Jose de Galvez and Spanish Colonization of Alta California essay

Jose de Galvez was the Visitor General to New Spain from 1765 to 1772. In 1768, he got royal orders to enter Alta California and colonize San Diego and Monterey. The plan to occupy Alta California was named as the “Sacred Expedition” because its objective was to establish missions and convert the Indians to Christianity and also to establish Spanish rule in California (Engstrand, Iris Wilson). Father Juniper Serra had been designated the in charge of the missions that were to be established there. Galvez planned the expedition extremely well.

In January 1769, two teams set by sea from Mexico to establish a Spanish settlement in San Diego. They landed there in May 1769. The two teams, which went by land route landed in San Diego in July 1769. Galvez minimized the risk of failure by this two-pronged approach. In this way, a settlement was established in Alta California in 1979 and all land in California was vested in the name of the king of Spain (Denger, Mark J. ). In this essay, I will discuss the importance of Jose de Galvez’s plan to enter Alta California and also whether the Spanish government invested all it could for the development of the colony.

Jose de Galvez and Spanish Colonization of Alta California Jose de Galvez’s plan to enter California was very important for Spain. The Russians were looking at establishing their rule in Alta California. But, the king of Spain wanted to establish missions and construct presidios in California to prevent any other foreign power from occupying the country. Along with this, Spain needed new sources of natural resources. These factors were responsible for the decisions to venture into areas of Alta California. Spain already had a presence in Baja California, but had ignored Alta California for a long time.

The expedition headed by Jose de Galvez was able to establish Spain’s first permanent settlement in California. The successful establishment of a colony in Alta California by Jose de Galvez extended Spain’s settlement to upper and lower California. The expedition led by Jose de Galvez succeeded in establishing the rule of the king of Spain over California. Spain invested all possible resources to develop the colony of Alta California. Father Juniper Serra established his first mission in San Diego with a group of Spanish and Indian people on the spot, which is today known as Presidio Hill.

After this, Father Serra founded a number of missions, which extended from San Diego to Sonoma, which is an area of about 600 miles. Between the years 1769 and 1784, father Serra had established the first nine missions in Alta California. These missions were located at a distance of every fifty to seventy miles between San Diego and San Francisco. After the death of father Serra, his successor Fermin de Lasuen established nine more missions between the years 1785 and 1803. The economic aspect of Spain’s colonization of California focused around discovering, extracting, and harvesting natural resources in Alta California.

In the initial years after establishing the first mission in Alta California, the Spaniards went about with great speed to convert the Indians into Christians. The San Diego mission started a program of mass baptisms in July 1775, baptizing 300 Indians in three months (Killea, Lucy L. ). Four presidios were established in Alta California to subdue the resistance by the native Indians. A total of 24 missions were established in Alta California to convert the native Indians to Christianity.

Pueblos were set up to become the centers of public activity. Ranchos were established to sustain the colony through farming and livestock. The people who lived in the presidios, missions, ranchos, and pueblos of Alta California were engaged in jobs, which were related to the extraction, harvesting, and transporting of natural resources. The Spanish colonizers changed the native Indians of California from being hunter-gatherers to an agricultural society. But, the Spanish expansion into Alta California proved a financial disaster for Spain.

Establishing the California missions added an extra burden to a Spanish economy, which was already overburdened due to the already large spread of the Spanish empire. The settlement of Alta California was initially wholly dependent on subsidies, which were sent by the Spanish government ships. Many times, the rations and provisions sent by the Spanish government for their people in Alta California were late or spoiled. But, later some of the missions were able to show a good production of food grains and livestock and were also able to generate enough for exports (Quinn, Ronald J.). Later, some of the missions went on to become large and productive centers of food, livestock, and agricultural products in Alta California.

By 1800, the number of Indians who had been converted had reached 20,000 (Lazzerini, Rickie). All of the above demonstrate that the colony of Alta California was an important colony for Spain and it invested heavily in the development of the colony of Alta California.


Engstrand, Iris Wilson, The Occupation of the Port of San Diego de Alcala, 1769. The Journal of San Diego History. Retrieved March 1, 2007 from