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Your name is Miguel Montoya. You are a Californio (Mexican Californian) landowner in the year 1851. You were born in California and consider it your home, though you still have family in Vera Cruz, Mexico. You fought bravely for Mexico during the Mexican-American War from 1846-1848. Like other Californios you thought you had lost everything when Mexico was defeated in the war. But you were reassured by Article VIII of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that your family was safe to remain in California. Now, two years later, you are not so sure.

Your rancho of 20,000 acres was a land grant by the king of Spain to your great-grandfather for service in the army of New Spain. Your land is located in the region of Monterey, near the coast and a natural harbor. In the last two years much has changed. People are pouring into California. New Anglo neighbors have moved into your area and want to build a road to get supplies to ships in the harbor for the hungry gold miners in the Sacramento area. Since the road would cut through your land, they have offered to buy a 2500-acre section at a very good price. Since it is in the middle of your property, it would cut your cattle off from water. You have refused to sell but the road builders are beginning to clear the roadway anyway.

Families of squatters have appeared almost overnight, building lean-to shacks along the rich river bottom and are growing beans and potatoes to sell in the mining camps. You do not want them to do this but have no ranch hands to defend your land because they have gone off to the mines.

The road builders have filed a claim to the land at the Land Commission Board in San Francisco saying you don’t really own the land in question. You have no deed to the ranch since your family handed down the land to you. Your grandfather told you that you own everything from the Salinas peaks to the ocean.

You have little money saved since most of your wealth is tied up in land and buildings. The only English speaking lawyer in your area represents the road builders. Your cousin is a lawyer in Vera Cruz and has promised to help you but knows nothing of American law.

  • Should you fight the road builders in court?
  • Should you sell to the road builders and return to your family in Vera Cruz?
  • Is there anything you can do about the squatters?