Overall, reading The Squatter and the Don, has been an eye-opening experience for me culturally. Even before we started reading the book for class, I found that this is a topic that I can say I can “identify” with not because I have any relations with the descent and historical background of the people in the story, but because California is a place that I frequent when school is not in session. I was excited to keep reading the novel because the place that are mentioned in the book like Napa, Sonoma, Alameda and so forth are places that I always pass or see when I’m in California when I visit my family.
Another thing I realized from this is that of the many times that I stayed in California, I never bothered to look up the history and how California was previously a territory, or it was previously Mexico. I would see places with names as Corte Madera, Palo Alto, El Cerrito, Embarcadero and just thought to myself “it’s so amazing how this place has so much Spanish influence because of Mexicans” without digging deeper into what actually happened back then.
We have mentioned in class that the reason for this inequality is a matter of a “system” problem rather than a “personal” problem. In my opinion, it goes back to being a personal problem. People who are in charge and who have the power are responsible for their greed and injustice. I think a unit that is made up of mostly selfish and prejudiced individuals will eventually make up a corrupt system. As it says in the book, “Bribery has been at work… successfully”. This then just goes on as long as individuals are willing to participate.
One of the parts of this book that I find really interesting is how the women aren’t allowed to have their say when the squatters would “assemble” and conduct their meetings. When Doña Josefa expressed her reasoning as to why he asked Clarence to pay Don Mariano, there was an element of irony as to how the one who had the least heard opinion had the most sensible thought. The contrast between Mrs. Darrell and Mercedes was also very interesting to me. Although they weren’t both matriarchal images in the novel, it shows how the representation of the female gender is in a wider spectrum. There is Mercedes, who is mostly emotion-driven and then there’s Mrs. Darrell, who is more of a rational image in the novel.
In my opinion, one of the reasons why everyone just gets sick towards the end of the book is because of the fact that we are all in a corrupt society and that we have the ability to “infect” each other. When one of the units of society crumbles down, or becomes corrupt, then we can see a divide and a sickness affects everyone, whether you are in the wrong or in the right.