Juan Bautista de Anza

Juan Bautista de Anza

(1735-1788)

Born in Sonora, Mexico, the son of a Spanish official, Juan Bautista de Anza played an important role in the conquest and settle¬ ment of early California.In the late eighteenth century, the Spanish government aggressively protected and expand¬ ed its land holdings in the colony of New Spain, which included the lands of California.

At the time, this ambitious agenda was compli¬ cated by the fact that all travel from Mexico to upper California was done by sea.In 1773, Juan Bautista de Anza was serving as the commander of the Spanish forces in Tubac, in northern Mexico. That year, the Spanish viceroy of New Spain, Don Antonio Marfa Bucardi, summoned de Anza to embark on a journey.

He directed de Anza to find a passable overland route from Mexico to the northernmost presidio, or military post, of California, located at Monterey.In January 1774, de Anza embarked on a exploratory expedition with Pedro de Garces, a Franciscan missionary, as his traveling com¬ panion.

They departed from Tubac and pro¬ ceeded across the Sonoran Desert. They reached the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers, where they established good relations with Chief Palma of the Yuma Indians. After their stop, they continued their journey north.

In March, de Anza and de Garces reached Mission San Gabriel, located near present-day Los Angeles. After a brief stop to rest and replenish supplies, they continued on to Monterey, several hundred miles to the north.

When de Anza reached Monterey, he stayed long enough to reinforce the mission there and build a presidio. He also ventured north to explore the area around San Francisco Bay.

Eventually, de Anza returned to Mexico City to report to the viceroy about the journey. Bucardi congratulated him on his successful mission and, in particular, for establishing the coveted land route to Alta California. He then gave de Anza a second assignment.

In October 1773, de Anza led a team of 240 settlers on a journey, over the land route he had established, to San Francisco. They brought with them more than 700 horses, 330 cattle, and enough provisions to establish a self-sus¬ taining presidio.

Almost a year later, in 1776, de Anza found¬ ed the presidio of San Francisco. The fort represented the northernmost outpost of New Spain. It reinforced the northern border of the colony, discouraging British and Russian advances on the territory.

Like all the other presidios in New Spain, it also protected and enforced the objective of the missions, which was to preach Christianity—in many cases forcefully—to the Native Americans.De Anza eventually returned to Mexico City, and he was later appointed governor of New Mexico.