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. They were led by the intrepid frontier officer Juan Bautista de Anza, who had made an exploration a year earlier.
Most came from the northern areas of New Spain, especially Sonora and Sinaloa, and were looking to find a way out of the poverty and danger of daily life in their home regions.
The group was ethnically diverse, including members such as José Manuel González, a full-blooded Apache Indian (later to become alcalde of the San José pueblo), his wife María and their five children. Or Antonio Aceves (of African descent), his wife Feliciana and their six children. They had walked over 1,000 miles under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe to start a new life in Alta California. They settled throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and the rest of California.
Each year the descendants of those original travelers come to the San Francisco Presidio to celebrate their ancestors’ trek and to renew ties with their heritage. With much fanfare they gather on a site overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Groups from Tubac arrive on horseback. The Alabado – the daily hymn of praise along the trail — is sung. The local native people who aided the migrants on their route are thanked. The culmination of the event is the reading of the muster of over 200 men, women and children.
Of course the pandemic made gathering together more difficult and for a while, impossible. But the descendants adapted. For the last two years the celebration has become virtual, with people participating from all over the world. This year the celebration will take place on June 26, and you can join in via video. Stay tuned for more information about how and where to sign up.
The descendants of the 1776 Anza Expedition are still here and they are a living link to a major event in California’s history. As they like to say, “Todavía estamos aquí” (We are still here).