Joaquin Murrieta (sometimes spelled Murieta or Murietta) (ca. 1829–July 25, 1853?), also called the Mexican or Chilean Robin Hood or the Robin Hood of El Dorado, was a semi-legendary figure in California during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. He was either an infamous bandit or a Mexican patriot, depending on one's point of view. Murrieta was partly the inspiration for the fictional character of Zorro. His name has, for some political activists, symbolized resistance against Anglo-American economic and cultural domination in California. The "Association of Descendants of Joaquin Murrieta" is devoted to putting forth that Murrieta was not a "gringo eater," but instead that "He wanted to retrieve the part of Mexico that was lost at that time in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo."
Life and career
Bitter dispute surrounds the figure of Joaquin Murrieta, who he was, what he did, and many of his life's events. This is well summarized by the words of historian Susan Lee Johnson:
"So many tales have grown up around Murrieta that it is hard to disentangle the fabulous from the factual. There seems to be a consensus that Anglos drove him from a rich mining claim, and that, in rapid succession, his wife was raped, his half-brother lynched, and Murrieta himself horse-whipped. He may have worked as a monte dealer for a time; then, according to whichever version one accepts, he became either a horse trader and occasional horse thief, or a bandit."
The place of Murrieta's birth is disputed. He was either born in Álamos in the northwestern state of Sonora, Mexico, or in Quillota, Chile (near Valparaiso). He came from Mexican and native American lineage. His mother's side of his family came from California long before it was claimed by the United States or Mexico.
The citing of his birthplace as allegedly being in Chile seems to be a result of reports that Murrieta sided with Chilean miners during the "Chilean War." A portion of Ridge's novel was reprinted in 1859 in the California Police Gazette. This story was subsequently translated into French, and the French version, with a Chilean Joaquín Murrieta, was translated into Spanish by Roberto Hynne, who claimed to have been in California during the gold rush.
Becoming an outlaw
Some alleged he went to California in 1849 to seek his fortune in the California Gold Rush. But instead of opportunity, he encountered racism and discrimination. While mining for gold, he and his wife supposedly were attacked by American miners jealous of his success. They allegedly beat him senseless, then raped his wife. However, the source for this series of tragic events is disputed as it was a dime novel written in 1854 (The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murrieta by John Rollin Ridge). Historian Frank Latta, in his book Joaquín Murrieta and His Horse Gangs contended that the band was made up of family and friends, and that they regularly engaged in illegal horse trade with Mexico, after helping Joaquín kill at least six of his tormentors.
Orders for arrest and his supposed death
Historically, Murrieta was one of the so-called "Five Joaquins" listed on a bill passed in the California state legislature in May 1853, whereby a company of 20 rangers were hired for three months to hunt down Joaquin Botellier, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Ocomorenia, Joaquin Muriata [sic] and Joaquin Valenzuela, and their banded associates.
On May 11, 1853, Governor of California John Bigler signed a legislative act creating the "California State Rangers," led by Captain Harry Love (a former Texas Ranger). The California Rangers were paid $150 a month and stood a chance to share the $1,000 governor's reward. On July 25, 1853, a group of Rangers encountered a band of armed Mexican men near Pacheco Pass in San Benito County, 50 miles (80 km) from Monterey. A confrontation took place, and two of the Mexicans were killed. One was claimed to be Murrieta, and the other was thought to be Manuel Garcia, also known as Three-Fingered Jack, one of Joaquin's most notorious associates. A plaque (California Historical Landmark #344) near the intersection of State Routes 33 and 198 now marks the approximate site of the encounter.
The Rangers severed Three-Fingered Jack's hand and the alleged Murrieta's head as proof of the outlaws' deaths, and preserved them in a jar of alcohol. The jar was displayed in Mariposa County, Stockton, and San Francisco, and later traveled throughout California; spectators could pay $1 to see them. Seventeen people, including a Catholic priest, signed affidavits identifying the head as Murrieta's, alias Carrillo, enabling Love and his Rangers accordingly received the reward money.
However, 25 years later, O. P. Stidger claimed that he heard Murrieta's sister say that the head was not her brother's. At around the same time, numerous sightings of old man Murrieta were reported. A few people claimed that Capt. Love failed to display the head at the mining camps, which was not true. It was even alleged by an anonymous Los Angeles based correspondent to the San Francisco Alta California Daily, in August 1853, that Love and his Rangers murdered some innocent Mexican mustang catcher and bribed people to swear out affidavits. The preserved head was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Murrieta's nephew, known as Procopio, went on to become one of California's most notorious bandits of the 1860s and 1870s, and it was said that Procopio wanted to exceed the reputation of his uncle.
Joaquin Murrieta in media
Joaquin Murrieta has been a widely used romantic figure in novels, stories, and films, and on TV.
Joaquin Murrieta is depicted as a largely sympathetic character in the 1936 William A. Wellman film The Robin Hood of El Dorado .
