Cabrillo’s World: A Commemorative Edition of Cabrillo Festival Historic Seminar Papers.
By John Ellis, ed. San Diego: Cabrillo Historical Association, 1991. Bibliography. Illustrations. Glossary. Index. 88 pages. $6.95 paper.
Reviewed by Richard H. Peterson, Professor of History, San Diego State University. Author of The Bonanza Kings, updated paperback, 1991, and its sequel, Bonanza Rich, 1991.
This paperback collection of representative scholarly papers sheds much light on various aspects of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his era. The initial essay by the late, legendary, Spanish borderlands scholar, Abraham Nasatir, creates the context of what follows by demonstrating how Cabrillo’s voyage of “discovery” to California and San Diego Bay in particular was part of a pattern of Spanish expansion in North America, 1492-1542. Cabrillo’s official log has been lost, but in a translation of a 1543 copy of a summary of other primary documents by James R. Moriarty and Mary Keistman, the reader gains insight into an almost daily account of the voyage along much of the coast of the current Western United States. Harry Kelsey, the most prominent contemporary Cabrillo scholar, provides information on Cabrillo’s vessels and the contributions and multicultural origins of the men who sailed them, including some Native Americans. Jerry MacMullen discusses the nature of navigation in Cabrillo’s day with references to technical instruments necessary to ocean travel. Carla Rahn Phillips’ paper notes that Cabrillo’s ship, the San Salvador, was a product of Iberian maritime history from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries. Even though the San Salvador was built in Mexico, it would have been as familiar to any shipwright in Spain as one of their own (p. 55).
The final essays focus on Native Americans in the San Diego area. Richard Carrico provides a revealing account of the demographics and culture of these people on the eve of Spanish contact. Florence Shipek documents the interaction of Europeans with the local Kumeyaay population, which resulted in population decline and the destruction of much of their native culture.
The volume, which commemorates the 450th anniversary of Cabrillo’s voyage, is well-documented and enhanced by a useful map of Cabrillo’s route and a glossary of relevant Spanish terms. Historian Raymond Starr provides an excellent introduction, the headnotes, and selected readings and acknowledges the hiatus of 227 years between Cabrillo’s claim to California in 1542 and the initial Spanish settlement at San Diego in 1769. Based on the research of respected experts on the subject, the book is highly recommended, especially in view of the related controversy regarding the legacy of Columbus in the Americas.