Curse of the Cahuenga Pass Treasure
L.A. Then and Now / Cecilia Rasmussen January 23, 2000|
To the tens of thousands of commuters suffering through the traffic jams on the Hollywood Freeway, congestion is the curse of the Cahuenga Pass. Few, if any, realize that their route is burdened with an ancient legacy of greed and mystical misfortune every bit as tantalizing--and deadly--as the fabled curse attached to the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb.
The curving Cahuenga Pass, also known as El Portozuelo, (The Little Doorway), was an Indian trail followed by such early California explorers as Don Gaspar de Portola, Juan Bautista de Anza and Kit Carson. Ultimately, the stretch of trail was incorporated into El Camino Real, colonial California's north-south thoroughfare.
The chilling story of its curse began in 1864, when a fugitive Mexican shepherd named Diego Moreno claimed to have buried what was almost literally a king's ransom alongside the trail.
The story of Moreno's treasure was set in motion earlier that year, when the French installed Archduke Maximilian of Austria and his wife, Carlota, as emperor and empress of Mexico. The country's president, Benito Juarez, launched a fierce resistance to the imposition of monarchy on his people.
After amassing more than $200,000 in gold, diamonds, pearls and other heirlooms, four trusted Juarez agents set out for San Francisco to buy guns for the democratic struggle. But before they reached their destination, one of the aides died a sudden and mysterious death, the first of many. Suspicion of foul play at the hands of French secret agents kept the remaining three alert for the rest of their journey.
Arriving in the Bay Area, they found the place crawling with French spies and quickly headed for the hills of San Mateo. Dividing their funds into sixths, they wrapped each portion in buckskin and buried it deep in the ground.
Unnoticed, Moreno had observed the men. After they left, the immigrant shepherd unearthed the bundles. Rejoicing at his amazing luck, he headed south to his home in Mexico.
When the four agents returned to claim their cause's funds, they discovered the theft and began to suspect one another. Two of the agents argued and ended up killing each other. The third agent was exonerated in their deaths, but would later die breaking up a fight in a bar he owned near Tombstone, Ariz.Linkback:
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