The Legacy of the Fox:
A Chronology of Zorro
by Matthew Baugh
(with updates and additions by Win Eckert)
There are several problems with writing a history of Don Diego De La Vega, better known as El Zorro. In this case the problem comes, not from too little information, but from too much. Since Johnston McCully wrote The Curse of Capistrano in 1918, there has been a small flood of sequels and retellings of the legend of the masked rider. Unfortunately, these different versions have usually been created with little concern to remaining true to what has come before. Even the stories of Zorro creator McCully are filled with numerous inconsistencies. This raises a number of problems for any biographer, particularly when setting the date of the stories.
Most versions follow the original Walt Disney series, which was set in the 1820s. This is true of the silent film The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks, the Topps Comics series, and all of the television versions. While widely agreed on though, this date may actually be a little late from a historical perspective. Mexico won its independence from Spain, and control of California in 1820. Most Zorro stories make reference to California being a Spanish possession and this argues for an earlier date.
McCully is not a great deal of help, for his California combines aspects of several historical periods. He gives partial dates in several stories, stating that Zorro Rides Again takes place "...in "17," and The Sign of Zorro "...about 1800..." However, in The Curse of Capistrano, Fray Felipe complains that the secularization of the missions has been going on for twenty years. If this is true, the story would be set in the mid-1850's.
A solid date shows up in the serial Zorros Fighting Legion, which is set in 1824. Legion involves Zorro with the early government of Benito Juarez, and could hardly have occurred at any other time. Using this as an anchor, the most likely time-line would be that set out in the movie The Mask of Zorro, in which Diego first became Zorro in 1806.
In putting forth the following chronology, I have tried to reconcile as many versions of the Zorro story as possible while staying true to the legend. I have found Sandra Curtis excellent book, Zorro Unmasked: The Authorized History, to be extremely helpful, and recommend it highly to all Zorro fans. I would be happy to hear from anyone who has any comments or corrections on my speculations.
A Chronology of Zorro
The pueblo of Riena de Los Angeles is founded.
Don Alejandro de la Vega and his wife Chiquita de la Cruz come to California.
Don Diego de la Vega is born (Diego is 24 in the first story) - he is the son of Don Alejandro and Chiquita.
Diegos mother dies sometime during his childhood, and he is sent to Madrid to complete his education. (Chiquita's death is established in the McCully stories and repeated in the Disney series and elsewhere. Chiquita's appearance in the 1940 movie The Mark of Zorro is fictitious.)
Lolita Pulido is born (Lolita is 18 in the first story.)
Diego returns to find that his father, who had been alcalde, has been replaced by the corrupt Luis Quintero. Quintero and the brutal garrison commander, Captain Juan Ramon, are exploiting the peasants, the priests, and the Indians. Diego poses as a harmless fop so that he can battle Quintero and Ramon in the guise of El Zorro. (The Curse of Capistrano, filmed several times as The Mark of Zorro, The Bold Caballero, and other titles.) Quintero's name is revealed in the 1940 version of The Mark of Zorro but the idea that he is Lolita's father is fictitious.)
Diego defeats his enemies, and is set to marry Lolita, but a vengeful Ramon enlists the aid of the pirate Bardosa, and Zorro must defeat them before the marriage can take place. (The Further Adventures of Zorro by McCully.)
Lolitas health fails, and she is taken back to Spain for a three year recuperation. Diego continues to ride as Zorro, and most of the McCully short stories published in West magazine occur during this time. This is also the period when the episodes of the Disney Zorro television series occur. Zorro's main nemesis during these early years is Capitán Monastario.
(Approximate date) Don Diegos maternal uncle, Estevan de la Cruz, comes to Los Angeles to seek his fortune. He is discouraged in his dishonest efforts by Zorro and leaves California. (As seen in the Disney television series Zorro.)
Diego travels to the Old World to retrieve his bride. While in France, he has an adventure with the descendants of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan (New World Zorro television series episode, "The Three Musketeers.") He also encounters the vampire Dracula in Spain and France. (This story appears in the Topps Comics miniseries Dracula vs. Zorro. The year 1809 seems likely, for Zorro had reason and opportunity to travel to Spain then. In 1810 a wave of revolutions through Mexico and Latin America made travel to Spain rare and difficult.)
