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Spanish landing

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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:42 pm    Post subject: Spanish landing Reply with quote

Sebastian Vizcaino, a successful Spanish merchant, had had visions that he believed, if carried out, would make him exceedingly wealthy. His dreams were for the fishing of pearls in the Californias. Accordingly he got together a number of his friends and with them applied to the viceroy Luis de Valasco, for a license to engage in this business. Due to a quarrel among members of this newly-formed company, execution of the contract was delayed for a time, then finally it was brought before the courts. An order that Vizcaino and his companions commence their activities within three months was then issued. Thus matters stood when the Conde de Monterey arrived in Mexico. He, in turn, amended the order, giving Vizcaino more liberal terms than he had formerly secured, granting the company the "concession to enter the Californias and reduce them by peaceful means to subjection to the crown, for which the conquerors were to have the usual vast privileges and exemptions granted to the pacifiers and settlers of new provinces."

However, when the Conde de Monterey learned that Vizcanio's earlier contract called for pearl fishing only and not at all the conquest of the land, he reconsidered in a measure, and, on February 29, 1596, wrote to the king, which finally resulted in the departure of Vizcaino in March, 1596, with three ships and a large number of men. Fifty of these deserted him as did one friar on the trip up the coast from Acapulco. Arriving at length at the site where Cortes had visited before him, he gave the territory the name of La Paz (Peace) because of the peaceful reception accorded him by the Indians. This name still holds today.

Establishing a colony here, he proceeded farther north. Returning to La Paz, he sent most of the colonists back to New Spain on two of his ships, and, with forty mariners, took the third himself, once again exploring northern waters. However, his ship lost its rudder-irons in a storm and he was forced to turn back to New Spain.

Not until 1602 did he again set forth on his explorations. In May of that year, with three ships, the San Diego, the Santo Thomas and the Tres Reyes, along with some two hundred men, including three Carmelite friars and an expert map maker, Geronimo Martinez, he sailed from Acapulco.

Crossing the Cape San Lucas, he made his way up the coast, stopping briefly at the Bay of San Diego and other points, then passed up to what is now the central part of California. The day of December 15, 1602, found the small fleet sailing on the bosom of the Pacific north of Point Conception (which they named) and they scanned the sea for a likely landing place. When the fog lifted they saw a mountain range which they named Santa Lucia.

Shortly afterwards they sighted a river which they named Rio del Carmelo in honor of the Carmelite priests accompanying the expedition. Then Point Pinos was sighted! Point Pinos, landmark that was seen by Cermenho nearly seven years before and that has guided countless mariners since. It is the point of land that literally pins our history to Monterey. It was here—in this locality—that Vizcaino was desirious of finding a harboring place for the Manilla galleons which he expected would follow in later years. Sending a launch ahead in search of suitable anchorage, he waited in the outer waters. With the return of the launch, its commander said that the land was very favorable and that a quiet bay was easy of access. The next day Vizcaino's ships sailed into these peaceful waters, which they named the Monterey Bay in honor of their viceroy.

Anxious of founding a settlement on Monterey Bay, Vizcaino sent glorifying reports to his king. His letter, sent at a later date (May 23, 1603) from the City of Mexico, read:

"This port (that of Monterey) is sheltered from all winds, while on the immediate shores there are pines, from which masts of any desired size can be obtained, as well as live oaks and white oaks, rosemary, the vine, the rose of Alexandria, a great variety of game, such as rabbits, hare, partridges and other sorts and species found in Spain. This land has a genial climate, its waters are good and it is fertile, judging from the varied and luxuriant growths of trees and plants; and it is thickly settled with people whom I found to be of gentle disposition, peaceable and docile. . . . . Their food consists of seeds which they have in great abundance and variety, and of the flesh of game such as deer, which are larger than cows, and bear, and of cattle and bisons and many other animals."

On landing at Monterey, leaders and crew held a council to make plans for future activities. Many men were sick with scurvy and severe had died; and in addition their food supply was running low. It was the decree, therefore, that Admiral Gomez in the Santo Tomas should immediately return to Spain, taking the ill mariners and official reports of the expedition with him. His trip proved disasterous in that twenty-five of the thirty-four men he had on board died.

Vizcaino and his accompanying ship left the waters of Monterey, January 3, 1603 (after a stay of eighteen days). He reached Acapulco March 21, 1603. Later he visited the King of Spain in order to obtain his permission and assistance in starting a new colony in Monterey. Finally Phillip III, in 1606, "ordered the viceroy of New Spain to fit out immediately an expedition to be commanded by Vizcaino for the occupation and settlement of the port of Monterey. Before the expedition could be gotten ready Vizcaino died and his colonization scheme with him. Had he lived to carry out his scheme, the settlement of California would have antedated that of Jamestown, Virginia, by one year."

Although the credit for discovering Monterey Bay goes to Roderiguez Cermenho, the renown for being the first white man to set foot upon the soil of Monterey goes unreservedly to Vizcaino.

A hundred and sixty years passed after the death of Vizcaino's colonization plan before the Spanish crown again attempted to make use of its enormous possessions in Alta California.
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