If there’s historical fiction that has been a bit confusing to place in history, it’s the story of Zorro from Johnston McCulley’s serial The Curse of Capistrano. Yesterday, I attended a lecture titled “The Legend of Zorro: Myth or History?” hosted at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Sandra Curtis, author of Zorro Unmasked: The Official History, explained how McCulley borrowed the Mexican era setting of rancheros, caballeros, and corrupt governors and military to set his Spanish era superhero, thus confusing old movie fans like myself who could never quite make historical sense of the various plots.
This summer, the Mission’s special exhibit Zorro Unmasked centers around the history of the tales of Zorro, displaying the old magazines and comic books along with costumes and props from old and recent movies and television shows. I thought it was a clever alternative to the usual fare of mission and restoration history, and – dare I say it? – actually more relevant than their recent California Gold Rush exhibit.