Efforts To Occupy Lower California
Pearl fishing and efforts to colonize.—Interest in California did not cease with Vizcaíno's failures. On the contrary, private interest in the pearl fisheries of the Gulf of California continued throughout the seventeenth century, and the government endeavored to utilize it as means of planting colonies. Numerous pearl fishing contracts were granted on condition that the beneficiaries should establish settlements. Other colonizing expeditions were fitted out at royal expense. In nearly every case missionaries were sent with the settlers to help to subdue and teach the Indians.
Iturbi's voyages.—In 1614 Thomas Cardona was granted a monopoly of pearl fishing in both the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of California. A year later Juan de Iturbi, in Cardona's employ, made a voyage to the head of the Gulf, and like Oñate concluded that California was an island. On his return one of his vessels was captured by the Dutch freebooter Spillberg. In the following year Iturbi made another successful voyage to the Gulf, though he again lost a vessel to freebooters. The pirates in the Gulf in this century were known as the Pichilingues. Iturbi's success inspired numerous unlicensed pearl hunting voyages in the Gulf from the ports of Sinaloa, which were attended by many abuses of the natives. California came now to be commonly regarded as an island.
A Dutch Map Illustrating the Insular Theory of California's Geography (1624-1625). (From Bancroft, North Mexican States and Texas, I, 169).
Later attempts.—In 1633 Francisco de Ortega, another contractor, founded a colony at La Paz, but it was short-lived. Like failures were experienced by Porter y Casante in 1648, by Piñadero in 1664 and 1667, and by Lucenilla in 1668. The failures were due to the barrenness of the country and to the fact that colonizing was made secondary to pearl fishing. Somewhat more successful was Admiral Atondo y Antillón, with whom a contract was made in 1679, the superior of the missionaries being the Jesuit Father Kino. For two years (1683-1685) settlements were maintained at La Paz and San Bruno, explorations were made, and Kino achieved some missionary success, but in 1685 Atondo, like his predecessors, abandoned the enterprise. No other serious attempt was made until 1697, when the Jesuits took charge of California.
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