OVERVIEW OF SPANISH AND MEXICAN HISTORY OF SAN DIEGO AND POINT LOMA
This summary of historic and archaeological research on Spanish Colonial and Mexican Republic Period occupation of San Diego will explain the heritage context for Point Loma historic sites. The goal is to explain the local importance of historical events and places within the context of Spanish and Mexican government philosophies on exploring, claiming, colonizing, developing community and industry, foreign visitation, and events that led up to the Mexican War of 1846. Finally, this overview will address the diverse ethnic and gender groups in the greater San Diego and how they related to the smaller communities of Ballast Point and La Playa, the first non-native settlements of Point Loma (see Fig. 7).
Early Spanish Exploration
Fifty years after Spain conquered the region of today's Republic of Mexico, Spanish military expeditions penetrated the Pacific Coast in search of exploitable resources and routes of commercial transit to the East Indies. Under orders from the Viceroy of Mexico, Pedro de Alvarado, armadas were sent north to explore the coast of California and beyond. In 1540, One of Alvarado's officers, Hernando de Alarcon, sailed a Spanish ship up the Gulf of California, into the Lower Colorado River and returned to Mexico with tales of a large inland freshwater lake, hot deserts, and rich marine resources (Kelsey 1986:83). Two years later, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo commanded a Spanish expedition and landed to claim Upper California. Their discoveries led to colonization of 'Alta' and "Baja" California in the 18th century.
Cabrillo may have arrived in the New World around 1510 with Panafilo de Narvaez. He served in Mexico as a corporal of crossbowmen during battles in Cuba, Valley of Mexico, and Guatemala (Kelsey 1986:9). Confusion exists among some scholars as to Cabrillo's status as a Portuguese or Spanish citizen, but modern historian Harry Kelsey inferred that Cabrillo was born in Spain from the fact that Narvaez preferred to serve with men of Cuellar, a province of Spain (Kelsey 1986:11). It is said that Cabrillo distinguished himself during the battle for the Aztec capital by waterproofing Cortez' s brigantines with tallow melted from the bodies of killed Aztec warriors (Kelsey 1986:33-36), which enabled the Spanish to sail across Lake Texcoco and conquer the Aztecs in 1521.
Cabrillo rose in the ranks in the service of Pedro de Alvarado during the bloody conquest of Guatemala. He became a rich and powerful landholder, residing with his large family in the town of Santiago, Guatemala. Between 1510 and 1536, he signed and recorded his name as Juan Rodriguez. There were many soldiers with the same name serving Spain during that period.
Researchers have found no record of the name Cabrillo prior to 1536 (Kelsey 1986:62), but he may have assumed the additional name as a political identity as he rose in power in Guatemala. Under orders from Alvarado, Cabrillo had a fleet of 6 ships constructed in Guatemala to join Alvarado's 1541 Pacific Coast 13 vessel 'armada' for an exploratory expedition. Cabrillo himself commanded the galleon San Salvador.
Just prior to setting sail, Alvarado responded to an uprising at Penol de Nochistlan, where he died (Kelsey 1986:84). Legal complexities caused by Alvarado's premature death placed Cabrillo in charge of the armada. The Probate Judge assigned Alvarado's wife as Governor pro tem to administer Santiago in Cabrillo's absence. However, she died a few days later in a devastating Guatemalan earthquake. To recoup Alvarado's investments, Cabrillo buried his patron's wife and set sail under orders from the Viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza. But only his galleon and two other ships composed a smaller convey (Kelsey 1986:99, 113).
Cabrillo's expedition arrived at present day San Diego on September 28, 1542, on the eve of Saint Michael's feast day, prompting Cabrillo to name the bay 'San Miguel' (Kelsey 1986:143). The actual landing probably occurred at beach zone of the bay, rather than on steep slopes of Point Loma. Later in the voyage, Cabrillo fell on Capitana Island, now believed to be San Miguel Island, broke his leg, and died of untreated gangrene infections on January 3, 1543 (Kelsey 1986:139). His officers returned to New Spain with maps, ships' logs, and other records to be used later by cartographers to plot courses for 'Manila Galleons' crossing the Pacific to Asia.
