The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada
Volume 2 , Number 12
A true traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arrival®
THE NEW CALIFORNIA
A Brief History of California and
Immigration May Settle the Score
For a quarter century after the achievement of Mexican independence
in 1821, California was a remote northern province of the nation of Mexico. The 1846 Mexican war cut Mexico in two when Polk was President.
The names of the cities in California remind proud Mexicans of their lost
property and slowly the land is being taken back through immigration. This
history of California can be traced back by its Hispanic past for more
than two centuries. It is important to have an understanding of this
history in order to be able to comprehend the events which led to the
acquisition of California by the United States after the Mexican-American
The colonization of California by the Spaniards began in 1769. The first settlers in California were of mixed race and culture, primarily of Spanish and indigenous Mexican decent. The life that they lived in California was highly regulated by the missions, and by the 1790´s the early missions had become quite self-sufficient. In 1823 there were 21 missions in California.
The Spaniards colonized California using the same methods that they had used to colonize Mexico: the mission, the presidio (or fort) and the pueblo. These three institutions of early colonial life were symbiotic, each relying on the other for help. The main goal of the missions was to Christianize the local Indians and to serve as an economic base by providing land for cultivation and livestock. The presidios provided any needed defense for both the missions and the pueblo. Although the presidios and the pueblos played an important role in Spanish California, it was the missions, located in the center of the pueblo that had the most influence in shaping society.
"Spanish" California has been romanticized by some as being a
peaceful place, in reality there was much rivalry between the different
social classes. California's population was divided by status much as
territories under Spain's control were in the 19th century. The ruling
class elite were the Spanish Franciscans, the Spanish officials and the
Spanish military officers. These people were known as the gente de razón.
The Mexicans followed this group. They were set apart from the gente de
razón and they almost never rose to positions of power in California.
Below these two classes of people were the Indians who were considered
much as the black slaves were.
The change from Spanish to Mexican rule in California had very
little impact on the settlers living there since California was basically
self-contained; although, it did leave the power structure uncertain. The
major change in California was the secularization of the missions. Mexico
had decided to secularize the missions since the beginning of their
independence, but the actual process did not begin until after 1833. The
secularization of the missions, which resulted in the distribution of
ownership of land being monopolized by the gente de razón, marked
the beginning of the age of the ranchos in California (1830´s to 1840´s).
Cattle were the primary business during this ranching era. This rise in
the ranchos of California marked a major change in society. Now, not only
could individuals own property, but they could have political power as
well. However, these privileges usually went to the gente de razón.
The new form of government helped the gente de razón to remain in their positions of power in California. Not only did this small group of families control the politics, but they also controlled the economy and society. Within the social class of California existed a division based on gender. This is a division that had begun with Spanish colonization and continued through the Mexican period. Hispanic traditions that came from Europe were male-centered; men were the patriarchs and dominating forces. Women played a critical role in society too, by working in the fields and being the center of the family unit. Although women from wealthier families normally did not do manual labor, they still oversaw the domestic chores. Besides the domestic duties that were only for women and children, clearly defined divisions of labor did not exist. These same traditions also enabled women to have property rights. Even though social divisions characterized California, the aspects of day-to-day life promoted unity. The isolation of California was an important factor in this; it caused people to rely more on one another. Language, religion and culture also contributed to these close bonds found in Californian life.
These new Californians were looking to create their own identity, one that was separate from Mexico. Thus, they began to develop strong ties of loyalty between themselves. Initially, life in California was centered around Monterey, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. In 1835 the capital moved from Monterey to Los Angeles, causing rivalry between the southerners and the northerners for each wanted the capital to be the city that they lived in. By 1845 they were ready to go to battle over these differences.
