Californidad: a History, Roots, and Identity Initiative

To understand what “Californidad” means, we need to trace the term’s “California” origin back to 1510, when it first appeared in a novel called “Las Sergas de Esplandían” by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.

The Approach to the South Sea

In 1536, when Hernán Cortés arrived on the peninsula, the Spaniards perceived it to be a land as hot as an oven and referred to it as “Cálida Fornax”. The stories of chivalry and fantastic mythologies that always encouraged Cortés to explore lands beyond influenced him. Thus, when the southern tip of the peninsula, today known as Cabo San Lucas, was discovered, it was named “California”, after the fantastic island of “Las Sergas de Esplandían”. Cortés observed elements in this new land like those in the fabulous tales.

Spanish historian Francisco López de Gómara mentioned the “Isla de California” in his book “Historia General de las Indias” in 1552. At that time, it was believed to be a separate island located at the southern tip of the peninsula. But it was later discovered to be attached to the mainland. In 1535, the region now known as La Paz was named “Isla o Bahía de la Santa Cruz” (Island or Bay of the Holy Cross).

California became a part of the mainland on geographical maps as time passed. