Famous Writers and Legends about the Channel Islands
Famous Writers and Legends about the Channel Islands The Channel Islands region is rich in historical and imaginative stories - some from real life, others from the minds of well known writers, and still others passed down from generation to generation since native times.
The Chumash Rainbow Bridge legend and the Gabrielino Coyote Stories are examples of the history keeping and mythological view points of the native Channel Island inhabitants. Island of the Blue Dolphins is a tale of based on the historical accounts of The Lone Woman of San Nicolas - a true story.
The famous story of El Zorro is set during the years just before the transition from Spanish to Mexican rule. Zorro is a legendary figure who, like Robin Hood in England, helped the poor of California to overcome the oppression they experienced under tyrannical military rulers. California was still a distant outpost far from Spain, and the men who tried to rule her and own her often cared only for their personal profit and did not show compassion for the native peoples or for the poor peoples who had come to California from what is now Mexico. While Zorro is a fictional character created by Johnston McCulley in 1919, he does ride through times that were very real in the Channel region, living in Los Angeles, using San Pedro as his port, trying to outwit pirates on the Channel waters, planning events in Santa Barbara, and traveling along the Channel coastline to Monterey in the north.
During the Rancho period, whaling ships and otter from the east coast of the United States began visiting California. The experiences of Henry Richard Dana onboard the ship Pilgrim, from the east coast, were captured in his famous work, Two Years Before the Mast. He visited the Channel waters, landed in Santa Barbara, and traveled on north to San Francisco before returning home to the east coast. He describes the time of the 1830s in the Channel, noting the mysterious politics of the Mexican families, the dangerous weather on the water, and the still undeveloped landscape of the region. His book was published in 1840 and introduced the California frontier to Americans.
The famous story of Ramona, written by Helen Hunt Jackson, captures the difficult time of the Mexican Ranchos. The mission fathers turned to the rancho owners for support for their churches when Spain was no longer their patron. The rancho owners employed native peoples and Mexican field hands to run their operations, keeping a clear class distinction between the poor and the rich. The promises of finding wealth in California drew new residents from Mexico, but not many. And the plight of the native peoples grew worse and worse. Helen Hunt Jackson visited California in the late 1800s and was so appalled by the plight of the native peoples that she wrote articles to Congress and other leaders seeking help for their situation. When these letters, articles, and books failed to influence Congress, she decided to write a novel that would appeal to all Americans. That novel is Ramona, and its intent was to open American eyes to the injustices the California Indians were suffering.