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Arroyo de Cantua historical marker.

Death Site of Mexican Robin Hood

Field review by the editors.

Coalinga, California

The historical marker "Arroyo de Cantua" is a concrete wedge with a bronze plaque affixed, an arrow pointing down the road 14 miles. That was the location of the "Headquarters of the notorious bandit Joaquin Murieta" who was killed at this site on July 25, 1853 by a posse of state rangers. California Historical Landmark #344 says he "terrorized mining camps and stage operations during his career."

At least one monument visitor disagrees with this narrative, and had painted "LIES - LIES - LIES" around the monument base (our photograph from 2013).

Historians have trouble prying apart fact from legend about Murieta (1830-1853), who probably inspired the fictional character "Zorro." The infamous Murieta (sometimes spelled with two r's or two t's) was written about in dime novels that cast him alternately as wronged vigilante, Mexican patriot, and ruthless killer. Murieta was said to have been whipped and abused by white racists, had his gold mining claim stolen, his wife raped, and his brother lynched. His gang may have attacked wagon trains and killed settlers and Chinese mine workers.

The California rangers, led by Captain Harry Love, killed three men at this approximate spot, cut the head off of one claimed to be Murieta, and stuck it in a jar of alcohol (proof to collect their reward). The head, along with a second dead bandit's hand, went on tour with Love's rangers throughout the state, a crime and punishment spectacle for a dollar a peek. "Murieta-Did-Not-Die!" rumors circulated for decades, one claiming he quietly returned to Mexico and lived another 25 years.

The pickled head was lost in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

Note: Tipster Bill Davis alerted us that there's an identical Arroyo De Cantua monument, just south on CA-33, pointing to Murieta's HQ in a different direction....

Death Site of Mexican Robin Hood

Dorris Ave., Coalinga, CA
8 mi. north of town via CA-33, north side of Rt. 198. Identical marker just south on Rt. 198.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Iron Zoo - Oil Pump ArtIron Zoo - Oil Pump Art, Coalinga, CA - < 1 mi.
Horned Toad Pump JackHorned Toad Pump Jack, Coalinga, CA - 7 mi.
Restored 1934 Richfield Gas StationRestored 1934 Richfield Gas Station, Coalinga, CA - 8 mi.
In the region:
Adohr Milkmaid and Cow, Tulare, CA - 54 mi.

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