Juan Rodriguez C


Juan Rodriguez C Essay, Research Paper

The reputation of California as being a place to “jettison assumptions and try different things” appears to have originated from its earliest days. By reflecting on the individual who discovered San Diego, we see stamina, determination, and the desire to “continue on,” “find success,” and to maximize opportunities to their fullest.

Back in the 1540s there was a Portuguese explorer and soldier by the name of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (?-1543). He was known as “a skilled mariner and navigator.” Today, Cabrillo famous for being the man who “discovered San Diego Bay” on September 28, 1542.

Within the definition of The California Dream, lay opportunities for success, however, there are many ingredients that factor into achieving this Dream. Being willing to accept opportunities, challenges, and ideas (such as Cabrillo accepted when given the command to explore the northwestern most part of Mexico ), the utilization of man-made and natural resources, and time and location, are just a few of the elements that are essential in defining the California Dream. The combination of these ingredients along with the determination for success and lack of fear-of-failure, can sometimes make The Dream?reality.


Cabrillo possessed the necessary ingredients for success. Believed to have been born in Portugal, though it is not certain where, he lived most of his life in the Spanish New World colonies. Dr. Joan Jensen, a member of the Cabrillo Historical Society and former professor of U.S. history at California Western University, visited Portugal twice to see if she could learn something about the birthplace of Cabrillo. The result of her guided two-week trek yielded some significant discoveries,

“No one knows exactly where Cabrillo came from or where he got his name?we?re not able to find any other Cabrillo in Spain in the late 15th century or in Portugal either.” Certain places were eliminated simply because they were not in existence around the estimated time {1490s} of Cabrillo?s birth. Historians have long pondered the idea that the Portuguese explorer-adventurer might have come from one of the tiny villages named Cabril, adopted the name of the village, and slightly modified it. “It?s a very unusual name.”

With this explanation, or lack there of, of who this man was, when he was actually born, and where he was originally from, gives way to another aspect of the California Dream. Many people leave their original homes and travel to California for the opportunity of successes Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo did just this. His drive to fulfill his dream opened the door for so many future “Dreamers” to attempt to achieve their Dream. Cabrillo enjoyed what he accomplished in life, and as far as is known today, these accomplishments were earned solely by his interpretation of The Dream.


Cabrillo entered the service of Spain in 1520. and under the command of Hern(n Cort(s (1485-1547), participated in the conquest of Mexico. As Cabrillo worked diligently earning his way up the ranks as a Spanish soldier, he continuously demonstrated to his command his desire and willingness to explore. Though he had never commanded his own expedition, he was anxious for the day to fulfill this dream. These ambitions would eventually lead Cabrillo to be Chief Lieutenant of an expedition exploring the western coast of Mexico. In 1541 during an Indian uprising, the commander of this expedition, Pedro de Alvarado (1486-1541) was killed. At this time, being “well-versed in affairs of the sea,” Cabrillo was given the title “Commander” from Don Antonio Mendoza (1490?-1552), The Viceroy of New Spain. Cabrillo, described as “a man of striking individuality,” was motivated even more with this new opportunity. The lure of gold and a lust for power motivated Mendoza, while Cabrillo, who had many years prior, become wealthy through gold-mining was motivated by the sheer thrill of having the opportunity to explore. Upon assuming the command of the vessels Victoria and San Salvador, Cabrillo and his crew continued on their northwestward journey. Research by such maritime historians as Henry Culver and the top-flight marine artist, Gordon Grant, reveal these caravels as longer and lower than a galleon, and having four masts that were lateen-rigged.



With two home-built caravels, neither of which were more than 100 feet long, Cabrillo?s voyage continued, sailing dead to windward , up an unknown coast. “Light winds and heavy winds, rainstorms and changes of weather followed the sailors on their somewhat primitive ships . . . somehow that voyage was destined for history.” From time to time they would anchor sending the ships? boats ashore with some of the crew to explore as well as replenishing their stock of water and wood. Sailing past The Village of


Cedros, proceeding slowly up the coast, and passing many uninhabited islands while anchoring at others, the commander proceeded to take possession in the name of the king of Spain, according to the instructions which had been given him : Cabrillo and his crew sailed on north and northwest along the coast. It was on the twenty-eighth of September in 1452, over 450 years ago, that this undaunted explorer, along with his crew sailed the San Salvador and Victoria into a calm, sparkling blue sanctuary, where they once again anchored and rowed ashore.