The fictional character of Zorro was in part inspired by the stories about Murrieta. In fact, a character with his name appears in The Mask of Zorro, as do Three-Fingered Jack and Harry (here Harrison) Love. In the film, after Joaquin's death, his (fictional) brother, Alejandro (Antonio Banderas), becomes the new Zorro and later kills Captain Love in revenge. Joaquin was played here by Victor Rivers.
Throughout the Mother Lode region of California, there are dozens of saloons, bars, hotels, and places where Murrieta is said to have robbed, slept, or been.
Novel by John Rollin Ridge, "The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murrieta" published 1854, a year after his supposed death.
Book by Walter Noble Burns, "The Robin Hood of El Dorado" published by Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, 1932
Book by Sid Fleischman
He makes an appearance in a novel by Isabel Allende, Hija de la Fortuna (Daughter of Fortune).
In 1954, the actor Rick Jason, later of ABC's military drama Combat!, played Murietta in an episode of Jim Davis's syndicated western television series, Stories of the Century.
His story is told in a play, Fulgor y Muerte de Joaquín Murieta (The Splendor and Death of Joaquin Murrieta), by Pablo Neruda.
The first Soviet and Russian musical (rock opera), Звезда и смерть Хоакина Мурьеты (Zvezda i smert’ Khoakina Mur’ety — The Star and Death of Joaquin Murrieta), 1976, by Alexei Rybnikov and Pavel Grushko, is based on the play. Published as double LP (1978) and movie (1982). Now available on CD and DVD, respectively.
A tribute song to this Chilean rebel can be heard in Premonición de la Muerte de Joaquin Murieta, performed by Quilapayún
Víctor Jara, Chilean singer-songwriter assassinated by the Pinochet regime in Chile, also wrote the song Así Como Hoy Matan Negros taken from Neruda and Sergio Ortega's collaboration "Fulgor y Muerte de Joaquín Murieta."
Both Víctor Jara and Quilapayún recorded the "Cueca de Joaquín Murieta" in the style of Chile's national dance, the cueca.
The Sons of the San Joaquin included a song called The Ballad of Joaquin Murrieta on their Way Out Yonder album.
Bob Frank & John Murry included a song called Joaquin Murrieta, 1853 on their World Without End album.
The corrido version of Joaquin Murrieta's ballad states "... no soy chileno ni extraño en esta tierra que piso, de Mexico es California..." (I'm not Chilean or stranger to this land, California is Mexico...)
In The Mother Hips song 'Time-sick Son of a Grizzly Bear' : "Were you out in Monterey/ In Joaquin Murrieta's day/ Adobe huts in the cypress groves/ Is where the rich man now builds his homes" from the album Kiss the Crystal Flake
The story (and, supposedly, the actual severed head) of Joaquin Murrieta are featured in the 1980 film Faces of Death II
Writer T. Jefferson Parker casts Murrieta as the great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of one of the main characters in his novel L.A. Outlaws and its sequel, Iron River.
The Fortune & Spirits song 'Archangel, the Murderer' is in large part a retelling and exploration of the morality of the legend of Murrieta 
Joaquin Zihuatenejo tells the story of Murrieta in his poem titled "This Is A Suit" presented on HBO's Def Poetry series (Season 5, Episode 4)
Singer/Songwriter Dave Stamey performs "The Bandit Joaquin" depicting the life and death of Joaquin Murrieta, and questions the validity of his capture.
He is also immortalised in George Sherman's " Joaquin Murrieta" (Spain , 1965). Played by Jeffrey Hunter
Referenced in the movie "Blood in Blood Out" (also known as "Bound by Honor") a 1993 film directed by Taylor Hackford.
Vida y Aventuras del Mas Celebre Bandido Sonorense, Joaquin Murrieta: Sus Grandes Proezas En California, by Ireneo Paz, Mexico City, 1904; first English translation by Francis P. Belle, Regan Pub. Corp., Chicago, 1925. Republished with intro. and further translation by Luis Leal, Life and Adventures of the Celebrated Bandit Joaquin Murrieta: His Exploits in the State of California, Arte Publico Press, 1999.
1.^ Burns, Walter Noble, The Robin Hood of El Dorado Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, 1932.
2.^ Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush (Review). American Scholar January 1, 2000. Pg. 142 Vol. 69 No. 1 ISSN: 0003-0937.
3.^ Bacon, David (December 15, 2001). "Interview with Antonio Rivera Murrieta". http://dbacon.igc.org/TWC/mm02_Murrieta.htm. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
4.^ "California State Rangers". California State Military Museum. 1940. http://www.militarymuseum.org/CaliforniaStateRangers.html. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
5.^ See The Pioneer, Sat., Nov. 29, 1879. Also see History of Nevada County (Oakland : Thompson & West, 1880; rprt Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1970), 115.
6.^ Democratic State Journal, Oct. 17, 1853, Calaveras Correspondence from W. C. P. of Mokelumne Hill; San Joaquin Republican, Oct. 20, 1853, correspondence from Sonora, Tuolumne Co.
Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush by Susan Lee Johnson. Norton.