Californios



Q.4 Impact of the California Gold Rush on the Californios.


The first cry of “Gold” was heard all over the world. . Fortune hunters succumbed to gold fever and flocked to the Sierra Nevada foothills in search of unlimited wealth. By 1852, about 250,000 miners pondered in California from all over the world. Due to the massive inflow of immigrants Californios became a minority. It didn’t matter that they had lived on their lands for generations. In the eyes of the majority of the new comers, the Californios were just mere “foreigners”.


As competition for gold increased, resentment toward Californios and miners from Mexico, Chile, and other Latin American countries grew. In 1850, the Foreign Miners Tax Law was introduced and firmly imposed. It meant that “foreign” miners, including Californios, had to pay $20 a month if they wanted to mine. Few miners became very wealthy while others lost what all they had. Some of the forty-niners who failed at mining wanted something to show for their troubles. Moreover, the 49ers came to California already imbued with hatred against Indians. In a climate of economic envy and racism the white miners expelled and killed Indian miners. Gold seekers silted the rivers and spoiled the salmon runs through their mining, they diminished the deer population with their hunting, and they burst into the Native Americans´ most distant sanctuaries and hiding places, expropriating Indian land and barring the natives from using it. Particularly in northern California, these intrusions prompted Indians to resist the invaders. In the 1850s and 60s whites raided Indian villages and kidnapped their inhabitants to sell them to farmers and ranchers -- peonage had been transformed into slavery. Some miners squatted, or lived on the ranchos without the permission of the landowners. Many squatters seized land violently, killing Californios’ cattle, burning crops, and chasing the homeowners out of their own homes. Others used the courts to make unfair claims on the Californios’ property.


During the California gold rush, which began in 1849, most of the Californios’ ranchos were dismantled, by hook or by crook. Yankee “Squatters” from the new country of the United States, east of the Mississippi, settled illegally on the lands. Rapidly, towns grew up on the ranchos, and the Californios were powerless to stop the development. Many of the elegant and noble Dons died in shame and poverty.