By Joe Myers
The 14th Annual International Conference of the Anza Society was held in Tucson, Arizona from March 13 through 15, 2009. A reception was held Thursday evening at the home of Sharon and Joe Myers in Oro Valley, with support from the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The meeting began Friday morning at the Hotel Tucson City Center. Ora Mae Harn, previous mayor of nearby Marana and a society member welcomed the group. Anza’s expedition passed through what is today the city of Marana on their way to California, in October, 1775, and that city has a segment of the Anza Trail and has become a strong supporter of our Anza activities and celebrations.
Four presentations were made in the morning. The first was a paper by Ron Quinn, secretary of the society and a Professor of Biological Sciences at CA State Polytechnic Univ. He told a story based on the journals and letters of Father Pedro Font, and helped attendees develop a mental picture of the role of Font on the expedition and his relationship with the commander, Juan Bautista de Anza. Font probably contracted malaria at Horcacitas in Mexico before the expedition began, and he suffered recurring fever and chills, along with other ailments the entire trip. He was well educated and an astute observer, but his being sick may have led to some of his often caustic remarks. He especially found fault with Anza, and Ron brought out a number of amusing (to us) incidents.
Nina Egert, PhD in Anthropology and an award winning photographer showed pictures she had taken to illustrate the expedition route to CA in 1775-76. She is author of a book entitled Tracing Anza’s Trail and in the introduction she paid tribute to Font. She wrote “To those who have gone before….And most especially Fr. Pedro Font, whose journals opened my eyes along the trail.” I found her description of the Tulare region in the central valley in California very enlightening. Her pictures really helped see the landscape through the eyes of the early Spanish explorers.
Gerry Hamor, also from CA and now retired from a career in education and administration, presented a talk on the tale of two families. He is an 8th generation descendent of Lt. Moraga, Moraga was the 2nd person in command of the expedition and it is hard not to pay great tribute to this officer. He left his very ill wife behind to accompany the expedition (they were reunited eventually in California). In my opinion he played a role similar to Clark in the well known Lewis and Clark expedition decades later. Time after time on the
expedition he endured hardships and was critical in the eventual success of their reaching California. Anza took the settlers as far as Monterey, and with a number of others scouted ahead before departing, and selected the site for the future settlement. But it was Moraga that actually took the settlers from the Monterey Bay area to found San Francisco in 1776, while Anza headed back to Mexico City to report to the Viceroy.
Society president Joe Myers, with a PhD in Chemistry, now retired in Tucson and enjoying southwestern history, used maps from the computer to illustrate an early campaign of Anza against the Apache Indians in 1766. John Kessell, now a retired history professor from the University of New Mexico, published an article in Arizona History about 40 years ago, in 1968 and some 202 years after the campaign. His article provided the material for the presentation and it is one of the few actual journal accounts of Anza fighting Apaches in eastern Arizona. The strongholds of the Indians that Anza described were the same ones later made famous by Cochise and Geronimo, places like the Chiricahua Mountains. Anza was part of a three-prong effort, with soldiers from Fronteras and Terranate presidios, joining his own from Tubac. They all met on the San Pedro River, and then began their “war” with the Apache about modern day Wilcox Playa. That playa is just south of I-10 and easily seen from the Interstate Highway. The mountains surrounding it on the north and east are where the drama played out. A large number of Pima Indian allies also went along, many of them surely on foot.
A panel discussion in the afternoon proved very interesting. Several society members trace their distant relatives to members of the Anza family or to the expedition members and Stella Cardoza, Gerry Hamor, Sue Felix and Yolanda Duron all from CA explained their connections. An unexpected bonus was having a person working at the hotel join in. Joe Camarillo is in charge of food services at the hotel and it turned out he is part Apache. Without previous preparation, he participated with a most interesting description of modern day Indians in Arizona. We quickly voted him an honorary membership in the society.
The next presentation was by Don Garate, Chief of Interpretation at Tumacacori National Historical Park. Don is the author of Juan Bautista de Anza (a book about the father of our Anza) and he talked about the Pima uprising of 1751 and gave details about some of the individuals affected. The uprising began in Saric, just south of the modern day border in Sonora and Don personalized the talk by giving details about some of the actual people involved. He talked about the flight of the settlers from the Santa Cruz River valley (including San Xavier del Bac and Tubac), to the presidio at Terrenate. Tubac did not have a presidio at the time; it was built as the result of the Pima uprising, so it was some distance to the safe haven at Terrenate. Anza was age 15 at the time, and joined in the campaign against the Pima Indians, which was really the beginning of his military career.
At the end of the afternoon, some of the group dressed up in period costume (Spanish Colonial in the mid 1700s – the costumes were provided by the Historical Society at the Tucson presidio). In full costume, but without previous rehearsal, the play Legacy of a Journey, written by Larry Marshall about the expedition, was presented.. The play is intended for use in schools and a future video, and it was a lot of fun. The play highlights the expedition of 42 men, 39 women and 119 children, and notes that the diverse group included persons of Spanish, African and Native American descent (30% had African bloodlines). When the expedition set out, eight of the women were pregnant and one woman died in childbirth the first night after leaving Tubac presidio.
The banquet in the evening was held at the hotel, and featured local storyteller Jack Lasseter. He talked about the Chiricahua Apache and their famous chief Cochise. Jack is a retired attorney and one of the best storytellers of the old west in the Tucson area.
Tours on Saturday included the presidio in Tucson in the morning and then to the nearby mission, the white dove of the dessert, San Xavier del Bac in the afternoon. At the presidio, we watched as soldiers in standard 1770s attire fired a canon, and another group climbed onto the wall and fired their muskets. Rick Collins coordinated the costumes and events and it was much appreciated. The Tucson presidio replaced Tubac presidio during the period that Anza was taking the expedition to California and then Mexico City. After being governor in New Mexico ten years, he returned as commander in charge of the Tucson presidio but did not live long after taking over. He died unexpectedly on a trip home to Arispe (Sonora) in 1788, at age 52.
The tour to San Xavier mission was another highlight of the conference. We were led through the mission and onto the roof where we could see and almost touch the bells. The guided tour by David Carter, with so much explanation about the reconstruction of the mission and its history was truly fascinating.
Dinner was at a nearby restaurant featuring Flamenco dancers and a surprise visit of Juan Bautista de Anza himself (Don Garate). The event ended Sunday about noon in Marana, after a three hour car caravan of cars. We visited two of the expedition campsites north of downtown Tucson and between the sites drove along the ancient Hohokam trail (today’s Silverbell Road west of and parallel to I-10).
The new superintendent of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Naomi Torres, attended, and another surprise visitor was Hal Jackson from New Mexico and author of the book, “Following the Royal Road, A Guide to the Historic Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.” The Anza trail was designated by Congress as a national historic trail in 1990 and the Camino Real became a national historic trail ten years later, in 2000.
The conference spanned several days of events and the 15th Annual International Conference is being targeted for the second weekend in March 2010 (11th – 14th) in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico. Mark your calendars.