Spain did not send later expeditions to explore California until Sebastian Vizcaino arrived in 1602 (Thompson 1991:3). During the early 17th century, Spain commissioned a number of military expeditions in search of mythical islands of silver reputed to be somewhere off the Pacific Coast. Legends held that a galleon sailing from the Philippines made emergency repairs on an island and replaced dirt in the vessel's iron stove box with soil from the island, which later flowed with silver when heated. Many Spanish explorations searched vainly for the mythological 'Islas de Plata' through the 16th and 17th century. For example, the Spanish explorer Sebastian Rodrequez Cermano landed today's Drakes Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, in 1595. Cermano was enroute to New Spain from Manila with trade goods but lost his galleon San Agustin during a November storm. Vizcaino also briefly landed on the shores of the bay marked by cartographers 'San Miguel' which he renamed 'San Diego' (Horton 1900:16). Newer records were used by Spanish admiralty to chart revised courses for 'Manila galleons' which by-passed California coasts north of Point Conception, sailing westward in open waters for the next 150 years.
Spanish Colonization of California
In the 18th century, world politics fueled by news of exploration and discoveries made by other nations concerning the East Indies, South Pacific, and Northwest Pacific alarmed the Spanish Viceroy. Spanish ships were dispatched from San Blas, New Spain in efforts to establish a military presence in today's British Columbia. Following successful 17th century colonization of Baja California by Jesuit Missionaries, the Crown colonized the northern half of Baja California with Dominican Order missionaries and assigned Franciscan priests to upper or 'Alta California'.
King Carlos III of Spain ordered Jose de Galvez, Visitor General of New Spain, to establish those California missions and presidios on the Pacific Coast to prevent Russian and English occupation (Thompson 1991:4). The first settlement in today's California was the 1769 colony at San Diego Bay. Captain Gaspar de Portola led a land expedition late 1769, preceded by a galleon reaching the bay shore in April 1769. Many of the sailors died of scurvy and were buried on the shore of San Diego Bay, several miles east of Point Loma.
Captain Portola selected a hill northeast of Point Loma, about five miles from Ballast Point and San Diego Bay for the first presidio (Black 19 13:47). The first community consisted of 130 Spaniards and an unknown number of Native Kumeyaay from the village of Cosoy. The Spanish ships San Antonio and San Carlos anchored in San Diego Bay, about one mile north of Ballast Point and created an embarcadero on the beach known as La Playa. A trail from La Playa to the Royal Presidio de San Diego de Cosoy became one of the first European graded and improved camino in San Diego built by Royal Engineers in 1805 (Black 1913: 50).
The Royal Presidio de San Diego de Cosoy changed rapidly over the years from a wooden stockade to a walled town with tall adobe walls, artillery bastions, and merchant centers. Spanish civilians, Native American laborers and traders, and soldiers conducted European-style business within the presidio walls. Once or twice a year, supply ships from San Blas, New Spain, would bring metals, cloth, ceramics, oil and liquor, paint, clothing and munitions. Agricultural products from the mission's fields and gardens provided food commodities for the small community.. Occasionally, foreign sailing ships visited the bay to obtain fresh water, medical attention, vessel maintenance and for trade.
The Kumeyaay village of Totakamalam on Point Loma is not documented in either Spanish or later Mexican records as being occupied, but Kroeber (1976:Plate 57) reports its remembered existence. This village may have been located close to the San Diego River, but no archaeological evidence exists. Delphina Cuero, a Kumeyaay from the Jamacha village (25 miles inland) recalls gathering plants on Point Loma (Shipek 1991:27). Cuero noted that the Kumeyaay word for Point Loma is Mat kun 'yil 'y' which means black earth in the distance (how it appeared from miles away). Neither Cabrillo nor Viscaino reported native settlements or camps during their early visits. Kumeyaay use of Point Loma during the 18th century probably was limited to hunting and gathering expeditions to supply more distant villages, such as Cosoy.
Conversion of Kumeyaay people really only reached those who were disenfranchised by higher standing families at Cosoy and other villages around San Diego Bay and up the San Diego River to the east. A brush ramada chapel built in 1773 on Presidio Hill served both soldiers and Kumeyaay converts (Neuerberg 1990). Conflicts between presidio soldiers, Kumeyaay, and Catholic clergy led to relocation from the brush chapel on Presidio Hill to a hill above the Kumeyaay village of nipaguay, six miles east (Black 1913).