Eastern born Americans had become an important part of life in California by 1836. When these Americans began to settle in California they brought along with them judgmental behavior toward the Latin-American culture. The clash of cultures between the Anglo-Americans and the Mexicans had existed for a long time; California is just one of many examples. This clash was due to the fact that American values were very different from those of the Californians with regard to religion, politics and culture. The Americans also had a great dislike for racial mixing and scrutinized every aspect of life in California. Mexicans were subject to the prejudices held by the Anglo-Americans. The Mexicans in California were labeled as being lazy and ignorant and the majority of the Americans coming to California soon shared these ideas. However much the Americans may have disagreed with the Mexican way of life, they still became very deeply involved in it. Some married women from the elite families while others enjoyed the Californians hospitality. Also many Americans made profits in California as traders, bringing in imported goods from other parts of the world to the wealthy families. These were usually captains of ships who had the full acceptance into the elite class in California. On the other side of the picture were the American farmers and fur trappers who came to California in the 1840´s. The majority of these people went to the Sacramento River Valley, and did not make close relationships with the Californians.
In 1844 James K. Polk had been elected as President of the United States. He made the re-annexation of Texas and the acquisition of New Mexico, Oregon and California the most important items on his agenda. In November of 1845 President Polk sent John Slidell to Mexico offering 25 million dollars for New Mexico and California. Not only was this offer refused, but Mexican government officials refused to even meet with Slidell. After two years of strife and skirmishes, on January 13th of 1847, the very last of the Californian army, under General Flores and Andrés Pico, were met by General Frémont in the San Fernando Valley and surrendered to him. The Capitulation of Cahuenga defined the terms of the surrender. In this treaty the Californians promised to end their resistance and to obey the laws of the United States. In their doing so they agreed that the United States would protect them and give them the same rights as Americans. The treaty guaranteed the Californians that their property rights would be respected. The signing of this treaty not only marked the end of the American-Mexican war in California, but it also meant that California was no longer a part of Mexico but it belonged to the United States. Soon the American flag was flying in every city, and the majority of the Californians returned to their homes.
The California Bill, in one of the stormiest sessions of Congress on record, finally came to vote and was approved by the Senate on August 13, 1850, and after debate ratified by the House on September 7, 1850. Only two days later President Fillmore wrote the word "Approved" and affixed his signature under the bill signalizing the admission of California into the Union, thus adding the thirty-first star to the national ensign. Now the Golden State of California was clothed with full statehood, along with its thousand-mile coastline along the Pacific, greatest of all the seas.
The transition from a Mexican to an American California was not a smooth one as gold was discovered there in 1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the whole Mexican American War, gave Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada to the United States. It was signed just nine days before gold was discovered in California. In December, 1948 President Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, sparking a stampede to the West. The discovery of gold attracted people from all over the world to California, and the majority of them were Americans. There was such a great surge of migration to California after the discovery of gold that the Mexicans soon became a minority in what used to be their land. They were not only a minority; they were a hated minority that was not able to receive protection from the law. The year that gold was discovered, there were approximately 1,300 Mexicans that went to work in the mines. In the beginning they had great success, but this was short lived as it was obvious that there was not enough gold in California for everyone.
By 1849 lynchings, beatings, and robbing of the Mexicans were quite common. The situation became so grave that in autumn of 1849 the Mexican minister in Washington, Luis de la Rosa, sent an official protest to the United States Secretary of State, condemning the “violent enmity and persecution” of Mexicans in California which, he said, violated the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo." The United States Government did not respond to the charges, but in 1850 the Foreign Miners Tax was passed in California. This tax required foreigners to pay to mine. The tax was collected mainly from the Mexicans. Although they were American citizens, they were still treated as foreigners. After the discovery of gold in California, there was virtually no justice for the Mexicans, and a majority of them left to live elsewhere.
The discovery of gold in California after the Mexican American War changed its history completely. If gold had been discovered before 1848, perhaps California would not have been won so easily by the Americans. What would California be like today if the Spaniards or the Mexicans had been the ones to discover gold? If the Spaniards had been the ones to discover gold maybe California would have become one of the most heavily guarded places in the Spanish Empire. Had the Mexicans discovered gold, the Mexican government probably would have sent heavy military support to California during the Mexican-American War. On the other hand, the Americans would have fought harder to win California. These hypotheses are all subject to an interesting forum of discussion among historians as to the possibilities the various roads to California’s ultimate possession and ethnic population.
