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Mexican California is a story that takes place in Alta California, a northern Mexican province during the Mexican-American war of 1846-1848. President James K. Polk, who won the presidential election on a platform of Manifest Destiny following the annexation of Texas as the 28th state in 1845, sent American forces into the territory under the leadership of General Stephan Kearney and John C. Fremont as Commodore Robert Stockton assaulted Alta California from the sea. The story unfolds with two neighboring families, the Russells and Gradillas, sharing labor and fortune near the pueblo of San Diego de Alcala. The love of young Jesse Russell and Elena Gradillas blossoms amid the increasing violence of gamberros-bad guys or rogues, jinetes de la noche-night riders, who were killing, raping, burning and pillaging Mexican families to gain their lands for wealthy land grabbers. The Lancers are involved with skirmishes between Mexican and American forces as they continue to pursue the gamberros. They finally clash resulting in dead and wounded on both sides and the Lancers return to the pueblo de los Angelos where they are nursed back to health and provided R. & R. by the Sisters of the church, Nuestra Senora la Reina, and residents of the community. After the fall of Mexico City and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago, Alfredo Sarmiento, sensing the time is ripe, arranges the assassination of the two ranchers, Joe Russell and Miguel Gradillas, in order to seize their land and coerce Elena into marriage against her will. Jesse and the Lancers return as the ceremony begins.
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