In the 1770s, Kumeyaay people began scavenging cloth, broken glass, and ceramic sherds from the refuse pits for trade to their eastern villages and settlements. When cloth scraps were no longer available, Kumeyaay stole clothing and conflicts broke out with Spanish authorities (Smith 19 13:48). On August 15, 1774, leading Kumeyaay family leaders retaliated against punishments with an armed insurrection at the mission compound. A priest was killed and a blacksmith died from injuries. Following a second uprising in 1775, the entire mission compound was burned. The Kumeyaay were resisting the Spanish policy of encomienda (re-settlement and forced work by native peoples) which caused annihilation of many indigenous people elsewhere in New Spain, Central, and South America. In 1778, Spanish architects designed a fortified mission compound and between 1778 to 1813, the mission church was replaced or rebuilt due to earthquake damage (Neuerberg 1990).
Spanish Responses to Foreign Incursions
Rumor and fear of Russian exploration in the Northwest in the 1740s alarmed the Spanish crown, which sent Spanish warships equipped to construct a small cannon battery at Nootka to ward off the foreigners. In 1790, the Spanish artillerists defeated a British warship in a spectacular ship-to-shore battle. The 1790 Treaty of Nootka resulted in a clear dividing line between Spanish and British interests. Even though concessions allowed shared authority in the Northwest Coast, Spain ordered a military build up in the California presidios.
The School of Naval Engineers and the Hydrographic Depot began to scientifically explore and chart the Northwest from 1754 through 1787 (Higueras 1991:12). To protect the region from Russian, British, French, American, or other interests, the Royal Naval Department of San Blas sent ships to patrol the area (Higueras 1991:9-10). To further establish Spain's claim, Charles II ordered scientific explorations of Peru and Chile (1777-1787) and Charles IV ordered additional expeditions to the Philippines, New Spain, Cuba and the Northwest Coast. The Alessandro Malaspina Expedition of 1789-1794 led to intensification and reorganization of maritime trade with America and the Philippines (Higueras 1991:11). Malaspina and Jose Bustamante y Guerra spent 62 months exploring Buenos Aires, Argentina, Philippines, Mariana Islands, Vavu Archipelago, New Zealand, Australia, and Alaska. They explored the Northwest Coast in 1791. Scientific information collected by Galvez in 1769 and officers at the Presidio de San Diego de Cosoy were continuously dispatched to San Blas, Mexico and contributed to this research. Packet boats from San Blas brought news of the expeditions, as well as Asian goods from the 'Manila galleon' trade. The latter supply shipments were reduced between 1800 and 1810 due to war in Europe and internal strife in Mexico, which reduced Spanish supplies throughout California.
The Royal Presidio expanded greatly in the first thirty years. Relocation of Catholic priests and Mission San Diego five miles east up Mission Valley to the Kumeyaay rancheria of Nipaguay enabled the Spanish Army to assume control of San Diego. The wooden stockade deteriorated and new plans for adobe walls were initiated in the 1770s. The Regalamentos de 1782 issued to the governor of California resulted in a total redesign of the Presidio de San Diego to expand in size with an exterior vertical wall and two bastions on opposite corners (Thompson 1991). Construction accelerated with the arrival of a well-armed and equipped Spanish Army of Catalonian Volunteers at Monterey, half of which were assigned to San Diego. Those soldiers set to erecting adobe quarters and completing the walls.
At the same time, Spanish authorities established crystallized control over California with a chain of missions and presidios as far north as Sonoma, California. The Viceroy of New Spain, Conde de Revillagigedo, ordered a policy of defensive possession in California to enforce the articles of the Nootka Convention (Chapman 1921: 515-516). California Governor Jose' Joaquin de Arrillaga carried out that policy in 1792 by ordering studies and selection of sites for military fortifications at the harbors of San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. Juan Francisco de la Bodega indicated one potential fortification site on the map of San Diego Bay and surrounding landforms that same year, but the selection of Ballast Point occurred several years later.