Cabrillo is quoted as saying that he “found a very good enclosed port.” Stepping ashore on a beach, Cabrillo, and his crew named this port

San Miguel (St. Michael) for the Saint whose feast was celebrated on that day (September 28, 1452) ?this site is known today as San Diego .

Anchoring on the future Point Loma in “what is known today as San Diego Bay” Cabrillo became the founding father of San Diego. Cabrillo, although considered a minor figure in the Age of Exploration, is commemorated and memorialized in place names and commercial products in California and San Diego . From schools, to credit unions, to veterinary hospitals, the name Cabrillo recognized and used throughout San Diego. The Cabrillo National Monument (CNM), established in 1913, is located on Point Loma. This monument was built to commemorate Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo?s epic voyage of discovery along the California coast. The principal feature of the CNM

is the Point Loma Lighthouse. This classic lighthouse is a symbol of The California Dream. Just the way it “beaconed” ships to San Diego in the last half of the 19th century, The California Dream “beacons” people, to “jettison assumptions and try different things.” The dreams of Juan Rodriguez to explore, along with the mixture of ingredients needed to make a dream a reality was the scenario for the discovery of one of the world?s most beautiful cities. Though he was a man of unusual foresight he couldn?t have dreamed

what his discovery would be some five centuries later.


The California Dream?for some leaving behind their lives in search of more. How Cabrillo resembles this theme?a young, ambitious person, venturing off into the unknown and finding California?just like the dream of so many?the desire to try different things: where else, but California? . . and oh how San Diego beacons!

Brown, Phebe. “Clues Found on S.D. Bay?s Discoverer.” Evening Tribune, September 17, 1966, C3.

“Cabrillo Found an El Dorado, but Died Unaware of California?s Golden Hills.” Kansas City Times, January 21, 1932, 34.

“Cabrillo National Monument Home Page.” March 1, 1997. (December 13, 1999).

Cassidy, John. “The Comeback.” In California Dreams and Realities: Readings for Critical Thinkers and Writers, Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, 274-284. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin?s, 1999.

Donley, Ward T. “Visions of Greatness.” Journal of San Diego History,13 (April 1967) p.12-16.

_______. p. 21-40.

Eiden, Peter. “Cabrillo?s Death Remains A Mystery.” San Diego Union, June 10, 1958, B2.

Jensen, Joan M. “Notes from a Western Explorer.” The Western Explorer: Journal of the Cabrillo Historical Association, March 1967, 1-5.

“Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, A Voyage of Discovery.” n.d. (December 15, 1999).

Kelsey, Harry. “The California Armada of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.” Southern California Quarterly, Winter 1979, 313-336.

Lavender, David. “DeSoto, Coronado, Cabrillo.” Explorers of the Northern Mystery, 1992, p.112.

Lemke, Nancy. “Cabrillo.” San Diego Union-Tribune, March 18, 1991, 28.

Lockwood, Herbert. “Cabrillo First Boater Here.” San Diego Log, November 1974, 7-11.

MacMullen, Jerry. Director, Serra Museum, Presidio Park, San Diego. “Cabrillo?s Galleon? It was a Caravel!” San Diego Union, November 27, 1960, A1.

Pourade, Richard. “Told For the First Time, the Full Story of San Diego?s Discoverer: Who is Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo?” San Diego Union, November 22, 1959, A35, A37.

_______. “Veracruz.” San Diego Union, November 29, 1959, B1, B2.

_______. “I Remember the Man.” San Diego Union, December 6, 1959, A39, A40.

_______. “Closed and Very Good.” San Diego Union, December 27, 1959, A12, A33.

_______. “The Story Lives On.” San Diego Union, January 3, 1960, B1, B4.

Showley, Roger M. “Wonder No More About Juan Cabrillo.” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 1, 1999, E1.

Stanislawski, Don. “Early Spanish Town Planning in the New World.” Geographical Review, January 1947, 94-105.

Taylor, Alexander Smith. “The First Voyage to the coasts of California: Made in the Years 1542 and 1543.” San Diego Union, September, 1940, 240-244.

Thompson, Donald A. and Nonie McKibbin. “Gulf of California Fishwatchers Guide.” 1976, 48.

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