Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Ramona Epic #18: The Old Cemetery

"His silence was more than silent; it was taciturn. Yet she always felt herself
answered. A monosyllable of Alessandro's, nay, a look, told what
other men took long sentences to say, and said less eloquently.

After long thinking over this, she exclaimed, 'You speak as the
trees speak, and like the rock yonder, and the flowers, without
saying anything!'

This delighted Alessandro's very heart. 'And you, Majella,' he
exclaimed; "when you say that, you speak in the language of our
people; you are as we are.'"

In chapter 17 of the story Alessandro takes Ramona with him to Temecula so he can sell his violin in order for them to have some money so they can be married. There is some concern that they could be caught by those sent from the rancho to find them. So, Ramona agrees to stay at the cemetery while Alessandro attempts to find out what is going on in Temecula and sell his violin. There she meets Carmena who is grieving over the loss of her husband. Carmena does not speak, but she is glad Ramona is there and they hold hands.

Visiting this particular cemetery is somewhat disappointing. I knew this would be the case even before going to it. There is really nothing there these days. In fact, unless someone told you, you would probably have no clue it was a cemetery.

The modern world has been completely built around it. A shopping center with many modern chain stores has taken over. What separates it from the modern world is a big wall around it.Looking over the wall is a big square flat dirt field. How many times have I seen something like this elsewhere and not thought anything about it? However, in this case, it was a historical cemetery.The real historical basis for this cemetery took place during the Mexican War. While a few battles were taking place in California, the Battle of San Pasqual near Escondito was won by the Californios (the Mexican side) around December 6, 1846. After the battle 11 Californios went to an adobe in Pauma Valley. There a bunch of Luiseno killed them in what is known as the Pauma Massacre. It was said that they were tortured and killed in a way to brutal to describe.

No one knows really why this group of Indians did this. There is some thought that the recent Battle of San Pasqual had something to do with this and thinking of the Americans as their friends. Or, some of their horses has been stolen by the Californios. In any case, they were avenging something.

Jose Del Carmen Lugo was ordered to avenge the massacre. In December, 1846 (and January, 1847) he took the men he could get and got the help of Juan Antonio, leader of the Cahuilla Indians, with his men. With a combined force of Californios and Cahuilla Indians, Lugo led them to the mouth of a Canyon near Vail Lake. As an aside, when I was younger I often fished at Vail Lake.

There they hid, setting up the ambush, and sent some of their men into the canyon. A few of he men went into the canyon to trick the Luisenos they were after to chase after them. The trick worked, and as they came out the Temecula Massacre was on.

No one knows how many Luisenos were killed. Estimates are between 40-120. The dead were gathered and buried at this spot in Temecula. This is the origin of the cemetery.

A couple of my own thoughts on this:

One thing that is hard to describe in a quick historical summary like this is overgeneralizing a group of people. Sometimes we talk about the Californios, the Americans, the Indians, etc. as if they were unified group of people. When reading Horace Parker's small book (listed below) I kept trying to figure out why some of the Californios were not really following orders of the Mexican side, why groups of Indians were attacking each other, etc. In the case of the Californios they were on the Mexican side of the war, but did not think of themselves as Mexicans. So, their immediate concerns came first over whatever General was ordering them to do. In the case of the Cahuilla Indians going against the Temecula/Luiseno Indians, that appears to be retaliation for a battle lost by the Cahuilla Indians years earlier that had nothing to do with any sides of the Mexican War.

So, the historical reality of the cemetery has nothing to do with Helen Hunt Jackson's version of why it was there in the fictional Ramona book. In fact, had she actually mentioned the historical reality behind the cemetery it would have undermined the premise behind her book. War and politics are usually really messy when comes to this.

The Old Cemetery (Youtube Version)

The Old Cemetery (Vimeo Version)

The following links are old pictures off the USC Digital Library of the cemetery:

An old picture of the cemetery

Another old picture of a grave in the cemetery

For my quick summary of the events involved, I used the following book which I found at a local library:

Parker, Horace. The Historic Valley of Temecula: The Temecula Massacre. Balboa Island: Paisano Press, 1971.

The following links should be helpful:

Temecula Massacre (Old Town Temecula article)

Temecula Massacre (Wikimapia): this shows you where it is at

Temecula Massacre (Wikipedia article)

Whizzing Past the Graveyard (North County Times)

A Look Back: The Temecula Massacre (Press-Enterprise)