The following year, British Captain George Vancouver arrived in San Diego Bay on November 27, 1793 on a scientific mission. Spanish authorities treated Vancouver with proper respect, but the dining facilities and quarters did not impress Vancouver, who submitted a critical report to English authorities. He reported the presidio to be in a very bad state of repair, but noted the harbor could be considerably strengthened by building a small fort at the mouth of San Diego Bay.
Spanish Defenses on Point Loma
Spanish authorities had already considered Punta de los Guijarros (Ballast Point) in 1792 for the location of a 10-gun cannon battery (see Fig. 7). The Spanish frigate Princessa shipped wood from Monterey to San Diego in 1793 for the eventual construction of a barracks and battery at the Presidio de San Diego (Colston 1982:62). Punta de los Guijarros appears to have been selected by 1794 based on directions given Miguel Constansó by Governor Arrillaga (Ibid.). Following the change of command from Arrillaga to Governor Diego Borica in that same year, the Spanish government shipped 1410 planks, 50 beams for the esplanade, 6 beams for the barracks, 100 boards and 300 stones to San Diego. A work force of native Kumeyaay Indians and Catalonian Volunteers drafted from a construction project at the Royal Presidio were shipped by flat boat five miles south to construct a 10-gun battery at Punta de los Guijarros. During construction, a temporary wickerwork battery filled with sand defended the bay, which Spanish authorities demolished upon completion of Fort Guijarros in 1796.
Although records or pictures do not exist for the Ballast Point fort, plans do exist for a battery at San Francisco which provide important details. At the time Fort Guijarros had been completed, a roughly rectangular cannon battery with fourteen cannon ports had been documented in an as-built map by Engineer Alberto de Cordoba (Colston 1982:66). This design showed that the walls were comprised of a 40-foot wide elevated mound with an esplanade elevated 20-feet above the natural ground that ran around the interior. The front half of the esplanade was topped by 8-foot high and 20-foot wide architectural elements between, or merlons, between each gun port. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1815, the original San Francisco battery had been replaced in 1816 by a horseshoe-shaped battery (Bancroft 1884:651).
Analysis of instructions provided by Don Pedro de Lucuze for coastal cannon batteries constructed in Campeche, Yucatan, provide further evidence for the appearance of California Spanish cannon batteries (May 1995:7). Joaquin Antonio Calderon Quijano published the designs of 18th century Spanish engineer Rafael Llobet to defend Campeche from English and privateer assaults. The plans of Bateria de San Lucas closely resemble a mark on a federal 1851 Coast Survey map of Ballast Point (May 1995:9). Llobet followed instructions detailed in 1772 by Lucuze, but extended the esplanade to 40 feet long. Elevated 28 feet above the natural ground, Bateria San Lucas protected a barracks about 20 feet behind the interior of the walls.
The building material available for most Spanish fortification construction in New Spain consisted of quarried hard stone, such as granite or chalkone. Both the interior and exterior faces of Bateria de San Lucas are vertical in the 1792 plans. Lucuze illustrated a hard stone vertical exterior battery face, but both vertical and ramped interior faces (Quillin and Quillin 1988:3-7; May 1995:6). Quarry stone is not available in the San Diego region of California and Spanish architects were forced to adapt to marine sandstone, mud and cobble stones on Ballast Point. The lowest layer of architecture includes crudely shaped marine sandstone blocks. A single sandstone block shaped to form a shallow basin to inset in a 30-degree corner may have been a religious font.
Known today as Fort Guijarros, this cannon battery served as a first line of defense against pirates, privateers, and smugglers (see Fig.8). The only Spanish and American, ship-to-shore battle in the history of Spanish California occurred on March 22, 1803 (Colston 1982: see Fig.9). Under orders from the civilian merchant owners of the Lelia Byrd, sailors attempted to conduct illegal trade in sea otter furs with local merchants and were captured by Spanish soldiers (Bancroft 1886:103). Emboldened by the value of $40 American dollars for each otter skin, the sailors tried to bribe the soldiers to release a load confiscated a month earlier. An armed force from the ship forced the Spanish soldiers to release the sailors, but the chase was on. Spanish artillerists fired 9-pound cannon balls and canister shot, while the ship fired smaller deck and swivel guns at the fort. The Americans also lashed Spanish captives to the railings of the Lelia Byrd in an attempt to discourage the Spanish artillerists from firing on the ship. Despite the vulnerability of the hostages, the guns of Fort Guijarros fired into the rigging and at the waterline to disable the ship. A slack wind virtually stalled ship and a 45-minute exchange of cannon fire between the combatants ensued. With hull and rigging damage, the Lelia Byrd escaped San Diego and departed California.
