In reading the last half of The Squatter and The Don, I noticed repeated mention of corruption, greed, abuse of power, and violent acts committed onto one another. This concluding half, filled with suspense and action, concludes gloomily as it expresses the deep-seated fault of the American government; legislature and elite economic interest are undoubtedly intertwined.
The suspense of the latter half of the book begins with the violent argument of Mr. Darrell and Don Mariano. As Gasbang, Mathews, and Hughes tell Mr. Darrell about the “shady” business dealings between Clarence and the Don, Mr. Darrell wholeheartedly believes that Don Mariano required Clarence to pay for Mercedes’s love. Rash decisions are made and the confrontation of Mr. Darrell and the Don tells of a societal imbalance of power at this moment in history. Mr. Darrell cracks the whip, aiming to injure the Don. Though this moment is out of rage and a simple communication error, I believe there is a deeper message. The Don, wealthy and a legal land-owner, should be more “powerful” than the squatter, Darrell. However, in this instance, the whip represents societal power being exercised by a white man over a Hispanic man. This strongly related to the squatter laws, which aimed to disproportionately discriminate against Mexican-American families. It’s comfortable to think that in the eyes of the law, all people are equal. However, law and society are not colourblind and in 19th century San Diego, on the Alamar Rancho, this inequality is enacted upon as a white man asserts his dominance, like his ancestors before him.
As this book is full of heinous acts coming to fruition, it continues as the squatters Gasbang and Hogsden with the help of corrupt lawyer, Roper, pursue the house of the recently deceased Mr. Mechlin. This utter disregard for a grieving family and desire to reprimand the home of a dead man is disheartening and shows the reader the wickedness of humans. Roper is the epitome of corruption, greed, and egocentricity as he boasts that he “has the Court in [his] pocket”. Ruiz de Burton displays Roper as an utterly horrible human being but warns that humanity could soon be (if not already) infested with these abhorrent minds. If a society is filled with these sorts of people, there is no telling what that could do to say… The legal system of a nation.
Finally, The Squatter and the Don demonstrates how government carries the fate of its citizens in its hands and how a corrupt government can ruin the well-being of the vast majority. As the Don and friends meet with Governor Stanford to discuss the Texas Pacific Railroad, they are confronted with the same corruption and greed we have seen before. However, this selfishness has damning consequences because the simple actions of governors, congressmen, and lawmakers can build up or tear down a nation. Ruiz de Burton, through Governor Stanford, shows that greed can hurt people on a very personal scale, but giving these self-serving individuals the power of an office can harm the very fabric that holds society together. The greased pockets and egoistic mind of Governor Stanford saw “grass grow over” the plans of the Texas Pacific, depriving countless souls of a promised future. The evils that plague our world are unsettling, disturbing, and often frightening. However, as a nation, united by our values, beliefs, and morality, and strengthened by literary works like The Squatter and the Don, we must prohibit these selfish souls from attaining a position to inflict generational trauma through laws and political policy.