Termed the Spanish Gone With The Wind by former TMCC Writing Conference Director Michael Croft, Widows Weeds is the true story of the life and loves of Encarnacion “Chona” Sanchez, a tempestuous woman who, at one time was the richest woman in California.
The plot centers around an historical figure whose vast Spanish land-grant estate is threatened by the death of her husband in the California Gold Rush and by the Yankee conquest. Her battles to retain control over her own life and considerable fortune in a society that granted few rights to women results in the death of thirteen men and the loss of millions of dollars as well as a way of life.
As in Gone With the Wind, the heroine is a spirited dark-haired beauty with multiple men in her life but only one true love. Just as the genteel inhabitants of the south mourned the loss of plantation society and rued the invasion of the Yankee carpet-baggers, so the Spanish Californios fight to preserve a way of life, of fandangos and vast cattle ranches, and rue the invasion of the Yankees, who were systematically stealing the Spanish land-grants.
Unlike Scarlett, the Chona of Widows Weeds – and most of the characters – are based on historical personages, the names of some of which still grace the towns of Northern California – Vallejo, Alviso, Gilroy and Fremont.
This is the story of a whole people, the Spanish Californios, in the years 1837 to 1856, told through the eyes of one remarkable woman.