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San Diego, California


Cabrillo Statue

San Diego - La Jolla, California

San Diego's earliest explorers. The Brave Cabrillo On September 28, 1542, Juan Cabrillo led the ships San Salvador and La Victoria into the harbor to be the first European to come here. He named the harbor San Miguel. Cabrillo had served as a captain of bowmen under Cortez during his assault on the Aztec in 1523. He was called out of semi-retirement from his war prize ranchos in Guatemala by the Viceroy of Spain to attempt to find the illusive sea passage to the West East Indies. This is what brought him to California.

Bronze model of Cabrillo ship.

He anchored on a natural sand spit close to the entrance of the harbor now known as Ballast Point. During his brief stay, he encountered numerous Kumeyaay. The Kumeyaay were for the most part afraid of Cabrillo. Although they had never seen a European, news of the devastation and disease brought by these men had already reached the Kumeyaay. The detailed maps made by Cabrillo of the California coastline were used for hundreds of years.

The Haphazard Vizcaino This area was not visited again for 60 years. In 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino was given a chance to redeem himself by furthering the work done by Cabrillo. Vizcaino had been given a previous charter to find safe harbors along the Baja peninsula. Instead, he turned to collecting pearls in La Paz. When he tried to force the Indians into helping, he met resistance. 19 men drowned while trying to escape the attacking Indians.

Vizcaino was chosen reluctantly, but was apparently the only explorer available for the job. He was given strict orders not to rename anything the revered Cabrillo had previously named. On November 10, 1602, Vizcaino sailed into sleepy San Miguel harbor and promptly renamed it San Diego.

Ethereal view of Pacific ocean.

Vizcaino continued up the coast. The maps he drew were so poor and his descriptions so exaggerated, he caused explorers confusion for over two hundred years. In a sweeping stroke of diplomacy he secured his future by naming his most exaggerated discovery in honor of the Viceroy, Monterey. With this act his many disasters were forgiven, and his new place names accepted. His transgressions were not to be discovered for over 150 years, by which time he had safely passed into history.

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