The World Rushed In

According to Enos Christman, editor of the Sonora Herald, the first newspaper in the Southern Mines, Sonora received more than its share of the unparalleled tide of cultural dissimilitude. In 1851 – using some of the derogatory terms that reflected the prevailing attitudes of the Gold Rush – Christman described the eclectic human potpourri as follows:

“Sonora is a fast place and no mistake. Such a motley collection as we have here can be found nowhere but in California. Sonora has a population hailing from every hole and corner of the globe- Kanakas (from Hawaii), Peruvians, Negroes, Spaniards, Mexicans, Chilians, Chinese, British convicts from New South Wales, known as ‘Sidney Birds’, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Dutch, Paddies (from Ireland), and not a small sprinkling of Yankees, We have more gamblers, more drunkards, more ugly, bad women, and larger lumps of gold, and more of them, than any other place of similar dimensions with Uncle Sam’s dominions.”

Even the architecture reflected the cosmopolitan diversity of Sonora’s residents. From J.D. Borthwick, an authoritative Gold Rush chronicler, we learn that, in 1852, houses were made of wood, canvas, and sun-dried bricks. Borthwick states that, “Ornament seemed to have been as much consulted as utility, and the different tastes of the French and Mexican buildings were very plainly seen in the high-peaked over hanging roofs, the staircases outside the houses, the corridors round each story, and other peculiarities,” including colorful paint. Borthwick also says that the American houses tended to more pretentious, with white, rectangular false fronts that,”…gave the idea of a much better house than the small rickety clapboard or canvas concern which was concealed behind it.”

Today, Sonora continues to reflect its multi-cultural past, still evident in its architecture, in its street and business names, and in the proud descendants of its pioneers. Over one hundred and fifty years after its tumultuous beginnings, the city now welcomes the world of tourism, inviting them to share its history, without barriers created by language, culture or religion.