Friday, November 11, 2011

Ramona Epic #31: The Murder of Juan "Alessandro" Diego (Part 1)

(GPS: N33 35.755 W116 48.095)

When I created the Youtube channel for Ramona a year ago today I knew it would take me a year to be able to show something about this particular adventure. I had almost all the fieldwork done for the series, and it was just a matter of preparing everything at the computer. In order to do this series the way I wanted to present it, I knew that some of my favorite parts of this series would not come until about now.

If you have read some of my blog, you will know that my real favorite places are the ones where you go into the backcountry where few people go, and find something unique. Whether it is some human artifact remains or just something really beautiful to look at, I enjoy those times more than anything else I cover on this blog.

This was one of those times. I kind of knew what to expect based on an article I have (I will link it below) and a book or two. The hiking part of it was not that difficult relative to what I normally do, in fact I considered it quite easy, but the drive to get to the trailhead was a rough and bumpy ride. On this day, my brother drove me to the other side of Cahuilla Mountain seen below:
The above picture is taken near Anza, CA. Almost everything you will see in the next few blogs took place on the other side of that mountain. The picture below is very close to the trailhead. We hiked to two different areas from here. While you do see a vehicle in the distance, I would not suggest driving on these roads unless you know exactly where you are going and what your vehicle is capable of.For example, while hiking along the road we were taking I saw drops and turns that would be very dramatic for many cars.The hike was rather easy on the way because we dropped down some elevation, not much, but it would take a little more work coming back than getting here. After about 45 minutes or so, we came to the following:In the above picture, just ahead and around the corner on the left, was the final destination for the first hike. That will be in the next blog.

The whole idea of coming out here was to explore the location that was the inspiration for the murder of Alessandro in Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona book. In this area, on the day of March 24, 1883, Juan Diego was murdered by Sam Temple in the area you are seeing. Like the fictional story, Juan Diego was an Indian (a Cahuilla Indian) that had mental lapses that would cause him to do very irrational things. He was a likeable person to everything that knew him, but they also knew he was a little nutty. Like Alessandro in the novel, he worked as a sheep shearer and other jobs for the locals. This area is named after him in that it is called Juan Diego Flats.

In the above picture, there is a short side road off to the right that goes uphill some and then stops. It was here I investigated this area for what looked like human activity at some point in the past. I am at this spot in this next picture, and it also is looking in the direction of what I will show in the next blog. Now whether Juan Diego and his wife lived right here at their adobe I do not know. The little map in the article makes it look like I would have been really close; the map is not totally to scale, but it would make sense. Then just turning around I had this behind me; far in the background is where the hike started from.
So the remains and foundations of something are still here. What it was exactly that was here I do not know. The bigger picture that I just wanted to experience on this day is to see the area of where Juan Diego and his wife lived and where he was murdered. I will continue this in the next blog.

The Murder of Juan "Alessandro" Diego (Youtube Version)

The Murder of Juan "Alessandro" Diego (Vimeo Version)

The Killing of Juan Diego: From Murder to Mythology by Phil Brigandi and John W. Robinson (The best article about the history of this event from The Journal of San Diego History)