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Stories of Mexican California

The Tuolumne County Museum will present a new exhibition that highlights the true stories of California’s Mexican period, which lasted from 1822-1846, and holds them up alongside the fantasy depictions used by early stakeholders, who viewed California’s history through the lenses of their own experiences and chose to present narratives that suited their purposes. 

One of the most pervasive narratives was a picture of an idyllic bygone era of ranchos where Dons and Donas enjoyed lives of abundance, a memory that fails to include native peoples, Franciscan friars, and hard scrabble facts of early settlements. 

“Telling Stories of Mexican California: Real Life & Myth Making” opens April 7 at the Sonora museum and will be on view through June 2.

The exhibit broadly outlines California’s history leading up to statehood as a backdrop to the factual and fictional stories that emerged after the US takeover. It considers nineteenth-century Mexican

American individuals and families who told their stories and looks at some of the early narratives that helped create an enduring California mythos, as well as the stories that were ignored in favor of this new, often exaggerated or fictionalized lore. When California became a state, these tales were used by boosters to draw new visitors and settlers, successfully reconfiguring a fearful foreignness into a charming regional identity, one that persists even today.

The Tuolumne County Museum is located at 158 Bradford St., Sonora. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit