Juan Bautista de Anza

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Juan Bautista de Anza
Juan Bautista de Anza.jpg
55th Spanish Governor of New Mexico
In office
Preceded by Francisco Trevre
Succeeded by Fernando de la Concha
Personal details
Born July 6/7, 1736
Fronteras, Sonora, New Spain
Died December 19, 1788
Arizpe, New Spain
Profession Explorer and Governor of New Mexico

Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto (July 6/7, 1736[1] – December 19, 1788) was a New-Spanish explorer of Basque descent,[2] and Governor of New Mexico for the Spanish Empire.

Early life

Juan Bautista de Anza was born in Fronteras, Sonora, New Spain in 1736 (near Arizpe), into a military family living on the northern frontier of New Spain. He was the son of Juan Bautista de Anza I. In 1752 he enlisted in the army at the Presidio of Fronteras. He advanced rapidly and was a captain by 1760. He married in 1761. His wife was the daughter of Spanish mine owner Francisco Pérez Serrano. They had no children. His military duties mainly consisted of forays against hostile Native Americans, such as the Apache, during the course of which he explored much of what is now Arizona.

California expeditions

The Spanish began colonizing Alta California with the Portolá expedition of 1769-70. The two-pronged Portolá effort involved both a long sea voyage against prevailing winds and the California Current, and a difficult land route from Baja California. Colonies were established at San Diego and Monterey, with a presidio and Franciscan mission at each location. A more direct land route and further colonization were desired, especially at present-day San Francisco, which Portolá saw but was not able to colonize. By the time of de Anza's expedition, three more missions had been established - the one farthest north being Mission San Antonio de Padua, in the Salinas Valley.

In 1772, De Anza proposed an expedition to Alta California to the Viceroy of New Spain. This was approved by the King of Spain and on January 8, 1774, with 3 padres, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses, De Anza set forth from Tubac Presidio, south of present-day Tucson, Arizona. De Anza heard of a California Native American called Sebastian Tarabal who had fled from Mission San Gabriel to Sonora, and took him as guide. The expedition took a southern route along the Rio Altar (Sonora y Sinaloa, New Spain), then paralleled the modern Mexico/California border, crossing the Colorado River at its confluence with the Gila River. This was in the domain of the Yuma tribe, with which he established good relations.

De Anza reached Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, near the California coast, on March 22, 1774, and Monterey, California, Alta California's capital, on April 19. He returned to Tubac by late May, 1774. This expedition was closely watched by Viceroy and King, and on October 2, 1774, De Anza was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and ordered to lead a group of colonists to Alta California. The Spanish were desirous of reinforcing their presence in Alta California as a buffer against Russian colonization of the Americas advancing from the north, and possibly establish a harbor that would give shelter to Spanish ships. The expedition got under way in October, 1775, and arrived at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in January, 1776, the colonists having suffered greatly from the winter weather en route. Today this route is marked as the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

Juan Bautista de Anza, from a portrait in oil by Fray Orsi in 1774

The expedition continued on to Monterey with the colonists. Having fulfilled his mission from the Viceroy, he continued on with Father Pedro Font and a party of twelve others exploring north and found an inland route to the San Francisco Bay described by Portolà. In de Anza's diary on March 25, 1776, he states that he "arrived at the arroyo of San Joseph Cupertino (now Stevens Creek), which is useful only for travelers. Here we halted for the night, having come eight leagues in seven and a half hours. From this place we have seen at our right the estuary which runs from the port of San Francisco."[3] Pressing on, de Anza located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asis in present-day San Francisco, California on March 28, 1776. He did not establish the settlement; it was established later by José Joaquín Moraga. While returning to Monterey, he located the original sites for Mission Santa Clara de Asis and the town of San José de Guadalupe (modern day San Jose, California), but again did not establish either settlement.[4]

(In 1781 the Yuma revolted against the Spanish. Although there were punitive expeditions, they could not re-establish their position at the Yuma crossing and de Anza's route was blocked, preventing him from continuing his expedition further north).

Nuevo México – New Mexico

On his return from this successful expedition in 1777 he journeyed to Mexico City with the chief of the lower Colorado River area Quechan (Yuma) Native American tribe who requested the establishment of a mission. On August 24, 1777, the Viceroy of New Spain appointed Anza as the Governor of the Province of Nuevo México, the present day U.S. state of New Mexico.

Governor de Anza led a punitive expedition against the Comanche group of Native Americans, who had been repeatedly raiding Taos during 1779. With his Ute and Apache Native American allies, and around 800 Spanish soldiers, Anza went north through the San Luis Valley, entering the Great Plains at what is now Manitou Springs, Colorado. Circling "El Capitan" (current day Pikes Peak), he surprised a small force of the Comanche near present-day Colorado Springs. Pursuing them south down Fountain Creek, he crossed the Arkansas River near present-day Pueblo, Colorado. He found the main body of the Comanche on Greenhorn Creek, returning from a raid in Nuevo México, and won a decisive victory. Chief Cuerno Verde, for whom Greenhorn Creek is named, and many other leaders of the Comanche were killed.[5]

Cueno Verde marker at Cuerno Verde Rest Area

In late 1779, Anza and his party found a route from Santa Fe to Sonora, west of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. His various local military expeditions against tribes defending their homelands were often successful, but the Quechan (Yuma) Native American tribe which he had established peace with earlier rebelled, and he fell out of favor with the military commander of the Northern Frontier, the frontier-general. In 1783 Anza lead a campaign against the Comanche on the eastern plains and by 1784 they were suing for peace. The last of the Comanche chiefs eventually acceded and a formal treaty was concluded on 28 February 1786 at Pecos Pueblo.[6] This paved the way for traders and the development of the Comanchero trade.