The First Point Loma Light
Two years after the battle of San Diego Bay, Spanish authorities built a small light beacon on the tip of Ballast Point. Soldiers from Fort Guijarros maintained this light for a number of years. The first beacon on Point Loma lasted until about 1810, but lack of maintenance caused it to crumble into the sand and the pieces scattered by storm wash. By 1820, the light beacon disappeared.
Spanish Instability with Foreign Illegal Trade
War in Europe after 1810 and internal economic downswings in New Spain severely reduced supplies and financing of the California frontier. Soldiers assumed part-time work for pay at Mission San Diego. Many soldiers, public servants, and Catholic clergy conducted illegal trade with visiting American, British, and French ships. The 18th century trade blockade became a sham. Smuggling and open illegal trade became more and more common by the time of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821 (Flower, Ike and Roth 1982). The arrival of a Mexican Republic governor to San Diego in 1822 put an end to the Spanish Royal in San Diego. Soldiers either changed uniforms or departed California for Spain. Since most of the soldiers were native born, they swore allegiance to the new Mexican Republic.
The Mexican Republic
Mexico opened international trade in 1822 with sweeping changes in world commerce. Licenses issued to foreign businesses resulted in an almost overnight building boom at La Playa (Colson 1982). Hundreds of wooden huts and warehouses were erected by companies and their followers. Several large hide houses were erected to store dried cattle hides intended for shoe industries in Boston and London. People from all over the world moved to La Playa and socialized with the California residents. These included Polynesians from Hawaii, Aleut seal and otter hunters from Alaska and the Bering Sea, Black African whale hunters from Portuguese islands of the Azores, New England Native American whale hunters, freed slaves from all over the world, Asian sailors from the Philippines, Maori seal hunters from the South Pacific, and a varied mix of European American immigrants. These mariners welcomed shore duty, as described by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before The Mast (Dana 1964). La Playa teamed with exotic visitors, most of whom traded in markets at the Presidio and visited Mission San Diego for Catholic Mass.
Mexican authorities attempted to repair and maintain Fort Guijarros, by then known as La Esplanada (Flower, Ike and Roth 1982:155: see Fig. 10). The Mexican Army assigned an artillery squad of 22 Mexican soldiers to La Esplanada, whose families lived in quarters behind the walls. They saw combat in July of 1828, when Captain John Bradshaw of the merchant ship Franklin sailed into San Diego to conduct trade without a license, in defiance of Mexican Law. Ordered arrested for illegal trade, Bradshaw and his crew retreated to his ship and firing cannon shot at the Mexican customs officials at La Playa. Horsemen rode the mile south to alert the soldiers at La Esplanada. Artillery batteries returned fire with cannon ball, chain and canister shot, injuring Bradshaw. The Franklin limped out of San Diego with hull and rigging damage from 40 cannon shots.
Dana, a sailor working in the leather trade in the 1830s, lived for several months at La Playa and described life ashore. He later returned to America to publish his experiences in California (Dana 1964). He reported seeing a large brick oven built by Russian scientists in 1825 which later housed Hawaiian sailors as apartments. Dana's jobs included washing cattle hides in the shallow bay waters, soaked them in tanning vats, rubbed them with salt and stretched the product to dry. The hide houses were reported to 'stink like death' and jump with 'millions of fleas and cattle ticks'.
Although Dana did not report seeing Fort Guijarros, it clearly existed as a militia post. But the same year Dana arrived at La Playa, Mexico demilitarized California and mustered out the soldiers. Residents of Ballast Point either moved north to La Playa or Presidio Hill. They also could have joined an exodus of retired military families to a place closer to the San Diego River and San Diego Bay, which is now called Old Town. Abandoned, Fort Guijarros deteriorated quickly. Civilians scavenged the ruins of Fort Guijarros and the presidio for roof tiles, wall tiles, lumber, metal, and adobe blocks for building new homes in Old Town. Commandant Francisco Ruiz sold official salvage rights to retired soldier Juan Machado on June 17, 1840 (Thompson 1991: 12).