Today we see the resettling of California by economically depressed Mexicans that are intent on testing the letter of the United States Immigration Laws. As these laws are further tested and found to be fallible by those moving north to a newfound economic freedom, the population of California is experiencing a resurgence of those that originally inhabited this area many years ago. The recent discussions between Presidents Bush and Fox have widened the possibility of a greater opening of the avenue to Mexicans hoping to share the “American Dream” in a state that once was claimed as their own. Bush has recently floated a nebulous “workers amnesty” for Mexicans in California. The most respected national drivers license, the gold standard of ID’s, the California driver’s license is now on a California bill proposed to be given to migrating citizens from Mexico. Also, there is currently a bill in the legislature in Washington designed to give those from Mexico social security benefits further looting the fund we baby boomers will soon need for our “golden years”. The schools are filled with Mexican children intent on speaking only Spanish in an attempt to continue their proud Mexican heritage in California, but in reality are only isolating themselves from further economic progress while in the California system. Hospitals are closing due to the vast economic pressure caused by emergency rooms full of unfortunates with colds and the flu that cannot pay for the health care provided. The roads are clogged with the growing numbers of people inhabiting California as the jails fill with an alarming amount of those intent on using crime to get ahead as the gang mentality and hip hop culture takes hold of the minority youth. Are there any more questions why I choose to spend a majority of my time in peaceful Ensenada!
Publishing is an active life while writing is a quiet life.
A TALE FROM AN ENSENADA CHRISTMAS PAST
(a sample Chapter from our books)
I'd worked in San Diego repairing and installing electronics since 1974, and in December 1978 I signed onto a 50 foot Alaskan powerboat with my friend Mike, to travel the yacht to Central America. It would be the owner, Mike and myself, on a luxurious top-dollar ride to banana land. The owner would at times not be present and we would have the yacht and it's amenities to ourselves. Needless to say, things didn't go as planned. But, as usual, I was smiled upon, and was shown the way to my next adventure in grand style. As the Mexicans say, one door never closes but another opens.
As fate would have it, we burned out the starboard transmission near Isla San Martin, some 95 miles south of Ensenada. We limped back to Ensenada on one leg and tied up at the commercial wharf. In those days there were only the commercial docks, the sport fishing docks, or the anchorage area in the bay. There was no Baja Naval, as that area was a huge area for naval parades and the docks were as yet non-existent. The first night in town, my two companions took local transportation to the border in search of a replacement transmission and a little time to spend with their family after such a long arduous trip of one day.
That night was a night from hell for me as a winter storm blew into Ensenada that evening and kept me busy until morning light. The wind was gusting on the nose of this expensively appointed beauty, and as we were only side-tied in a stone walled corner of the no frills tuna seiner zone, the perfectly varnished transom and swim step were in jeopardy of demolition. I attached fenders aft, exerted leg pressure and generally had a miserable 8 hours of timing my defensive tactics against the gusting wind and pouring winter rain. A neighbor even tried to put out our bow anchor on his skiff as I applied weigh with the one good engine, but to no avail as the bottom was composed of soft mud.
Morning came and the damage was minimal. The guys returned that day to say the parts were on order in San Diego and they'd be back in a few days and we'd motor the boat back to San Diego for repair. Meanwhile, we took the boat out to a safer refuge and anchored in the little harbor of Ensenada. Did I mention why they were going back home for a few days? Christmas...yes I, in a foreign port, and on a freaking broke down luxury floating hotel, alone, on Christmas Eve.
No worries, I had money, a real neat place to sleep, and one cassette tape. I bet I can still sing you every word on Al Stewart's album, "Time Passages" (and how they have).
The only way to get into town from the boat was a call on the VHF to Juanito's sport fishing boat taxis or a wave of the hand to the kids operating the pangas from the anchorage to shore. I saw a familiar face motoring by that evening and hailed him to give me passage to shore adelante, er, pronto. I had befriended this kid and given him a tour of the yacht after one of my trips to town previously and knew he slept in his panga pulled up on shore at the now site of the Baja Naval docks. That would prove to come in handy later that morning.
