Sep 24, 2020 - Sale 2546

Sale 2546 - Lot 37

Price Realized: $ 1,875
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
(CALIFORNIA.) Eustaquio Carvajal. A letter from a desperate Mexican Forty-Niner hoping to return home. Autograph Letter Signed to don Guadalupe Guerrero in Cocula, Jalisco. 3 pages, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, on one folding sheet, with address panel and faint inked Mexican postmark on verso; seal tears, minor wear at folds. "Camp Americana de California," 3 August 1850

Additional Details

Thousands of foreign nationals came to California during the Gold Rush in the middle of the nineteenth century, including many Mexicans--California having been part of Mexico until 1848. This letter is from one such prospector, Eustaquio Carvajal, who sailed with two others from Mexico and made his way to Campo Americano in what is now Jamestown, CA. Hoping to strike it rich, Eustaquio and his comrades instead found poverty, hunger, and despair in the Golden State. This letter tells his tale of failure, and asks his friend Guerrero to instruct his wife to pawn off some of their belongings to obtain the needed money for a return passage.
The bad luck started from the very beginning, as the arduous journey to California by sea took 64 days due to 'bad winds.' Things only got worse when they arrived in California and began a futile search for gold: 'instead of finding anything, we owe $60.' The trio ended up having to work for an American, but the wages were so meager that they had only 'barely enough to eat poorly.' 'Only God,' a starving and impoverished Eustaquio wrote, could change his bad fortune. The three had enough and were determined to go back to Mexico as soon as Eustaquio's wife could arrange for it. Eustaquio had his letter hand-delivered to Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, from where it was sent by post to Guerrero in Cocula; as Eustaquio explained, this was because the mail system in California was notoriously unreliable. This letter gives an invaluable and rare perspective on the forgotten Latin American experience during the California gold rush.