Being a direct descendant of the earliest Spanish colonialists in California, I have a special interest in presenting a "genuine picture" of these families and individuals at the various historical events around the state. Generally, I admit to a certain reluctance about "farbing everything in sight" by self-appointed experts, however when it gets downright ridiculous I have to vent a little. There are a large number of period paintings, drawings, and latter photographs from which to base an impression. Sadly, the majority of what I see -- including those presenting from the Mexican-American war period -- are based, it seems, on the same prejudices and mis-conceptions of stereotypes promulgated by Hollywood and Taco Bell commercials. When I see men in mariachi band outfits posing as vaqueros or civic authorities, let alone as soldados, I cringe. Similarly, when people throw together a big straw sombrero and the obligatory white cotton pants and shirt and sandals as a "Mexican era Californian" it seems a bit absurd at best. The same is true when people show up in some version of a flamenco dancer's attire.
At a recent event commemorating one-time Governor Pio Pico, the main presenter as Pico wore a straw Panama plantation hat, a non-period white shirt and ordinary trousers, for example. This despite the fact that numerous photographs exist of Pico in which he is inevitably dressed in a full suit, vest, no hat, watch chain, and all the other accessories commensurate with a politico and gentleman of wealth and prestige. Another man, presenting as a rancho owner and aide to Pio was dressed in an extravagant mariachi suit with gigantic embroidered swirls. Again, photographic evidence of the period shows rancheros wearing somber suits with little or no embroidery or embellishments. Although many of the rancho owners were ostentatious in their display of wealth, it was almost always in throwing large fiestas and in the adornment of their saddles and horse riding gear with silver.
So, my question is -- why do these presenters to the public continue to ignore the reality and historical evidence and keep perpetuating modern stereotypes? It's not a question of budget (a mariachi suit or flamenco garb doesn't come cheaply). Again, I'm not a fanatical anti-farb thread counter, but I do think when presenting to the public a "sense of history" sense and sensibility should be emphasized.
-- William Dean