Diego returns to California with Lolita and retires as Zorro to prepare for his wedding. Unfortunately, a false Zorro appears and and the real Zorro is accused of the impostor's crimes. The true Zorro rides again to thwart the plot (Zorro Rides Again by McCully).
Diego and Lolita wed. Sadly, Lolitas health is still fragile and she dies of a fever after only a season.
Don Estevan settles somewhere in the American West and marries a rich young widow. The couple has a daughter who will marry an American named Stewart. Their son will be Jeff Stewart, the hero of the Republic serial The Son of Zorro. (This account is not found in any of the Zorro stories. It is my own hypothesis to explain Jeff Stewarts assertion that Zorro was a distant relative on his mothers side.)
Diego is still in mourning for Lolita when Zorro must ride again (The Sign of Zorro by McCully). During the course of this adventure he meets, and becomes engaged to, Panchita Canchola.
Diego marries Panchita, and goes into a semi-retirement retires as Zorro, riding only when absolutely needed.
(Approximate date) Panchita dies giving birth to a son, Don Cesar de la Vega.
Diego dons the mask of Zorro once again to challenge further depredations by Capitán Monastario.
The events of the Topps Comics ongoing Zorro series, which lasted eleven issues. The comics fall under the umbrella title Zorro's Renegades, and introduces the character Lady Rawhide, who goes on to lead in two comics mini-series of her own. For more on Lady Rawhide, click here.
The events of Zorro and the Jaguar Warriors by Jerome Preisler, a novel published in 1998.
Zorro and the Dragon Riders by David Bergantino, published in 1999.
Zorro and the Witch's Curse by John Whitman, published in 2000.
Mexico wins its independence from Spain.
The events of Tusk Envy and Dead Body Rising by Don McGregor and Thomas Yeates, from Zorro: The Dailies - The First Year.
California is the last territory to accept independence from Spain. Ironically, Mexican rule will eventually prove to be harsher than Spanish rule for the Californios.
Diego becomes involved in thwarting a plot against Mexican president Guadalupe Victoria involving a man posing as the Yacqui Indian deity "Don del Oro." He resumes his identity as Zorro, this time enlisting a legion of masked caballeros as his allies. (The Republic serial Zorro's Fighting Legion. In the movie, the Mexican President is wrongly identified as Benito Juarez. Actually Juarez was not president until 1861-72.)
Diego returns home to find Los Angeles suffering under the boot of the harsh new presidio commandante Rafael Montero. Zorro becomes Montero's enemy and Diego becomes Montero's rival for the affections of a woman named Esperanza. (Montero and Esperanza appear in the movie The Mask of Zorro, though the dates the movie lists are incorrect, as the entries for the Murieta brothers will show. Furthermore, Montero ultimately answers to Mexico, not Spain, as stated in the film.)
(Approximate date) Diego takes on Don Cesar as an "apprentice Zorro." (A highly fictionalized version of this period was seen in the television series Zorro and Son with Don Cesar's name erroneously reported as Don Carlos.)
This is also probably the year that famed bandit Joaquin Murieta was baptized. (Joaquin and his younger brother Alejandro are important characters in the movie The Mask of Zorro.)
(Approximate date) Don Cesar travels to Spain and becomes involved in a tangled intrigue. Diego travels to Spain to help clear him of the murder of an archduke. (The movie Don Q, Son of Zorro.)
(Approximate date) Diego returns from Spain and marries Esperanza. Montero is convinced that he is really Zorro, but cannot prove it.
A daughter, Elena, is born to Diego and Esperanza.
California revolts against Mexican rule and Montero is forced to flee to Spain, but not before a final conflict with Zorro. Esperanza is killed, Diego is imprisoned, the de la Vega hacienda burns, and Montero takes Elena to be raised as his own daughter. (This occurs in the prelude of the movie The Mask of Zorro, but the date of 1821 given in the movie is fictitious. The Murieta brothers had not even been born in 1821, but they're featured as young boys in the movie's opening scenes.)
