By Miriam Raftery
Hear our interview with Victor Crosthwaite Contreras, an actor, writer, historian and educator bringing to life early Californians from our region. Click here to listen to our interview on KNSJ 89.1 FM, and scroll down for details.
June 25, 2019 (San Diego) – In celebration of San Diego’s 250th anniversary, the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center (4355 Bonita Rd., Bonita) will present “Nuestra Frontera: Our South Bay Families at the Border” June 29 through August 24. In addition a Bonita Fest comunity celebration on July 6 will include historical reenactments. There is also a June 29 fundraiser slated to raise funds in support of these historical celebrations.
We sat down for an interview with Victor Crosswaite Contreras, a professional actor, writer, historian and educator who is a direct descendant of early Spanish soldiers heping to bring our region's colorful past to live through historical reenactments.
At BonitaFest, he will be playing the role of another of his ancestors, Bonifacio Lopez, known as the “cattle king.” San Diego’s cattle industry was once key to the world economy, Contreras notes, providing hide and tallow globally.
In our radio interview, Contreras shares insights into how terms like “cowboy” evolved, which was originally a derogative term for ethnic minorities working as ranch hands. White workers were known as wranglers or other non-pejorative terms. Tanneries were run by Pacific Islander immigrants.
Contreras shared a colorful tale of Hounds and horse thieves, about a group of vigilantes from Australia hired by San Francisco to combat crime. But many were criminals themselves, so San Francisco ultimately ousted them. Meanwhile in San Diego, Native Americans were protesting new taxes and organizing across the Southwest, led by Antonio Garza. Local volunteers organized a first strike against the Native Americans to dismantle the uprising.
The Aussie “Hounds” showed up in San Diego, sparking brawls, and Sheriff Philip Crosthwaite, another ancestor of Contreras, ordered their arrest for stealing mules and horses. The Hounds demanded he release the prisoners, and when he removed, they threatened to kill the Sheriff and burn the town. One of the Hounds shot at the Sheriff’s ches.,
“If it hadn’t misfired, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Crosswaite says. The Sheriff was reported mortally wounded, but survived and called in the military which arrested the Hounds, presenting the shooter’s amputated leg to the Sheriff as a trophy. The community donated money to deport the Hounds back to Australia.
The Nuestra Fronteras exhibit will share how the border was seen through the eyes of South San Diego locals through photos, articles, and more. Visitors will learn about families whose ancestors came to the South Bay in the 1700s during the Spanish Portola Expedition, those who owned vast ranchos in the early Calfornios period, the rise of railway barons, mining companies, the cattle industry and agriculture.
For more information on the Bonita events, visit www.BonitaHistoricalSociety.org
Contreras is also seeking schools and community groups that would like historical reenactment presentations.
In his interview, he also delved into the evolution of attitudes about the border and immigrants, which you can listen to now: Click here,
Victor Crosthwaite Contreras can be reached at (619)777-9830 or (213)700-4853.