Known for their vast and rich history, many Spanish monuments in California still draw large crowds of visitors each year. The memorials were established to honor many early European or Spanish explorers and settlers who came to North America. Here are the stories behind a few of the Spanish monuments in California.
Cabrillo National Monument
Located in San Diego, California's Point Loma neighborhood, this monument was erected to pay homage to Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who led the first European expedition to explore what is now known as the West Coast of the United States. He was a conquistador who served under the leadership of in infamous Hernan Cortez. This journey of discovery started June 27, 1542, and three months later, he arrived at Point Loma. Cabrillo also journeyed further north, where later landed in Monterey Bay and Point Reyes, California.He unfortunately died during his expedition, so he never made it to San Fransisco, but his crew pushed as far north as Oregon.
The Cabrillo National Monument was established in 1913 after being memorialized by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The memorial is part of California's National Park Service and includes tidepools, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, walking trails, a statue of Cabrillo, a whale outlook and a bookstore/visitor center.
The Spanish Missions of California
Although not monuments in terms of statues, the Spanish Missions (also known as the California Missions) are a series of religious outposts created by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order. They were established from 1769 and 1823 to help spread Catholicism to Native Americans living in various areas of California.
The idea was brought forth by King Charles III of Spain, who found the land on the West Coast to be "fertile and near the sea." He wanted to create safe harbors for Spanish ships landing there. It was said that if the Spaniards did not settle the land quickly, the Czarist Russians were planning to do so, and thus, the land would be lost. After deciding that farming would work on the land, King Charles decided to turn the property into missions as not only a means of converting the non-Catholics, but also to provide labor for the farmlands. Each mission consisted of a:
- Building with a patio
- Vast field for livestock and crops
- Living quarters for the workers
The 21 missions were established up and down the California coast including:
- San Francisco
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Barbara
- Los Angeles
- San Juan Capistrano
- San Diego
A monument memorializing Father Junipero Serra, who founded nine of the missions, was erected in 1965 at the State Capital in Sacramento, California.
More Spanish Monuments in California
There are memorials and monuments all along California's coast. Some other areas of interest include:
- Spanish Landing Park: Built directly across the street from San Diego International Airport, Spanish Landing Park commemorates the Spaniards whose lives were lost journeying to North America in 1769.
- The Spanish American War Memorial: Located in Sacramento, California, this monument was built in 1949 to honor all of the veterans of the Spanish-American War.