“Traitors! We should have done more to stop them.” Sparrow could not stop herself from blurting out her feelings.
The ominous presence of an American warship in the harbor and the troops on the ground discouraged anyone else from disputing Fremont’s pronouncements of victory. American soldiers carried drums strapped to their shoulders. A steady beat made everyone in the crowd anticipate something big was about to happen. Jugs and bottles were shared. Pistols were blasted in celebration. Sparrow watched as American soldiers disarmed the shooters with subtle control.
“Hush! You could make trouble for all of us,” Valdez said. “Now is the time to listen, Sparrow. Then we will figure out what we can do.”
They were soon joined in the school by Alicia, Mama Nina, and Señora Tenorio.
“Look, Mama.” Sparrow had never witnessed such a large gathering—Californios, Americans, soldiers, farmers. “Where are the Native people?” She knew they hid in the shadows or in the hill country, where they could wait out the changes and judge the objectives of these rulers.
At the dock, the Americans continued to make pronouncements. “It is clear to all that the war between the United States and Mexico is over and the Americans are victorious. A peaceful transition is at hand. Today, we begin the process of transforming this neglected territory of Alta California into a peaceful and prosperous land for all under the rule of a new nation,” Fremont declared. “We offer friendship over conquest, service over servitude, and progress over poverty.”
“It doesn’t sound so bad, does it?” Josefina seemed impressed by Fremont’s remarks. Half the crowd was already nodding in agreement with Fremont.
“Time will tell us what their true intentions are. Just listen,” Valdez said.
“The Honorable Pio Pico, the governor of Baja California, will serve as the civil and military leader for the entire territory during this transition.” The crowd murmured and looked at each with anxious glances.
“Where is Governor Alvarado now?” Sparrow asked, remembering his escape from Rancho Duran. It seemed so long ago.
“In the spirit of cooperation, I call on a loyal American, John Johnson, to join me here,” Fremont said.
Sparrow heard her father’s name and froze in place. “He is being rewarded when he should be punished for his part in this takeover.”
“I also ask your local leaders to join our Constitutional Transition Committee: Señor and Señora Tenorio and Clara Ortega,” Fremont added. “Today, we raise the new flag of this territory.” By now, the crowd at the docks was cheering.
“That’s an old trick, getting the conquered to join you.” Valdez’s words were bitter. Sister Placida remained calm and fingered her rosary beads.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish