The Zorro story, invented in 1919 by pulp fiction author Johnston McCulley, tells the tale of an aristocrat in Spanish California who dons a mask to fight against corrupt colonial officials on behalf of the oppressed.
Zorro became the subject of a hit silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks in 1920, and went on to become one of the biggest pop culture franchises of all time. It inspired dozens of remakes, TV series, books and comics across the globe. Perhaps more importantly, Zorro went on to influence the American super hero tradition as a model for characters like Batman, Superman and the Lone Ranger.
But McCulley didn’t pluck Zorro out of thin air. The character was based on several real-life Spanish and Mexican outlaws who operated in the West, including Joaquin Murietta and Juan Cortina. These figures weren’t always fighting on the side of the United States.
Marlon Bishop is a radio producer and journalist with a focus on Latin America, New York City, music and the arts. He got his start in radio producing long-form documentaries on Latin music history for the public radio program Afropop Worldwide. After a stint reporting for the culture desk at New York Public Radio (WNYC), Marlon spent several years writing for MTV Iggy, MTV”s portal for global music and pop culture. Marlon has also lived and traveled all over Latin America, reporting stories as a freelancer for NPR, Studio 360, The World, the Village Voice, Billboard and Fusion, among other outlets. He is currently a staff Producer for Latino USA.
Photo: Movie poster for 1920 film The Mark of Zorro, courtesy of Wikipedia