There is no record of what Machado removed from Ballast Point, but Mexican militia continued to fire salutes to incoming merchant ships as late as 1843, as recorded in a 1843 sketch by G.M. Waseurtz af Sandels (Sandels 1945). A French Legate reported crumbling walls and six to eight cannon buried in the sand 1842 (Flower, Ike and Roth 1982).
The Mexican War of 1846
Word of economic and political change spread with arrival of each merchant ship, newspaper, or visitor in the late 1830s in California. The Pico and Alvarado families feuded openly for control of Los Angeles which flowed back and forth between the families. Sailors from the whale ship Stonington stormed the silent ruins of Fort Guijarros in 1843 to hammer spikes in the cannon breeches to prevent their use in fighting rumored U.S. military forces offshore (Roth 1982:157).
Congressional fears of British plans for Mexico triggered American covert military movements to foment internal revolution in California in 1845 (Bancroft 1886). Marine Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie arrived in San Francisco in the guise of a sick civilian and traveled north toward the Oregon Trail to meet Army Topographic Engineers. There, he secured a rag-tag militia of mountain men led by John C. Fremont to move south to fight Mexican forces in California.
At Monterey, Navy Commodore Sloat awarded a brevet rank of Major to Fremont who formed the California Mounted Rifles to fight Mexican authorities in Sonoma and Los Angeles. Major Fremont briefly joined the Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma and then turned south to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the American Army arrived in Southern California under the command of brevet General Stephen Watts Kearney and marched across the Peninsular Mountains toward Mexican forces staging at San Pasqual.
The Battle of San Pasqual is undoubtedly the worst military defeat suffered by the American Army in California. Poor discipline, rain-soaked rifles, and road weary soldiers led to an unplanned cavalry ordered by Army officers, unfortunately into the waiting Mexican Army positioned in a narrow canyon. Mexican leader Andres Pico wheeled a secondary force of piked cavalry out a canyon to spring a classic military trap. By then several Army officers were dead and others dying from pike slashes, sword stabs and shot. Pico also captured the only piece of field artillery to arrive on the scene. Most of Kearney' s soldiers were a mile to the east unaware of the defeat.
Kearney retreated to a defensible position and soldiers skirmished throughout the rest of the engagement. Eventually, Pico pulled back to regroup and General Kearney ordered his supplies burned to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Pico elected to withdraw several miles away to Francisco Maria Alvarado's adobe to treat the wounded and then departed for Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Navy and volunteer forces arrived to rescue Kearney and escort them to San Diego. Later accounts by American Army officers confused the order of battle in an attempt to cover up the failure.
American forces could not immediately relieve General Kearney because they too suffered heavy resistance from Mexican militia along the shore of San Diego Bay (May 1985a). At least 16 Marines died on those beaches and were buried out on North Island. Mexican sharpshooters picked them off as they landed skiffs on the beach. Mexican soldiers also removed a cannon from Fort Guijarros and hitched it to a long rope. They could fire the cannon at the Marines on board the U.S.S. Cyanne or merchant Stonington and then draw the cannon back out of range of the muskets firing from the ships.
Once the Mexican forces withdrew to join Pico at San Pasqual, Marines secured two cannons from Fort Guijarros and marched to capture Old Town to establish an occupation force. This entire siege took several weeks. Similar to the propaganda reports generated at San Pasqual. California schoolbooks do not correctly describe the success of Mexican troops to pin down American forces in San Diego during the Mexican War.
Confusion reigned during the late 1840s in San Diego. British and French merchants dealt with the Army Quartermaster for renewed permits to operate at La Playa. Civilians returning to San Diego had to realign their thinking or become arrested under Martial Law. After the American Army defeated the Mexican militia at the Battle of San Gabriel in Los Angeles, American forces continued to fight in Texas and Mexico. California came under Army control while new State of California and federal Government settled on a California Constitution, creating counties and major cites. Ultimately, with ratification of the 1852 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Mexican War came to an end.
