The Spanish Myth

While numerous scholars and historians have alluded to the real pobladores of Alta California and the Southwest, the myth still persist that the Spanish, “pennisulares” settled California. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Are the Spanish the adelantados, or the racial mix- bloods,

By the time of the Portolá expedition of 1769, of which the correo extraordinario Juan Bautista Valdez was a soldado de cuera, La Nueva España, (Mexico) was 248 years old. Much older than the United States of today, and a melting pot whose inhabitants felt that they were neither, Spanish, Indian, nor black.

Consider, the aforementioned expedition where of all the Spaniards peninsulares who helped make the four-pronged expedition, two by land and two by sea, only eight remained in California. Of these Miguel Costanso, Gaspar de Portolá, and Father Viscaíno soon left for La Nueva España. It is from this point forward that records began to show that these mestizos who came from a variety of cultures, have truly been under represented.

Further, consider the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition of 1775/76, where only Fathers Font and Garcés were of Spanish origin or peninsular, and Father Eixach was of French ancestry. The remaining 192 souls, whom Anza says were recruited in the poverty ridden alcaldias of Sinaloa, Culiacan, Alamos, and el Fuerte, were of criollo, mestizo, indio, or mulato, and went on to establish el Real Presidio de San Francisco.

In addition, el Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe, founded on November, 27, 1777, by Josef Joaquín Moraga, a mestizo with pobaldores from el Real Presidio de San Francisco, and Monterey, lists in its padron of 1778, thirty-eight Spaniards no doubt criollos, thirteen mestizos, six mulatos, and eleven Native Americans.

Furthermore, consider the founding of Los Angeles in 1781 by a group of eleven pobladores and their families, recruited by Captain Fernando Javier de Rivera y Moncada, a mestizo. They were forty four poblanos in all, and as the diary reveals, most had little or no trace of Spanish.  Referencing these founders of Los Angeles, Dr. Bolton says “these pobladores were recruited in the northwestern states of La Nueva España and were of a strange mixture” and were as follows:

Los Pobladores Plaque

Los Pobladores Plaque in Los Angeles

José de Lara, Spaniard, wife, Indian, three children;
José Antonio Navarro, mestizo, wife mulata, three children;
Basilio Rosas, Indian, wife mulata, six children;
Antonio Mesa, Negro, wife mulata, two children;
Antonio Villavicencio, Spaniard, wife Indian,one child;
Alejandro Rosas, Indian, wife Coyote, one children;
Pablo Rodriguez, Indian, wife Indian, one child;
Manuel Camero, mulato, wife mulata;
Luis Quintero, Negro, wife, mulata, five children;
José Moreno, mulato, wife mulata;
Antonio Miranda,
chino, one child.

The latter family, even though on the list, did not make it to Alta California due to being quarantined because of smallpox. The blood of Africa flowed in the veins of twenty-six pobladores or about 59%.

Clearly, this mélange of humanity – the gente de razon – and not the Spanish, peninsular, were the real founders of el Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles.

Recently the ethnicity of Feliciana Arballo, the darling of the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition of 1775/76 who danced at the San Sebastian campsite, has been found by Professor Rena Cuellar of the University of Culiacan. She found this treasure of information at the Catedral de Culiacan, Sonora, Mexico, where in their book of records, Feliciana is registered as Mulata Libre, or free black woman. Her daughter Maria Eustaquia went on to marry José Maria Pico, of mulato origin as well, and went on to become the mother of Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Spanish rule.

Feliciana’s daughter, Maria Ignacia Lopez, mulata, on her mothers side, and espanola from her mothers second marriage to Francisco Lopez, married Joaquin Carrillo, and one of their daughters, Francisca Benicia Lopez de Carrillo went on to marry General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.

Dr. Charles Chapman in his book, The History of California, The Spanish Period, says, “the founders of California, the people of reason, were of varying shades of color; indeed, the great majority were mestizo – part white and part Indian.”

Lastly, in 1782, the garrison of el Real Presidio de San Francisco lists six of its members as mulato, ten as mestizo, and ten as Spanish – certainly criollo who were born in La Nueva España, two hundred fifty plus years after the Spanish made landfall at Veracruz. No doubt these are the populators that Dr. Servin refers to when he says, “these Mexican mixed-bloods were the true pioneer settlers who toiled the soil, erected buildings, carried the mail, and guarded the missions and presidios.”

Therefore, given this over-whelming evidence, there is no doubt that the great majority of the fundadores of California were of criollo, mestizo,Indian, and African stock,and not Spanish, peninsular, and to deny this fact is a deception of great proportion and unjust to the real history of California.


-The Census of 1790, a Demographic History of Colonial California,  William Marvin Mason, Ballena Press, 1998
-A History of California. The Spanish Period, Charles E. Chapman, Ph.D El Presidio de San Francisco, A History under Spain and Mexico 1776 – 1846, Langellier and Rosen 1996
-California’s Hispanic Heritage, The Journal of San Diego History
-The First Census of the Pueblo de San José of 1778
-Hoja de Servico de Josef Joaquín Moraga
-Diario del Capitan Fernando Javier de Rivera y Moncada, Burris OFM,
Madrid, España, 1988
-Spanish Bluecoats, Dr. Joseph P. Sanchez, University of New Mexico 1990
-El Pueblo Grande, Weaver, the Ward Richie Press 1973
-Mission 2000, Arballo, Feliciana
-The Anza letters, Phil Valdez Jr. 2004