In the 1870s H.H. Bancroft employed bilingual scribes to visit elderly Californios and record their oral histories. Two of his best sources were Juan Bautista Alvarado and his uncle, just one year older, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Both supplied extensive insider information on the political struggles of the Mexican period and were later the subjects of academic biographies. Each of the two texts occupies five manuscript volumes or five microfilm reels.

Perhaps surprisingly, the memories of Alvarado and Vallejo, unlike those of many less-known Californios (for example, see Testimonios by Beebe & Sencewicz and Californio Voices by Mora-Torres), have not yet been published. Some possible reasons, and I'm sure there are more, suggest themselves:

  • Bancroft's questions were poorly chosen
  • The documents are inconveniently long
  • The sources had forgotten crucial details
  • Their tellings were self-serving

Like many scholars before me, I am wondering if it's worth the trouble to read these documents. Citations to the manuscripts are pretty uncommon. Are the testimonials of Vallejo and Alvarado actually good sources on any particular topics?

  • 2
    Wouldn't you have to actually read the manuscripts, or at least sample them in order to have an opinion? If so, then you should seek comment from the authors who have referenced them. Feb 14 '18 at 19:18

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