The Journal of San Diego History
October 1964, Volume 10, Number 4
Ray Brandes, Editor

A Document Translated by Patrick Pleskunas

I, José Garcia, first keeper of stores and arms of this department, and empowered to act as boatswain on His Majesty’s frigate Aranzazu which is anchored in this harbor, and about to sail to the Presidio of San Diego on the northern coast of the Californias, certify that I have received from Señor Juan Francisco Hijosa, commissary of this department on board ship and under her decks the following cargo


40 loads of balls of soap
30 metates with grinding stones
77 @ 6 pounds apiece of mescal-root sugar
4 sacks of sugar
1 sack of rice
1 sack of chile
150 pairs of shoes
57 halters
25 complete saddles



All of which I shall be obliged to deliver (May God be served) at the said harbor of San Diego to its paymaster or to the person who in his absence shall take his place, their quality undiminished, in good condition, as I have received them, I obligate myself completely to their delivery with my person and the property which I have had and will have, and so that it may be assured I sign six copies of the bill of lading so that it may be carried out. San Blas March 12, 1792.

Note: The above goods were augmented by 8 packages of Cascara and 4 scrapers.


I sign at the request of the boatswain
  Manuel Fernandez

Under my supervision
  Juan Pantoja

I certify, Don José de Zúñiga

Editor’s Note

The document reproduced and translated here is an example of the kind of research now underway at the Serra Museum. Through the generosity of the Copley Press, and Mr. Richard F. Pourade, a large number of photostats of documents found in the Archivo General, in Mexico City, were placed in the library of the Museum. Several individuals now at work are laying the groundwork for a comprehensive study of our region in the Spanish and Mexican periods.

We are pleased that such young people as Mr. Meskunas and Miss Kathleen Rudd were able to assist in such a project where they could see and work with these documents of the past.

Such a document is that one shown here, translated by Patrick. The item is not unusual, but it is not the unusual documents which tell the story to be learned. It is the day-by-day descriptions, the regular correspondence, and the routine papers which give to us that colorful lesson of our past.

In this instance, from a single document, however, we learned the names of a half-dozen individuals who had some connection with San Diego in 1792. We found that certain kinds of interesting goods were shipped to the Presidio of San Diego and that among those items were metates and manos. This is interesting because anthropologists and historians would have assumed that these grinding stones would have been made locally. Three-legged metates are indigenous to Mexico. Had these been found in ruins at a local historic site archaeologists would have been puzzled.

The document also tells us that the individuals of this period, on the frontier, had printed forms serving as shipping bills and that the men were meticulous in their record-keeping. We find also the name of Juan Pantoja or Don Juan Pantoja y Arriola who drew the first chart of San Diego Bay in 1782. Note the signature of Captain Jacinto Caamafio of the Aranzazu who, with his ship and crew had been involved in the Alta California trade for some years, In this decade, particularly, Caamaño did a great deal of trading using abalone shells as the medium of exchange. José de Zuñiga was also a veteran of frontier service for the Crown, having been Comandante of the old Pueblo of Tucson, prior to his assignment as Commanding Officer of the Presidio of San Diego.

Thus a single document, not extraordinary in nature, fills in some gaps in our history. We are proud to cite the support of the Copley Press, the First National Bank of San Diego, and the Westgate Foundation in such a research project.

Patrick Pleskunas, fifteen years old, was born in San Diego. His father is in the Navy, serving on the nuclear submarine Snook. Pat will be a junior at Point Loma High School. He will be taking Russian and French among other advanced courses. He has been working this past summer at the Historical Society translating Spanish documents