(Approximate date) Jeff Stewart, is born. Jeff is the grandson of Don Estevan de la Cruz, and thus is Don Diego's 2nd cousin.
Don Cesar marries Dolores de Muro (the love interest from "Don Q"). Don Cesar is informed that Diego, Esperanza and Elena have been killed in a fire at the de la Vega hacienda. With nothing to return to California for, he remains in Spain with his bride.
There is a huge influx of Americans into California following the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill.
Joaquin Murieta and "Three Fingered Jack" are killed by Captain Harrison Love, though Alejandro survives.
Montero returns to California with a plan to carve out a kingdom for himself.
Diego escapes from prison and trains Alejandro Murieta to be the next Zorro. The two of them defeat Montero and Love, though Diego is fatally wounded in the conflict. (The Mask of Zorro.)
The events of the novel The Treasure of Don Diego by William McCay. Alejandro, when not riding as the new Zorro, is known by the name Alejandro del Castillo y Garcia. At the end of the novel, Alejandro, in accordance with Don Diego's will, changes his name to Alejandro de la Vega and inherits the de la Vega estate.
The novel Skull and Crossbones by Frank Lauria.
The novel The Secret Swordsman by William McCay.
Later in the year, Elena and Alejandro are married.
(Approximate date) Elena and Alejandro have a son, named Joaquin after his uncle. Eventually the stigma of a Spanish name in the growing American community prompts the couple to change their name to Mason. Joaquin grows up using the nick-name 'Ken' that his classmates give him. (He will eventually become the hero of the serial The Ghost of Zorro. Though she is never mentioned in either Mask or Ghost, Joaquin has a younger sister named Isabella. She is a necessary addition to the family to explain the connection of Barbara Meredith and her brother.)
(Approximate date) Don Ramon de la Vega is born to Don Cesar. His brother, Don Manuel will be born several years later. (The brothers are born about twenty years after the wedding of Don Cesar and Dolores, so they may be the product of a second marriage. Even with this late date, Don Ramon would be about fifty-five when his son James was born and Don Manuel would be about seventy five when he appeared as a character in the serial Zorro Rides Again.)
Jeff Stewart returns home from the Civil War. Finding his hometown overrun by outlaws and corrupt politicians, Jeff takes on the guise of Zorro to fight for justice. (The Republic serial Son of Zorro.)
(Approximate date) Barbara Meredith is born. She is the daughter of Isabella Mason and her husband, an American named Meredith, who takes the family to the Idaho territory. Barbara is Don Diego's great-granddaughter, and she has an older brother, Randy, who was born in 1870.
(Approximate date) Joaquin 'Ken' Mason, the grandson of Don Diego, takes on the guise of Zorro to battle outlaws and to complete a telegraph line. (The Republic serial The Ghost of Zorro.)
Barbara Meredith, great-granddaughter of Don Diego, dons the Zorro-like guise of "the Whip" to battle criminals trying to prevent Idaho from becoming a state. (Barbara's brother Randy had been the original Whip. When he was killed by the outlaws in the first installment, Barbara took over the role and, eventually, defeated the villains. The republic serial Zorro's Black Whip.)
(Approximate date) James Vega is born. He is the son of Don Ramon, the grandson of Don Cesar, and the great-grandson of Don Diego. James spends his boyhood on the ancestral de la Vega land, but leaves to attend school in the city (New York?) at a young age. When we first meet him in the serial Zorro Rides Again, he has no discernible accent, and his name has been shortened to Vega. Possibly Don Ramon urged James to insure his success by taking steps to blend in with the dominant anglo culture.
(Approximate date) Diego's great-grandson, James Vega, leaves his job in the city and returns to his ancestral home. Adopting the guise of Zorro, he thwarts a gang of villains who are plotting to gain control of the new railroad under construction. (The Republic serial Zorro Rides Again.) James' father has died sometime before the story begins, and Don Miguel will soon be killed by outlaws. Don Miguel says that James is the last living descendant of the original Zorro, but it is possible that he doesn't count the Meredith, Stewart and Mason branches of the family since they do not carry the de la Vega name.
For an expanded version of the De la Vega Family Tree by Dennis Power, please click here.