I arrived at the shores of Ensenada on Christmas Eve and paid the kid a few pesos and told him to expect me in a few hours for the return trip. My destination, Hussong's Cantina for a bit of Christmas cheer. You know how it is to enter an empty bar and think that maybe you've entered a time warp and that it's actually after closing and the barkeep is sweeping the floor in preparation for the next day? This probably happens annually at Hussong's Cantina, reflecting the rich tradition of more than a century of good times gone by in pictures on the Cantina walls. Those ghosts of Margaritas past come out every cold winter Christmas Eve night to occupy the bar stools and stupor once again.
At the bar sat one lone patron, a Loren Bacal style beauty, advanced in years, resplendent in a dress endemic to the local region. I half expected her to look at me and say "you do know how to whistle, don't you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow"...
I sat next to her, bought her a glass of wine and learned that she was an expatriate from the States and had just returned from California with a load of presents for the orphanage due to be delivered tomorrow on Christmas day. Suddenly my woes paled in comparison to the light in her eyes. I was in the presence of an angel! The most poignant moment of our encounter was when she got up to leave the bar and her cane (which I hadn't noticed) fell into the area inside the foot bar and I picked it up, gave it to her, and without a word we nodded a sign of mutual respect, and she hobbled out into the night.
I was ready for a bit of frivolity at this moment and I wheeled around to survey the scene and lo and behold, there were now three American girls sitting at a table, alone, in a slightly more uplifting setting than the suddenly self-imposed melancholy I now felt. I approached the table in full swagger mode, filled with the knowledge that women like guys that have boats (even though it wasn't my own). Also, they were in a rather remote circumstance, and I needed to raise my spirits... A few rounds later and the one of the three I liked the best, suggested we drive the other two girls back to San Diego in order for them to celebrate Christmas with their families. Well, we drove those other two girls back to San Diego, dropped them off in seemingly opposite ends of town and drove all the way back to Ensenada in the wee hours of Christmas morning.
We parked the car and hurried down to the panga I knew was my secret stash for a quick trip back to my now newly realized floating Hugh Hefner remote retreat. It's now 5 am and the little guy is crashed out completely. I shake him and he doesn't wake. Being aside a female with all the right motivations, and an oh so intuitive grasp of the "moment', she shakes the guy in the most private of areas, he wakes up with the cutest smile and is ready to answer the call to duty.
Two days later my newfound female friend heads back to San Diego, the guys arrive for the journey north to San Diego, and the spell is broken. All the while "Time Passages" marked the moments spent on this, another Mexican adventure.
Find someone to encourage. It will lift you up too!
CORRECTIONS AND UPGRADES
San Martin Pharmacy: Ave. Ruiz #780-790 at the corner of 8th Street. This store is one of a chain throughout Ensenada. During the development of my books I used this store for book copies and binding. The office supply is now gone but there is a copier store with book binding service 3/4 of a block north on Ave. Ruiz, on the same side of the street. Tel. 178-3530
Panaderia La Mexicana: Ave. Gastelum #173. This little bakery is friendly, clean, and there is always something caloric and yummy baking in the back of the shop. Unfortunately the tray of freshly baked macaroon coconut cookies is not next to the cash register… My favorite treats, as they were always slightly burnt on the edges and so superbly chewy!
SURFING HISTORY AND PUERTO NUEVO, THE LOBSTER TOWN
(another sample Chapter from our books)
As young surfers en route to our favorite surf spot, San Miguel near Ensenada in the late 60’s, we often found ourselves at Km 38 instead, at one time an undeveloped bluff where we camped and surfed a perfect kelp protected right point break. I'm reminded of one long, cold winter Christmas night on that desolate point. It was just myself and my high school surfing buddy Barry, camped out with bedrolls, surfboards, tortillas and cheese, and a few cervezas. Out of this black, cold December night emerges a Mexican Federally (police officer). Known to be less than honest dealing with gringos during that frontier era, we were less than elated to greet this uniformed pirate. After paying him a few hard earned dollars for him to allow us to camp out at this deserted, barren location, he just as quickly disappeared into the night.
AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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