La Caramboda, the Female Bandit
THE FOLLOWING story of the Mexican woman brigand, La Caramboda, appeared in the Bandera (Texas) Enterprise, July 10, 1884:
Queretaro, Mexico, June 8, 1884.—La Caramboda, the woman brigand, long a terror to travelers in this region, is dead at last, with a bullet in her heart. Her operations extended over a number of years, and were of the most daring description. For a long time, the authorities found it very difficult to trace or even to explain the crimes which she committed, for no one suspected that a woman was the guilty person. No two of her robberies were committed in the same manner. Sometimes she was a passenger and at other times she was with the bandits and took part in the shooting if any was to be done. A woman of some personal charms when appropriately dressed, she was a fiend when about her business of murder and pillage, whom very few cared to encounter. Her male assistants were many and devoted.
One of her schemes, it has been learned, was to bide her time in some town until she found one or two men of means who were going by the dillinqence to some distant point, and then to take passage with them. It is suspected that on more than one occasion she took the driver into her confidence, but when this could not be done, she readily deceived him or silenced him with a bullet. A perfect mistress of the art dissimulation, and possessing a soft and insinuating manner, she had no difficulty in working herself into the good graces of travelers, who did not look for a Mexican bandit underher attractive guise. In this way she easily discovered who had money and valuables and who had not. If she found a man who appeared to be of some consequence, but did not have much money, she betrayed him into the hands of her confederates, who held him for ransom. If her victim proved to be well supplied with cash, he generally met a violent death within twenty four hours.
Leaving a town before daybreak in company with two travelers, who she marked for robbery, she would coyly accept the customary innocent attentions at their hands, and perhaps indulge in a little conversation with them. An hour later, when well on their journey, watching her opportunity, she would draw two revolvers, and before they could detect her movement, lodged a bullet in the back of each of them. The driver, busy with his team, and perhaps paid not to be too attentive to what was going on behind his, would not disturb her. With her booty secure, she would take her time about leaving the stage, always waiting until a point convenient to the fastness of some of her confederates was reached.
It was known that the highways were infested by robbers and it was not thought strange that an occasional murder was perpetrated, but the similarity between several cases soon attracted attention, and various experiments led to the discovery that a woman, operating first on one road and then on another, was at the bottom of them. The plausible stories told by the drivers served to mystify the officers more than anything else. They always asserted that highwaymen had done the work, and if inquiry was made at one end of the route for the woman who started, it was always said that she arrived at her destination unmolested. The absence of telegraphs and of any regular means of communication made it possible to keep up this deception for a long time.
When the woman found that she was suspected, she abandoned this plan of operations, and, remaining with the robber band to which she was attached, devoted the greater part of her time to the abduction of wealthy agriculturists. Her plan in these cases was very much the same as in her stage robbery enterprises. First winning the confidence of her intended victim and getting him involved in some intrigue, she would betray him at the proper time into the hands of her associates, who would spirit him away and presently open negotiations for his return. While these were in progress she would be busy setting her net for a fresh victim a hundred miles away.
La Caramboda's latest exploit was unsuccessful. She was hovering about the San Juanico hacienda with the intention of securing the abduction of Don Vasquez, or one of his sons, when a fellow who had served in her train, deserted and communicated her secret to the authorities. They made elaborate preparations to capture her entire party, but failing in this, they made sure of her, and soon had her in irons. Hearing of her fate, her followers determined on a rescue. They pursued the officers for twenty miles, and overtaking them at Connindad, opened fire at once. The troops returned the shots and a lively engagement ensued, in the course of which three of the bandits were killed and the rest put to flight. When the troops approached their prisoner after the fight they found her dead, presumably from a bullet fired by her own friends. The chains were removed from her limbs and she was buried by the roadside. One of her captors described her as a beautiful woman, not more than thirty years old, with clear complexion and long and abundant hair, but with a wicked eye and cruel looking mouth in repose.