Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mount Diablo

My favorite thing about the suburb my parents live in is Mount Diablo, an isolated mountain in the middle of the county and a state park. Seeing loom up on the horizon as you enter the town they live in is so dramatic. There is something about a mountain that is stirring and uplifting, especially when it's still in a natural state.

The name is kind of unusual (it means Devil Mountain in Spanish). According to my father, who used to be an archaeologist, it got that name because the Spanish fought a battle with one of the local Native American tribes on the slopes of the mountain. The Spanish lost. Among the Native Americans was a medicine man or shaman, and the Spanish believed their defeat was due to his evil magic powers. This story has always fascinated me, because it's not the typical one told of the interactions between the Native Americans and Europeans. I imagine the bewilderment and terror each side must have felt, as two such different cultures faced each other, the one with a shaman in full spiritual regalia, and the other with strange pale long-nosed men clad in wool and metal.

California is very different now, from either the managed wilderness densely populated by hundreds of unique tribes, or the sparsely settled ranching empire dominated by Franciscan priests, dashing Mexican cowboys, and their Indian slaves. But many of the names remain, as a reminder of what used to be.

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