The story of Modesta Avila – Orange County’s first convicted felon and a celebrated symbol of protest – is an enduring Early California legend that has long warranted further historical research. Author, attorney, and educator Richard Brock will tell Avila’s story at the Orange County Historical Society’s March 11, 2021 meeting at 7:30 p.m., online via Zoom.
To register, visit https://tinyurl.com/OCHSAvila
Brock’s lecture will include the findings of his article, “Modesta Again” (California History, Fall 2018) as well as even more recent significant findings about Avila’s life.
The tale of Modesta Avila has long been a potent metaphor used by scholars and activists to illustrate themes of social injustice, ethnic intolerance, railroad intransigence, the decline of the Californios, and the treatment of Hispanics following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Because her story is used to explain serious historical themes, accuracy is important. However, the story as it’s always been told was inaccurate and incomplete. Brock’s new research—using original land titles, Mexican land grants, genealogy, trial transcripts, applications for appeals to governors Markham and Waterman, the personal notes of the historian Jim Sleeper in the UCI Special Collections, and hundreds of contemporary news articles—results in a revised and compelling story that has even stronger metaphorical import.
Richard Brock holds a BA from UCI in Classical Civilization focused on Greco-Roman History, Literature, Art, & Myth. He earned an MA in Folklore and Mythology from UCLA and focused on San Juan Capistrano where he did field work with descendants of the Acjachemen, Spanish, Mexicans, and early European settlers. He also holds a JD from Western State University of Law and deploys all of these disciplines in his published papers and novels. He currently teaches law in an ABA program for paralegals at UCR, and also teaches Folklore and Mythology, the Spanish Mission System, and the Pacific Crest Trail through the Osher Foundation.
At the end of the lecture, Brock will also briefly discuss his new work of historical fiction, Laguna Diary, which features such local personalities as Delfina Olivares (storyteller and Matriarch of San Juan Capistrano) and Paul Arbiso (Mission bell-ringer and Patriarch of San Juan Capistrano).