Climbing out of his boat and onto shore in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stepped into history as the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States – arriving at nearby Point Loma.
Today Patti and I walked on the Cabrillo bridge that is named after him and thanks to my new GoPro camera I was able to share video with friends and family.
Before arriving at today’s Point Loma Cabrillo departed from the port of Navidad, Mexico on June 27, 1542. And as of today the town is still standing however, covid cases (over 200k) and the number of deaths related to covid (26k) are still rising.
Three months later he arrives at Point Loma’s east shore near the land that later becomes the Cabrillo National Monument.
Cabrillo later dies during this expedition, but his crew continues on, possibly as far north as Oregon, before a thrashing winter storm forced them back to Mexico.
Though the San Salvador (Cabrillos ship) spent only six days in San Diego harbor, this journey and future Spanish journeys to the area would shape southern California’s history.
Cabrillo’s Early Life
Born in Spain, Cabrillo was a conquistador in his youth. The term “conquistador” is the name applied to the mostly Spanish soldiers who explored, conquered, and later settled in the New World.
Metal weapons, and effective tactics made the conquistadors formidable with a nuke thrown in for good measure in the way of smallpox.
The disease, like our current worldwide Covid 19 epidemic swept through and killed a quarter of the indigenous population. And just now Pati tells me that her daughter Kara’s hair salon is being shut down for the second time on account of covid cases in California. Hopefully though, unlike the indigenous people who were here long ago when Cabrillo arrived we’ll live to look back on this story as just another event in our lives history.