What will you think when there comes the day that you know you will pass away soon? I had imaginations of saying peaceful goodbyes to my loved ones. If I worked hard enough and accumulated some wealth, I would also ask myself the cliché but essential question: how should I divide my money? I was attracted to The Will of Cristobal Dominguez from almost two-hundred years ago in January 1825. Himself once a soldier in Spanish army, Cristobal (1761-1825) lived an honored and affluent life along with his possessional of a rancho called San Pedro.
This official document was written under Cristobal’s will, and his son Manuel Dominguez signed the document on January 5th. As described in the beginning of the document, similar to his uncle’s, Cristobal was extremely and unable to physically write the document himself, but it was claimed that his “senses and memory and believing” were clear enough to make these judgments. In Juan Jose Dominguez’s Will (1809), Rancho San Pedro was not specified to be passed to Cristobal. It was successfully declared by Cristobal in 1823, only two years before his Will and passage. Cristobal thus became the biggest beneficiary as the owner. Manuel, who signed Cristobal’s will, later also became the most influential one among his siblings. Hence, it raises the question of whether or not the clauses in the document are authentically drafted and truthfully convey the will of the deceased?
Nonetheless, the document still reflects religious and social issues in the early 1800s. In the beginning of his will, Cristobal expressed his gratitude and respect to Roman Catholic and Jesus Christ. It shows the strong influence of the missions and its influence on social order in Mexican California. Unlike his uncle, who was a bachelor with no children, Cristobal was married with Maria de los Reyes Ybanez (1763-1834), and they were lucky enough to had nine children, though of which only six survived. As mentioned by Acuna in Occupied America, it was a “badge of honor” to have a large family for who could afford it. It could be told from this document that Dominguez family was very influential and affluent at that time. Indeed, even when this Will was written, Maria was pregnant again as mentioned in the ninth clause. Hence, it reflects the endeavor of people at that time to have a more extended family.
Throughout this Will, it could be seen that Cristobal trust his wife and his son Manuel the most. Cristobal granted the right to in charge of his property to his wife and only allow partition among children once they got married. Comparing to the unfair treatment like sexual violence and “commercialization” of women’s marriage under Spanish-Mexican rule, Maria had relatively higher than average role over her family and property. This could be a sign of later rise of female rights starting in more well-off families.
Despite the question raised against the document’s true reflection of Cristobal’s will, this piece encompasses historical circumstances of Mexican American and transaction of lands in the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Moreover, it reflects religious impacts, social and genders issues of that generation. After all, what be left to history when one passed away and what will be his will?
Acuna, Rodolfo, “California Lost: America For Euroamericans”, Occupied America 4th ed., P133, 2000, accessed April 10th 2019.
History of Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, accessed April 24th 2019, https://dominguezrancho.org/domingo-rancho-history/ [Will of Cristobal Dominguez], Jan, 1825.