powered by AFI
In Monterey, in 1852, shortly after California is made a state, the peaceful Spanish region lies helpless against the plundering of ruthless land grabbers. To protect families and property from murderous attacks, the ranchers band together as vigilantes and are led by the mysterious, masked Don Carlos. Although elderly Don Pasqual Castro urges the alcalde to use his influence to stop the vigilantes, the alcalde will do nothing to thwart the predatory raids of Joe Kincaid and his men. Kincaid files claims on local ranches that were given to various families generations before by the king of Spain, violently expelling the occupants as squatters when they are unable to provide deeds to the land. Pasqual's daughter Rosita is engaged to Don Louis Espinosa, who does not believe in taking action to thwart Kincaid, but Rosita listens to Dona Petrona, who urges taking the law into one's own hands. Rosita is, in fact, the masked Don Carlos. Juan, the bartender in the Golden Nugget, which Kincaid's men frequent, regularly sends word to Rosita of Kincaid's upcoming attacks, and Rosita sings to alert her men to assemble. From the stagecoach, Jim Kearney sees Kincaid about to be lynched by the vigilantes and saves him, believing that executions should be the government's business. That very evening Rosita transforms herself from Don Carlos to the queen of the fiesta and meets Kearney on the way to the celebration. There, she makes Kearney aware of her interest in him by dancing on his sombrero during a song. Rosita and Kearney begin to meet regularly until Pasqual makes her pledge, as a woman engaged since birth, to see him no more. Kearney, meanwhile, has become a friend of Kincaid, who is sincerely grateful to him for saving his life. Rosita learns of their fellowship and suspects Kearney is an outlaw, but is more concerned that Kearney might meet another woman. Rosita summons the vigilantes to a meeting, and when Kearney interrupts her as she is changing her dress, he assumes she is Don Carlos' mistress. Upon arriving at the rendezvous, the vigilantes take Kearney prisoner, and when Rosita releases him, they disband, assuming she has betrayed them. Frisco, a recently released convict, informs Kincaid that Kearney is a federal agent. Rosita is warned by Juan that Kincaid is planning a final raid, and as Kearney finally realizes that Rosita is Don Carlos, he joins the vigilantes in the defense of the Pasqual ranch and kills Kincaid and defeats his forces.