A Spanish explorer by the name of Sebastian Vizcaino sailed into the bay in 1602 and decided that he had discovered it. In a fit of inspiration, he named it after his boss, the Count of Monte Rey, and sailed out of Monterey Bay into obscurity. For 150 years Spanish authorities counted on the large bay in what was then called Alta California (upper as opposed to lower or Baja California) to be the base of their development of the region. It remained the Ohlone’s bay until 1769 when a land expedition, led by Gaspar de Portola, came to make the bay Spanish property.
Portola had a Friar named Juan Crespi with him who took copious notes and kept meticulous records. Interestingly, they were looking for Monterey Bay as described by Vizcaino, but never found it. This is truly ironic in that they explored and named the Salinas, Pajaro, and San Lorenzo rivers and valleys. Crespi’s diary contains an interesting account of the discovery of the San Lorenzo River and the Ohlone Indian village near what is now called Pogonip. They continued north ‘discovering’ and naming as they went, and found the San Francisco Bay instead. Portola returned to San Diego thinking that he had been unable to find the large bay.
Within a couple of decades Padre Junipero Serra had a chain of missions running up the coast from San Diego to Sonoma. Each mission was about a day’s walk from the next. Each mission was an outpost of Spanish might and rule into the heathen wilds.
In 1774, another expedition came to Santa Cruz. It was led by Governor Rivera and came south on land to the bay. His scribe, Padre Francisco Palon selected the site of Mission Santa Cruz. He said ‘The site is fitted not merely for a town, but a city. Nothing is lacking. It has good soil, water, pasture, firewood, and timber all at hand in abundance’. He went on to proclaim the site as ‘most excellent’ and started an import export business selling herbs, beads, and incense to travelers (well, he might’ve…)
by Gary Starkweather
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