Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Before Plymouth Rock….

Our understanding of American colonial history tends to be English-centric, regardless of the fact that both Spain and France had active and substantial colonies on the North American continent.

The whole colonial experience never was all-English, all the time.

For instance, Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596) was the first Englishman to land on the California coast near present-day San Francisco in June 1579. Naturally, he claimed the “new land” for Queen Elizabeth I and England. Just one problem: the English never established a colony in California.

In fact, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (?-1543), a Portuguese explorer, stepped on to a California beach near present-day San Diego in September 1542, about 37 years before Drake got California sand between his toes. Cabrillo claimed the western coast as part of “Alta California” for the Spanish Empire. California was absorbed into Mexico in 1821. The Spanish colonists and their descendants were a presence in California until it was admitted to the Union as the 31st state in September 1850 (after the gold rush started).

N. B. Before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, by some estimates the California territory was the home of about one-third of Native Americans living in the transcontinental expanse that would become the first 48 American states.     

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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