Juan Bautista de Anza

Juan Bautista de Anza
Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto

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


Early life

'Juan Bautista de Anza' was born in Fronteras, Sonora, (near Arizpe, into a military family 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.

Map of the route, Juan Bautista de Anza travelled in 1775-76 from Mexico to today's San Francisco

California expeditions

The Spanish began colonizing Alta California in 1769. This involved a long sea voyage against the prevailing winds and the California Current. The problem was to find a land route. De Anza heard of a California Indian called Sebastian Tarabal who had fled from Mission San Gabriel to Sonora and took him as guide.

In 1772 he 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, he set forth from Tubac south of present day Tucson, Arizona. The expedition took a southern route along the Rio Altar (Sonora y Sinaloa, New Spain) then paralleled the modern Mexico/California border and crossed 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. He reached Mission San Gabriel Arcangel 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, he 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 in January 1776, the colonists having suffered greatly from the winter weather en route.

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 the first overland route to San Francisco Bay. In de Anza's diary on March 25, 1776, he states that he "arrived at the arroyo of San Joseph Cupertino, 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." [2] 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.

[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, thereby slowing the growth of California.]

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 Native Americans who had been repeatedly raiding Taos in 1779. With his Ute Tribe and Apache Native American allies, and around 800 Spanish soldiers, he 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.[3]

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.[4] This paved the way for traders and the development of the Comanchero trade.

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, administered by the U.S. National Park Service, for hiking along the route of de Anza's expedition exploring Las Californias[5] 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.[6][7]

A building named the Juan de Anza House in San Juan Bautista, California is a National Historic Landmark, however it was not constructed until circa 1830 with connection unclear. The "Juan Bautista de Anza Community Park" is located in Calabasas, California in the western San Fernando Valley, and "De Anza Park" is in Ontario in the Inland Empire region. A 20-foot (6.1 m) statue of De Anza, built in 1939, is located in Riverside, California at the corner of Market and 14th Streets.[8]

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

Another statue stands in Lake Merced park, San Francisco.[9]

The De Anza spelling is 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, 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.

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

Today descendants of Juan Bautista de Anza are found in Mexico City, Mexico.


  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. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ National Park Service: Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
  6. ^ Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space: de Anza Trail
  7. ^ Puente Hills Habitat Authority
  8. ^ Patterson, Tom. Landmarks of Riverside, and the Stories Behind Them. The Press Enterprise Company, Riverside, CA, 1964. Pages 174-175.
  9. ^ 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

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