The Ethnic and Gender Mix
The civilian population of San Diego is documented in 1774 as thousands of Kumeyaay in surrounding villages and the 750 European Americans at the Presidio. By 1846, no more than 150 European or Mexican born persons lived at San Diego (Heizer 1978:121). Ethnic consciousness among Spaniards during that time period does not directly correlate to 21st century American concepts. Many of the Spanish soldiers were themselves descended from Moors, native populations in New Spain and some Asians and Africans. Asian sailors and servants arrived on the 'Manila galleon' to trade blend into Spanish society throughout the entire period of trade between the Philippines and New Spain. These small and relatively isolated Spanish military communities placed greater value on descent from Spanish-born ancestors than on physical traits.
Shortly after arrival in 1769, Spanish soldiers and artisans married native Kumeyaay women to establish households with them. Converted Kumeyaay lived at the missions but eventually chose between ancestral families or living near Spanish settlements. Disenfranchised from their coastal villages and prevented from seasonal group movements to harvest shellfish and hunt marine mammals, native non-Catholic Kumeyaay withdrew further east to the Laguna Mountains or into Baja California to maintain their native lifeways. Statistical records taken from Catholic Mission Baptismal and Death Books demonstrate a massive death rate of Kumeyaay and their native neighbors between 1769 and 1834 (Heizer 1978:121-125). Inadequate healthful diet, diseases, and injuries contributed to the increasing death rate that reduced practice of Kumeyaay religious faith and opened channels for conversions.
Most of the people who converted to Catholicism in those early days were on the lower side of the Kumeyaay social and political structure thus had more to gain by joining with the Spanish authorities. Spanish authorities and artisans and families living in the Presidio de San Diego probably did not recognize the native cultural distinction between nobility and commoners. This total lack of understanding or acceptance of the Kumeyaay culture or society ultimately led to the 1774 and 1775 uprisings and murder of a priest. Spaniards held strong ethnocentric belief that Spain had the only relevant culture, religion and society.
In effect, Spanish Colonial life offered some Kumeyaay an opportunity to rise in social status that did not exist in Kumeyaay society. Further, since many Spanish military were themselves of mixed ethnic descent, a perception of inevitable change to Spanish lifestyle and Catholicism pervaded their thinking. Spanish colonists continued a 200-year-old tradition of tribute, conscripted labor and relocation aspects of the encomienda when they arrived to colonize San Diego. This process reduced the native American identity through conversion to Catholicism, forced relocation in Spanish towns, mandatory hygiene and clothing changes and conversion to dependence on Spanish economics (Heizer 1978:130-135). In fact, some Catholic clergy even debated if native people even had souls. This program did convert several hundred Kumeyaay, but thousands died from European diseases. The Mission San Diego Baptismal and Death records indicate approximately 4,000 native people were buried in the mission cemetery between the 1770s to 1840s.
Few Spaniards of 18th century California were born in Spain. Many of them were 4th or 5th generation citizens of New Spain and themselves descended from native people. Colonists long held the practice of marrying native people as new communities were established. A complicated ethnic reckoning system existed at the time Spain colonized San Diego. Sr. Don Pedro Alonso O'Crouley published A Description of The Kingdom of New Spain in 1774, which clearly describes those distinctions (Galvin 1972:19). He defined a child of a Spaniard and a native as a Mestizo, a Spaniard and a Mestizo as a Castizo, a Spaniard and a Castizo as a Spaniard, a Spaniard and an African as a Mulatto, a Spaniard and a Mulatto as a Morisco, a Spaniard and a Morisco as a Albino a Spaniard and an Albino as a Tornatras, a Spaniard and a Tornatras as a Tente en el aire, a native and a Chinese (Chino) as a Albarazado, a native and an African as a Sambia go, a native and a Mulato as a Lobo, a native and a Lobo as a Cambujo, a native and a Mestizo as a Coyote, and a native and a coyote as a native. People living at the Presidio de San Diego or in out posts like Fort Guijarros did not think of themselves as Kumeyaay Spaniards or African Spaniards, but used the terms O'Crouley listed in relation to how far back a person was descended from a European Spanish family. The closer a person could claim to be descended to a European Spaniard, the higher their natural social status.
