1809

A Year in the Life of a Spanish Colonial Pueblo: San José de Guadalupe in 1809

History San José

Official correspondence from the Spanish-Mexican Records of the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe

Silicon Valley's Hispanic Roots
Colonial Spain was not able to establish a permanent settlement in the more remote regions of its northwestern frontier until over a century and three quarters after the conquest of Mexico City in 1521. It was not until the 17th century was almost over -- in 1697 -- that a foothold on the eastern shore of what we now call Baja California was established. Named Loreto by the Italian Jesuits who founded it, the settlement soon became home to the two institutions which spearheaded the Spanish expansion into the Californias: the mission and the presidio. These two entities, one religious and the other military, directed the Spanish enterprise in Baja California through the 18th century. However, when Spain decided to expand its settlements further north to the area called Alta (Upper) California, it soon found that it needed a third type of institution -- the pueblo -- to raise crops to support the presidios. San José de Guadalupe was the first pueblo founded in Alta California. A party from San Francisco, led by José Joaquín Moraga, established the pueblo near the eastern bank of the Guadalupe River on November 29, 1777. Lands were distributed in 1783 and in that same year the first municipal elections were held. The site proved to be too close to the banks of the river however, and was relocated to a place farther from the river in 1797. It soon became one of the major sources of food for the two adjoining presidios, San Francisco and Monterey, the capital of Alta California.  The correspondence that follows gives a cross section of life in this important pueblo during the year 1809, a reminder that before it became Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley was Native American and Hispanic.

The first known map of what is today San Jose, California, listing owners of the plots of land distributed to the settlers.

José María Martínez was born in Topago, Sonora, Mexico c. 1755. He served in the military at Monterey and San Francisco before settling in San José in 1794. José María Estudillo was born in Spain in 1772 and came to America in 1787. He served at Loreto from 1796 to 1806, when he was transferred to Monterey.

An inválido was a soldier who was retired either because of age or injuries. Toribio Martínez Guzmân was born around 1750 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Francisco González was a settler at San José in the 1790s and served as regidor in 1803.

José Antonio Quitero Acebes was born c. 1740 at Valle del Bartolomé, Durango, Mexico. His family arrived in Alta California with the Anza party in 1776. He settled in San José and was granted the Salinas Rancho in the 1790s. He died in 1820.

Marcos Chabolla was a Spanish soldier who served as a corporal and settled at San Francisco before 1800. Antonio Soto was a settler at San José from before 1800. He served as regidor from 1809-1810 and as alcalde in 1818. He died in 1818. Juan Altamirano served as regidor in 1809 and died in 1811.

Antonio Buelna was born around 1754 in Sinaloa, Mexico. He joined the military and arrived in California before 1780. He served in the Soledad mission guard and was granted Rancho Cañada de Huerta near Monterey, then settled in San José in the late 1790s and served as a teacher in both Monterey and San José. He died in 1821.

The pueblo of San José was created to raise crops and livestock, and became one of the major sources of food for the two adjoining presidios, San Francisco and Monterey.

Luis Peralta was born about 1760 in Tubac, Sonora, Mexico. He accompanied his parents to Alta California on the Anza expedition in 1776, and was part of the original colonists in San José in 1777. He enlisted in the military in 1782, served as comisionado of San José from 1807 to 1822, and retired from the military in 1826. He died in 1851.

Father José Viader was born in 1765 in Catalonia, Spain. He became a Franciscan in 1788 and arrived in Alta California in 1796. He spent the next 33 years at Mission Santa Clara, returning to Spain in 1833.

Fernando VII (1784-1833) became king of Spain in 1808, lost the crown to Napoleon’s brother Joseph, but regained it in 1813. Under his rule, Spain lost its New World colonies.

Joaquín Buelna was a son of Antonio Buelna and María Ana Antonia Tapia. He was a teacher in San José in 1821. He was granted Rancho Sayante in 1833. The comandante at the San Francisco presidio was Luis Antonio Arguello, born in San Francisco in 1784. He was selected as the first governor of Mexican California in 1822, and held the post until 1825. He died in 1830.

Tiburcio Vásquez was born about 1755 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He came with his parents to Alta California with the Anza expedition in 1776. He settled in San José in 1783 and served as alcalde in 1802 and 1807. He died in 1827.

Calaveras (Skulls) Peak is located a bit to the north and east of present day Milpitas, now known as Monument Peak. Pedro Amador was born around 1739 in Cocula, Jalisco, Mexico. He enlisted in the military and participated in the expedition to Alta California in 1769. He retired to San José, where he died in 1824.

The Villa of Branciforte, near Mission Santa Cruz, was founded in 1797. It was projected to be the third pueblo in Alta California, after San José and Los Angeles. It never succeeded.

José María Larios was born around 1765 in Zapotlán, Guadalajara, Mexico. He was killed by a grizzly bear in 1818. Ignacio Cantua was born about 1740 at Navajoa, Río Yaqui, Sonora, Mexico. He and his wife settled in San José in the 1790s, but also spent time around San Juan Bautista and Monterey.

Francisco Castro is thought to be the well known Francisco Maria Castro, born in Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1775. He served as a soldier in the artillery and eventually settled in San Francisco. He was granted Rancho San Pablo in 1823, and died in 1831.

Father Narciso Durán was born in 1776 at Castellón de Ampurias in Catalonia, Spain. He was assigned to Mission San José in 1806, where he organized the neophytes into a choir and composed liturgical music. He left San José in 1833 and lived at Mission Santa Barbara until his death in 1845.

Chichiguas was a rancho near San Juan Bautista which was granted to Rafael González after secularization in 1835.

The monetary unit of Spanish America was the peso. Eight reales equaled one peso; 96 granos of silver equaled one peso. In the first half of the 19th century, a peso was roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar. Units of weight revolved around the Spanish libra (pound) and the arroba (25 libras). Abbreviations: al=almad (1/2 fanega, a fanega is equivalent to 1.6 bushels); q=quintal (100 libras or 25 arrobas); r=arroba (25 libras).

In 1977, San José celebrated its bicentennial with a commemorative stamp. The Peralta Adobe, San José's oldest residence, is still standing today, a reminder that long before Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley was Native American and Hispanic.

Credits: Story

Transcriptions and translations originally published as "Research Manuscript No. 9, Research Manuscript Series on the Cultural and Natural History of Santa Clara" (Santa Clara University, 1998), by Diane Lambert, Naomi Reinhart, Ludivina Russell, Gregory Von Herzen with the assistance of Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz.

Online exhibit created by Catherine Mills, Curator of Research Library & Archives, History San José

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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