Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto

There is NO WAY that anyone who has lived in California has gone a day without seeing the name "de Anza" on something. Street signs, schools, parks, historical placards, etc all bare his name. So pivotal was his life to the State of California's existance that we all owe him a debt of gratitude despite the fact that he has been dead for three hundred and twenty years or so. I grew up in Riverside, California, and his name and face were everywhere. Very few actually know who he was, so here's my shot to right that situation..

Born to a military family in Fronteras (New Spain), he was given his father's name. In the garrison town of Fronteras he enlisted in the army in 1752, and quickly rode to the rank of Captain in a span of about eight years. He married the daughter of a wealthy mine owner named Perez de Serrano in 1761, and would have no children. That wasn't hard to do, since he would be gone on expeditions and fighting Indians for most of his career.
With the area known as Alta California (current day California, up to about 'Frisco) under constant encroachment by Russian and English traders, New Spain's Viceroy and the King of Spain decided something had to be done to fortify the coast. On January the 8th 1774 he was sent to find an acceptable route west from the Spanish garrison town of Tubac, AZ (near Tucson)into California and up to San Francisco's newly discovered harbor. He would eventually (it was hoped) return with settlers to establish a Presidio and Mission in San Francisco to bolster the military presence along the valuable coastline. He took with him twenty soldiers, three padres, eleven servants, and two hundred and forty animals.

***Statue of de Anza in downtown Riverside, CA.*************

The expedition would cross the Colorado River near the current day CA-Mexico border. Would that make him the first "wet-back?" Not sure, will have to ask Abel for confirmation...ANYHOO....It would run smack dab into what is now my hometown of Riverside, CA, crossing the Santa Ana River (named after another Spaniard). They created a route that the modern Interstates 10/60 follow through Palm Springs and into Moreno Valley, etc. They would reach the Mission San Gabriel near Beauford's house in Van Nuys, CA by March 22nd of 1774. They were in Monterrey by April 19th, then they marched back to Tubac by late May. As a result of his success, he was promted once again to Lt. Colonel....then promptly ordered to retrace his steps with a band of recently trained colonists by October of 1775. They would arrive in San Gabriel again by January of 1776, after surving bitter winter weather in the desert. Only one person would die, and that was a birth-giving fatality that was not uncommon for the time.
He would finish the mission, but not entirely. The settlers stayed in Monterey for the most part, with a small group following him north to locate the spots where the Presidio and the Mission now stand. Noone actually remained to settle on this trip, they would come later. On the return route south, he also managed to locate the abandoned and forgotten Mission de Santa Clara de Asis and the town of San Jose, which had been somehow forgotten and left to die by the Spanish government.
Upon his return to Tubac, he was invited to Mexico City along with the leader of the Yuma Indians. They were asking him to establish a mission garrison town to help protect themselves against raiding tribes like Commanche. By August of 1777, he was made Gov. of the Province of New Mexico. He would then lead raids against the Commanche's into Colorado, forcing them east into Texas and Oklahoma. He managed to kill the warrior-chief Cuerno Verde (not Chile Verde, freaks, you'r making me hungry.) while battling in southern Colorado.
In 1779 he had found a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Sonora Mexico...but his Yuma Indian friends rebelled against him. He lost favor with the Viceroy as a result, and was ent back out to kill Commanche left in the east in 1783. By 1784, they were suing for peace, and the Commanche problem was over. He would stay on as Gov. of New Mexico until 1787, then he returned to Sonora. In 1788, he was appointed Commander of the Tucson Presidio, but died before he could take command.

****The church where he was buried*********

He was buried in the Church of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion de Arispe, but was dug up and re-buried in a flashy new marble mausoleum with help from San Franciso and the University of California.

*****His official death certificate*****************


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