In the complicated social and class system of New Spain, soldiers and their families of San Diego could elevate above ethnic classes by rising in military rank. Good service and high achievement meant more pay and promotions in rank. Elevation to an officer of any rank guaranteed high standing and unlimited economic possibilities. Retired soldiers often wore their uniforms to formal events or in public to mark that social status. In this system, distant ethnic claims to European Spaniards could be balanced by these rank elevations. European Spanish officers always commanded the highest social standing in Spanish California, no matter what their economic status. Such was the social status of the Spanish-born Catalonian Volunteers, who arrived in California in the 1790s (Colston 1982). The Catalonian Volunteers supervised much of the renovation of the Royal Presidios in Monterey and San Diego, including work on Fort Guijarros.
Other ethnic groups also existed in 18th and early 19th Spanish society in New Spain. Asian sailors and servants arrived from the Philippines on the Manila galleons as early as the 16th century. African slaves and servants arrived with the soldiers of Spain during the conquest of Aztec and other native states of Guatemala, Peru and other places (Galvin 1972). In fact, numerous communities of escaped African slaves developed in the mountains of Spanish Mexico during the 16th century, only to integrate into cities and towns in the 17th and 18th centuries. Intermarriage and ethnic assimilation resulted in very different people who arrived to colonize California.
The Spanish Census of 1790 described the Andres and Pio Pico's grandmother as 'mulata' (Carlton 1975:11). Pio Pico later became Governor of California during the Mexican War period. Significant to this discussion, Andres Pico served as Delegate to the California Constitutional Convention in 1849 and is not recorded as objecting to the anti-African provisions in the Constitution. The Pico family and others of mixed ethnicity held public office for decades without the kind of prejudice found among Anglo-Americans of the time.
There is no record of ethnic Chinos or Albarazados in San Diego during the Spanish or Mexican period. The earliest documented record of Chinese in California is associated with labor moving in the Gold Rush camps in the 1850s (McPhail 1977:8). The earliest documented Chinese in San Diego were recorded living in three houses at a fishing camp on Ballast Point in 1863, but none are recorded for the Mexican era (May 1998).
Other than the Pico grandmother, absent are accounts of Mexican Period African Californios. Joseph Cross and Miguel Assisisera are listed in the 1860 national Census as South American Africans who might have lived in Mexican San Diego (Carlton 1975:11). They may also have arrived from South America to work in the local gold mines in the 1850s. Rare accounts of Mexican Africans exist for Spanish or Mexican California. Spanish Californios simply accepted Spanish-speaking Africans as Californios. One of the few accounts of such a group is documented by the 1852 Grand Jury of San Diego Grand Jury investigating reports of a lawless group of Africans, who may have come from Mexico (Carlton 1975:10). At least two African Americans lived in Mexican California prior to 1847, but they were perceived locally as Americans.
American military and civilian occupation and immigration to San Diego following the Mexican War also resulted in philosophical conflict with the Mexican Californios who occupied Old Town in 1846. Descended from generations of Spanish and Native populations, these Californios had little identity with Spain. These Californios were as alien in belief and culture to the Americans as the Kumeyaay had been to the early Spanish. One commonality shared by some of the European Americans was membership in the Catholic Church. Another was the use of American currency in business transactions. The Californios continued to expand their cattle trade with American merchants and the Army through the Mexican War and into the following decades. The social bonds from church and economics smoothed transition from Mexican to American California.
By 1850, the urban population of San Diego is recorded in the national Census as 650 (Garcia 1975:55). Many of these people found new jobs with the Army and the rising number of shops and stores. Many of the Californios were land rich but money poor and lost both to horse racing and extravagant living. The new immigration of Americans of English descent swiftly overwhelmed the Californios. By 1860, the new immigrants were a majority and thousands of Americans introduced new architectural, clothing, and fashion styles. English replaced Spanish as the primary language and the cattle industry declined with severe reduction in the hide industry. The final blow to the Californio identity occurred with intermarriage to Americans of English and other European descents.
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Last Updated: 06-Apr-2005