246 years ago a group of some two hundred people arrived at the Presidio of San Francisco after an arduous trek from Tubac in what is today southern Arizona.
Articles about Spanish exploration and colonization.
Rebuilding a Presidio: Interview with Jarrell Jackman
Soldiers and presidios played a key role in establishing the Spanish presence in California, but they are still misunderstood. Jarrell Jackman has been at the forefront of preserving and documenting this crucial element of the California frontier. Jarrell C. Jackman Dr. Jarrell C. Jackman was Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation for […]
The Spanish Legacy in California and the Mexican War for Independence
This is a special episode of the California Frontier podcast. The shoe is on the other foot this time, and I am the one being interviewed. My host is Jordan Mattox, a California junior high school teacher who his passionate about California history. He has an excellent podcast, appropriately titled “History of California.” In this […]
Native Knowledge in Colonial Latin America: Interview with Ezekiel Stear (Part 2)
As the Spanish Empire become more consolidated, language and writing became more and more important — both for the Spanish government and for native peoples. In part 2 of this interview we learn how indigenous people in Colonial Spanish America preserved their knowledge in the face of restrictive government policies. Listen to Part 1 Highlights […]
“Follow the Money”: Interview with Marie Christine Duggan (Part 2)
In this second part of the interview we learn about what studying economic history can reveal about the past. In particular, we learn about California’s early connections to the Far East, and how competition over the fur trade created some unusual rivalries and alliances. Highlights of Part 2: Franciscan views of money and morality. The […]
Land Grants in Alta California
The story of land ownership in modern California begins with the practice of Spanish land grants. Beginning in the 18th century, Spain allowed farming and ranching by private individuals in California. In the 19th century the Mexican government continued and expanded the program. Land Laws in Spain The laws and customs about who could own […]
Early Exploration of California (Part 1 of 2)
Why did Spanish Explorers Come to California? Spanish mariners began exploring the Pacific coast of North America in the early 16th century in hopes of finding new civilizations to join their empire.
How did California Get its Name? You Might be Surprised
The name “California” comes from a 16th century Spanish novel that involves a warrior queen named Calafia. But the name also has much deeper roots that connect North African pirates and a medieval epic poem.
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo: California’s First Tourist
What did Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo do and why is he important? Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is best known for being the first European to successfully navigate the Pacific coast of what is today California to points north of the San Francisco Bay. During the voyage, he and his men disembarked at several points and made direct […]
Grit and Grace on the Golden Gate: The Unforgettable Juana Briones
Juana Briones lived in Spanish, Mexican and U.S. California and she left her mark on all three. Now she is receiving the attention she deserves.
The Anza Expedition of 1775-76: Members and Their Families
In January of 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza arrived in Alta California with just over 200 men, women and children from Tubac in today’s Arizona.
Settlers on the California Frontier (Part 2): The Californios
What type of culture developed among settlers in Alta California? What did they call themselves? How did they live under Mexico and Spain? And how did they respond to American rule?
Settlers on the California Frontier (Part 1)
Who settled California? What was their life like? What were the first towns?
Soldiers and Presidios in Alta California (with video)
Who were the soldiers that came to Alta California? What was their life like? What were the presidios and what was their role on the frontier?
Podcast Episode 002 — “You Have to Carry This On”: What it Means to Be a Californio
In this episode, I speak with Greg Bernal-Mendoza Smestad, a direct descendant of the families who settled Alta California over 200 years ago. Greg talks to us about their journey, the character of those people who risked their lives to come to come north, and the legacy they passed on.
Recently I began recording a series of interviews for a new podcast I will be launching as part of California Frontier. For one of the first interviews, I had the pleasure of visiting Greg Bernal Smestad. Greg has made it his mission to preserve and maintain the heritage his ancestors, who came to California […]
Exploration and Settlement of California (Part 2 of 2)
For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish ships dominated the Pacific. But her rivals Russia and England were busy contesting that dominance. Who would be the first to settle California?
Happy Birthday San José
San José, California is the oldest city on the West Coast. In November it celebrates its birthday.