Summary Tiburcio Vásquez was born in Montery in 1835. When Vásquez was 17 (1852) he was introduced to crime by his cousin, Anastacio Garcia. Tiburcio Vásquez stole horses, cattle, money and property and was hanged for murder.
Biography In 1857 he was caught stealing horses and sentenced to prison at San Quintin. He helped organize four prison breaks which left about 20 dead. In 1859 he escaped and was re-caught while stealing horses. He was released from prison in 1863 and returned to crime. In 1867 he was caught after a failed attempt to rob a store in Mendocino County. After his release in 1870, he was wounded in a gun battle with Abelardo Salazar regarding the wife of Abelardo Salazar. In 1873 he and his gang robbed a store in Tres Pinos, killing three bystanders. In 1874 he killed a man during a stage robbery for being slow to follow orders.
His connection to Santa Cruz history was in 1870. Vásquez and his gang had many raids. After a robbery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, his gang was captured and he escaped into Santa Cruz County where he was wounded in a gun battle. He also wounded a Santa Cruz lawman. Vásquez escaped. Downtown, children would tell tourists that "the bullet fired at the bandit Tiburcio Vásquez made a hole in The Flatiron Building."1
After 20 years of being a bandit, he was tried and convicted of robbery and murder. Vásquez was hanged in San Jose, California in March of 1875 at the age of 39.
Achievements Tiburcio Vásquez is considered a folk hero by some Hispanics, and some people consider him to be an inspiration for the character of Zorro. Vásquez robbed and killed only the Gringos. The Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in Alameda County was named for Vásquez. According to their website: "Vasquez was a bold, flamboyant risk-taker who won the hearts of many “Californios” and native Americans. He was also a romantic, with a softer and more quiet side. He was a poet and spoke several languages and was a caring and giving man. He helped the poor and those in need, often supplying them food and medical aid. But most of all Mr. Vásquez was a passionate champion of the cause for the human rights of Mexican-Californians and other natives."
There are several sites named for Tiburcio Vásquez:
- Vasquez Rocks in Southern California. (Vasquez High School in Southern California is technically named for the Vasquez Rocks.)
- Vasquez Canyon in Saugus, California.
- Vasquez day use area in the Angeles National Forest.
- Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center A mental health facility in Hayward
- 1The Flatiron Building, Pacific Avenue and Front Street, by Margaret Koch, Santa Cruz Public Library, retrieved on June 21, 2011.
- Wikipedia Article: Tiburcio Vásquez