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Prospecting - Sonoran Arrastra

Many of the 5000 Sonorans who came for gold had been miners in Mexico. They brought with them the tools and techniques they had used successfully for generations.

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Sonoran ArrastraMany Sonorans used a machine called an arrastra. A mule, or the miners themselves, pulled the boom around the circle, dragging heavy stones over the quartz ore to crush it. The miners then separated the gold from the pulverized ore in wooden bowls called bateas.

Foreign Miners Tax
Americans felt threatened by the success of these experienced Sonorans. The first Foreign Miners Tax was enacted by the California Legislature in 1850. It was directed specifically at Spanish-speaking miners, and was more an attempt at driving them out than collecting revenues.

Much has been said of the amounts of gold taken by Sonorans, Chileans, and Peruvians, and Sonoran Rock Pilecarried out of the country. This alarm is without basis. The gold they mine all goes to the capacious pockets of the Americans - for provisions, clothing, and the gaming-table.- Walter Colton

Sonorans remained the object of resentment and hatred by the Americans. Although many fought back initially, most Mexicans left the gold fields by 1851 when faced with increasing violence and the exorbitant taxes.

Top: Sonoran Assastra, Photo by Christopher Richard
Bottom: Sonoran Rockpile, Photo by Christopher Richard

Chinese Camp | Arrastra | Miwok Mining Site | Coyote Hole | Long Tom

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