Map of the route, Juan Bautista de Anza travelled in 1775–76 from Mexico to today's San Francisco
de Anza tomb site, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Arizpe

Juan Bautista de Anza remained as governor of Nuevo Mexico (New Mexico) until 1787 when he returned to Sonora. He was appointed commander of the Presidio of Tucson in 1788 but died before he could depart and take office. Anza was survived by his wife.

Juan Bautista de Anza died in Arizpe Mexico, and was buried in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Arizpe. In 1963, with the participation of delegations from the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco, he was disinterred and reburied in a new marble memorial mausoleum at the same Church.


The primary legacy is the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in California and Arizona, administered by the US National Park Service, for hiking and driving the route of his expedition exploring Las Californias[7] In the San Fernando Valley the trail crosses the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, and in the San Gabriel Valley the trail is in the Puente Hills just north of Whittier, California.[8][9]

Also named for de Anza is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, located mostly in eastern San Diego County, California. The park contains a long and difficult stretch of the Anza trail, traveling west from the Imperial Valley to the coastal mountain passes north-east of San Diego.[10]

A building named the Juan de Anza House in San Juan Bautista, California is a National Historic Landmark. However, it was constructed c. 1830 with its connection unclear. The "Juan Bautista de Anza Community Park" is in Calabasas, California, and "De Anza Park" is in Ontario. A 20-foot (6.1 m) statue of De Anza, built in 1939, is located in Riverside, California at the corner of Magnolia Ave. and 14th Street.[11]

Dorr Bothwell's statue of Juan de Anza in Riverside, California

Another statue stands in Lake Merced park, San Francisco.[12]

The de Anza and De Anza spellings are also the namesake of streets, schools, and buildings in his honor including: De Anza Boulevards in San Mateo and Cupertino, De Anza Park in Sunnyvale, De Anza College in Cupertino, De Anza High School in Richmond, Juan De Anza K-5 in the Wiseburn Elementary School District of Hawthorne, De Anza Middle School in Ontario, De Anza Middle School in Ventura, De Anza Elementary School in El Centro, and the De Anza School in Baldwin Park, the landmark De Anza Hotel in San Jose, and the historic De Anza Hotel in Calexico – all in California.

Using just Anza in his honor are: Anza Street in San Francisco and Lake Anza in Tilden Regional Park above Berkeley in the Berkeley Hills. The town of Anza, California, is a small town of 7,000 people on Highway 371 in the mountains south of Palm Springs.

Also named in his honor is Juan Bautista Circle in the Parkmerced development in San Francisco.

Today descendants of Juan Bautista de Anza are found in Mexico City, Mexico.[citation needed]

Reenactment of the arrival of Juan de Anza at Tubac, Arizona.



  1. Garate, Donald T. (2003). Juan Bautista de Anza: Basque Explorer in the New World, 1693–1740. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. p. 155
  2. Douglass, William A.; Douglass, Bilbao, J. (2005) [1975]. Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. p. 190. ISBN 0-87417-625-5. Retrieved 16 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. de Anza, Juan Bautista (1776). Diary of Juan Bautista de Anza October 23, 1775 – June 1, 1776. http://anza.uoregon.edu/anza76.html Accessed September 8, 2009 University of Oregon Web de Anza pages
  4. Edward F. O'Day (October 1926). "The Founding of San Francisco". San Francisco Water. Spring Valley Water Authority. Retrieved February 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Thomas, Alfred Barnaby (ed.) (1932) "Governor Anza's Expedition against the Comanche 1779" Forgotten Frontiers: A Study of the Spanish Indian Policy of Don Juan Bautista de Anza, Governor of New Mexico, 1777–1787 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, pp. 66–71 OCLC 68116825
  6. A full translation of the treaty is set out at Thomas, Alfred Barnaby (ed.) (1932) "The Spanish-Comanche Peace Treaty of 1786" Forgotten Frontiers: A Study of the Spanish Indian Policy of Don Juan Bautista de Anza, Governor of New Mexico, 1777–1787 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, pp. 329–332 OCLC 68116825
  7. National Park Service: Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
  8. Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space: de Anza Trail
  9. Puente Hills Habitat Authority
  10. "Tour Anza Borrego Desert". CaliforniaResortLife. Retrieved 2015-12-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Patterson, Tom. Landmarks of Riverside, and the Stories Behind Them. The Press Enterprise Company, Riverside, CA, 1964. pp. 174–175.
  12. Statue in Lake Merced

Further reading

  • "Anza and the Northwest Frontier of New Spain", J. N. Bowman and R. F. Heizer, Southwest Museum Papers Number Twenty, Highland Park, Los Angeles, California, 1967, Hardback, 182 pages.
  • Anza and Cuerno Verde, Decisive Battle, Wilfred Martinez

External links

Preceded by
Francisco Trevre acting
Governor of New Mexico
Succeeded by
Fernando de la Concha