Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Re: Dirty Santa Cruz Secrets: Hanging on Water St. Bridge

thanks for the interest. Here are some responses to your comments.

"How do you justify criticism of these hangings as "vigilante justice" while casually dismissing the strangulation of a priest as "indigineous resistance"? What a double-standard!"

I don't use the term 'vigilante justice' but rather 'vigilante violence' - just a quick note.

It is extremely important to differentiate the indigenous killing of the Spanish priest and the white lynching of these two men. Understanding the context is vital.

While some of us may cringe at the tactics used by some native santa cruzans in attempting to end their oppression, who are we to say that they were not justified in their actions? This priest from the Santa Cruz Mission was notorious for his torture of enslaved native peoples - google it and you can find out for yourselves. The rumored reason they killed him was because they were so sick of his brutality and once they heard that he had just gotten a metal tipped whip, they decided to take action. Would you condemn a slave for killing his owner? Would you condemn those who are raped for killing their raper? If you are not careful in your critique of the tactics used by the oppressed, you become close to trying to justify the oppressor.

One might say, "yeah, I support their cause, but killing someone is just immoral" - but my question is this - what other options did they have? While the whites had a racist legal system that they knew could and would convict people of color for things they did not commit (or did not have enough evidence to prove - and even if someone was convicted, always giving unfairly harsh and racist punishment), who did people of color, especially the indigenous, have to turn to? They had no court. They had no prisons. They had no well-equipped military. All those native Santa Cruzans had was their two hands. And so who can blame them for utilizing their only tool against such horrible slavery?

Furthermore, the comparision between violent acts of resistance and violent acts of oppression is not equal. The white lynch mob had little proof of these two individuals' involvement in the killing - while the scars on their backs and the chains on their wrists was enough proof for the native santa cruzans to take action. When they took action, it was in the pursuit of freedom, but when the whites took action, in was that of oppression - to make an example to 'the others' that it was the whites who now ruled the land and they could do as they chose. The whites had other options - specifically the racist courts (frequently sending people of color off to prisons like San Quentin, where many died of diseases and other things) - if it was just the suppossed crime that they were interested in pursuing. However the fact that they (with the help/urging of The Sentinel) chose to forgoe the courts and resort to mob violence showed that it wasn't just the "crime" they were interested in.

I suggest you study the writings of Ida B. Wells (including her Autobiography) and the horrific lynchings of specifically black men (although some black women were lynched too, rape was the oppressive tool used more often) in U.S. History. You'll find that a lot of times the "crime" the whites accused them of was that of raping a white woman. However, many times these crimes were never committed and/or were attempts to save the reputations of white women who had consentual sex with black men.

If you study U.S. History in general, you'll see the continued presence of supposed "crimes" as a way to persecute and/or eliminate various oppressed peoples. Another example of this would be the anti-Chinese movement in Santa Cruz where opium (which was smoked by many Chinese elders and did not harm anyone) was consciously criminalized so that whites could incarcerate and raid Chinese communities.

Don't look just at the crimes. Look at the context. Look at the history. Look at both sides of the story.

"I'm wondering if you have the text that justifies these actions as you have written. i'd like to read it for myself."

The Santa Cruz Sentinel text that justifies the lynching can be found at the main Santa Cruz Library. Ask for the microfilm section and pull out the year 1877 for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Then look at May 5th's edition. I don't have the exact page on me right now, as I'm out of the state, but it's not too hard to find.

I'd also suggest looking through the old editions of the Santa Cruz Sentinel especially in regard to the anti-Chinese movement and other lynchings. Ask the Reference desk at the library for a book that has a list of subjects in the Sentinel - search for anything that looks interesting. Keywords: Crimes, Lynching, Chinese, Killing, Murder.

If you don't have the time or will to do this, the rest of the article basically had a few comments from a few local whites - none from any people of color - and talked about some of the 'crimes' that Arias and Chamales had been imprisoned for. It also talked about some 'crimes' that their siblings had been presumed to have done.

The fact that the Sentinel made up the whole story of the 'receiving the letter under the door' shows that they were involved in the lynching themselves. The fact that they did not condemn the lynching (as other papers around the country did) demonstrated they supported the actions. And the fact that their article does not interview anyone that did not support the lynching shows the historical legacy of terrible, bias, and racist news reporting. I wish I could say things have drastically improved.

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