians. She was disappointed that the book did not really do much in changing U.S. government policy. So, she set out to convince the public by writing a historic fiction novel about the problems.
In order to write her novel she did research on the Mission Indians by visiting California. In doing so she visited many sites of Old California. I will mention a little more about the historical background of the novel in the next blog, but for now the novel takes place during the Mexican to American transition of California in the 1850's. What she ended up doing was describing some of the locations in her novel.
While Ramona was a successful book it would not be for the reasons Ms. Jackson had hoped for. The general public loved the book not for the plight of the Mission Indians, but because of the love story and nostalgia of Old California. So, in some ways, Ms. Jackson's intent backfired because they saw the "historical" basis of the book as something that existed in the past and no longer connected to them. The response was not, "What can we do to help the Indians?" The response was more like, "Wow, California is such an interesting place! Let's go there!" With the advent of the railroad, and eventually cars, the public was able to visit the sites described in the book.
What you are going to see this year is I visited a bunch of sites that Ms. Jackson probably visited when she described them in Ramona. On the other hand, there are areas she may not have been, but were used as Ramona sites in order to satsify the tourist demand. I will mention these when they come up. For inspiration I used Dydia DeLyser's Ramona Memories which I highly recommend for the main Ramona sites. You will see I have added some of my own locations as well. Some very serious, but others not so just to show you the impact of Ramona on southern California.
Along with showing some of the Ramona sites I will be showing some of the Ramona Play that runs in Hemet, CA each year at the end of April and earlier May. I will not be showing the whole play, but just parts that give you an idea how the play is.
If you want to, I would suggest that to make the most out of this you could read the book along with what I will be putting up on here every few weeks or so. It is very easy to find. You can either purchase it, find it in the local library, or download it online. I will be going about doing this in chronological order so you should be able to compare what is in the book with what is a shown on here. The only thing I ask is not to spoil what happens in the comment section. I suspect this will not happen, but this may be the first time someone learns about this story so keep this in mind.
Part of the reason I am doing this is to help educate people on the historical sites and play. Nothing I do with pictures or video really captures that first person experience of visiting the sites or seeing the play. I really hope that if you are ever in southern California that you will visit and help support these places and the play. We live in a time where a whole new generation has no clue about any of this. If I can get even a few people interested then I think I have done my job. It will be an interesting year for me because just about everything I have covered in this blog I have had a history with in someway going back to when I was a kid. With this Ramona series I think I have a good grasp of what needs to be done, but I will still be learning as I go.
What I found fascinating about this story is much of the public actually thought they were reading about real people and real history in Ramona. The fact is Ramona and the rest of the characters did not exist. I will need to quality that as I go along because Ms. Jackson may have used a few persons as inspiration for her characters. It does create an odd paradox that one might actually think Ramona and the other characters really lived and visited these places. The real history and fictional history get mixed up at times along the way.
In the following video I give a short type of lecture of the above and show just the very beginning of the play where the cast enters for the first time:
Ramona Epic #1: Introduction (Youtube Version)
Ramona Epic #1: Introduction (Vimeo Version)
I will be switching back and forth between Ramona and what I normally do on here. So, it will not be just Ramona all this year. You will know because it will say Ramona Epic # in the title. Expect something every few weeks or so all through 2011.
The Ramona Book (Download From Google Books)
The Ramona Book (Text Version)
Okay, with that all out of the way the next blog will show you where Ramona was fictionally born.