San Diego: A Brief History Of Its People

For the longest time, San Diego was home to the Kumeyaay people of the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico, making them the native inhabitants of this southern Californian region. As such, they established their own culture and dominance of the land long before the arrival of the first European settler, a Portuguese explorer by the name of Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo.

Cabrillo (ca.1499 – 1543) arrived in San Diego under the Spanish flag, sailing on his flagship San Salvador. He had traveled there from the port at Navidad, New Spain, and claimed the San Diego bay in the name of the Spanish Empire. At the time, he named the site ‘San Miguel’, and it remained this way for about half a century.

The next major arrival on these Californian shores was in November of 1602, when Sebastian Vizcaino (1548 – 1624) was sent by the crown to draw up a map of the California coast. His flagship was named the ‘San Diego’, from which the city would eventually get its name. Vizcaino made a survey of the harbor area, subsequently renaming the area to San Diego after the Spanish Catholic Saint Didacus, who was more frequently referred to as ‘San Diego’, which was who Vizcaino’s ship was also named after.

November 12, 1602, was the day of the first recorded Christian religious service in this part of California, and was actually conducted in honor of the feast day of Saint Didacus/San Diego. From here, the area began to attract settlers and grew as a town, until a day in 1769 when the ‘Presidio of San Diego’ was established by Gaspar de Portola – essentially turning the area into a military post. However, the Franciscan friars also established the ‘Mission San Diego de Alcala’ at the same time, which was probably the reason for the area’s continued growth, despite being a military outpost, in fact, by 1797, the Franciscan mission was home to the largest native population in all of Alta California.

The 1800s would see a great deal of change around San Diego, however this early establishment of the area certainly contributed to its longevity as a town and living space, while it would also go through plenty of military controversies before finally becoming the eighth largest city in the United States as it is today.

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