Just when you think you have a legend figured out, that old anti-deconstructionist Gustavo Arellano throws a change-up that leaves you swinging at thin air. Punning off the title of a Brad Pitt Western, Arellano's O.C. Weekly piece, The Assassination of Sheriff James Barton by the Mexican Juan Flores, looks at mid-19th-century California bandito Juan Flores, and the
Churrigueresque wall of fantasy and propaganda that has been erected around Flores, who was arrested in 1857 for ambushing a sheriff's posse not far from present-day Irvine. (See first reader comment below.)
While not quite as well known as Joaquin Murrietta or Tiburcio Vasquez, Flores' reputation as a prodigious lover and potent political symbol grew after he was lynched at Los Angeles' Fort Moore, whose location is now marked on Hill Street by a huge bas relief monument. (You know, that place you park to go to the Cathedral because the Church charges too much.)
Illustration by Mark Andresen
Arellano's piece documents Flores' mythological trajectory, from Dead Outlaw to Romantic Anti-Hero to Chicano Guerrilla. By the end of the article we're left wondering how accurate any historical account of any individual or event can be. Or, for that matter, how more correct would our understanding of Flores be if he had lived in the age of the Internet? Perhaps we'd know even less of the real man than from reading the lurid Wild West accounts that followed in the 50 years after his death.