Economic Effects of the California Gold Rush on Mexican Californians?
Anywhere “gold discovery” is mentioned, feelings of a desire to partake in the exploitation of this wealth may be felt. However, as desirable as this may seem, the lives of others may be threatened by this “good news.” This is not far from what happened in California in the 1800s. Specifically, the gold rush happened in the 17th century, and lasted for 7 years, from 1848 to 1855.
This event changed the lives of many. For prospecting groups and individuals, this presented them with an opportunity to excavate the gold mines and make fortunes for themselves, while for the natives and early settlers like the Mexican Californians, this single event led to the decimation of their populations and the loss of properties. The California gold rush started with the discovery of gold by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill, Coloma.
What followed after the discovery of this gold was unprecedented, as people from all over the United States and beyond flocked to the mines to make wealth for themselves. This situation was good for the American economy as more money came into circulation, leading to the creation of jobs. However, the same was not true for Mexican Americans found within this territory.
Initially, the gold in California was mined by people living in California including Mexican Californians who made a lot of money mining this precious metal as it was easily mined then. What followed was an overwhelming number of people pouring in from within and outside the United States. This situation created a competition for scarce resources as everyone wanted to participate in the search for gold. When the competition for this scarce commodity got stiffer, it had to give way to the survival of the fittest.
The name Forty-Niners or 49er came about during the California gold rush. This was a popular name for people who took part in the gold rush in 1949. These group of people where largely responsible for the genocide which took place in California. Mexican Californians and other indigenous groups were pushed off their lands and killed. This devastation occasioned by the discovery of gold led to a severe decline in their population.
However, other factors also contributed to the decline in population through deaths. There were widespread cases of diseases and starvation. The population explosion was so huge and uncontrolled that it led to competition and diseases occasioned by dismal living conditions which plagued California.
The Effects of the Population Explosion
A resulting effect of the California gold rush was a high population. This population would require to be fed, hence, there was an increase in agricultural and ranching activities to meet up with the food needs of the increased population. Towns and cities also resulted from this expansion in population. One of such was San Francisco which was then a little settlement of just 200 people.
Other things necessary to the welfare of the population such as educational institutions, roads and churches were established. As people made their way from across the United States and the world to California, a lot of hazards were encountered on the way, some of which were cholera and typhoid fever among others. These were part of the diseases transferred to Mexican Californians by the 49ers. This meant that Mexican Californians faced all sorts of hazards which included extermination from diseases as well as genocide.
Why the Natives were Targeted
After gold had been exhausted from the easy to access areas, there was an increased difficulty in getting this precious metal and in a bid to protect their interests, and increase their chances of prospecting gold, foreign gold prospectors were driven out through legislation as well as through organizing attacks on them. The natives were the most hit in this situation, as they were driven out of their traditional hunting and food cultivation grounds.
This action however, was met with resistance, but they were eventually overpowered and driven out of their ancestral lands gold prospecting companies. This resulted in many dying of hunger and starvation due to their inability to return to their lands.
The high traffic of migrants from many countries across the world led to the development and population build-up in California, a situation which saw California become one of the most ethnic diverse states in the United States. This situation has lasted beyond the gold rush period, and still holds true to this very day.
As can be seen from the events of 1848 to 1855, a particular condition can be seen as an opportunity to a group of people, while to another, this can be a dangerous situation. This was what happened in California during this time. The situation brought immense riches to the United States and the 49ers, while on the other hand, the Mexican Californians and other indigenous groups suffered immensely.
This article; what effect did the California gold rush have on Mexican Californians has provided insight into what actually transpired, as there are usually several questions asked on the events of the gold rush of the 17th century.