Bandidos existed in the 1800s, but the modern caricature of these nineteenth-century southwestern bandits as mere criminals is not quite accurate.
To some, the bandidos were heroes. Also known as desperadoes, from the Spanish word desesperado (“desperate man”) they began their outlaw careers in the 1850s. They included Juan Cortina in Texas and Joaquin Murieta, Juan Flores, and Tiburcio Vasquez in California.
Robbing, killing, rustling cattle, destroying property, the bandidos made Anglos and rich Mexican Americans quake in their boots.
The rural poor, however, honored the bandits as rebels, providing them shelter from the law. Murieta was compared to Robin Hood, while people whispered of a “Juan Flores Revolution.”
Vasquez was quoted as saying, “Given $60,000, I would be able to recruit enough arms and men to revolutionize Southern California.”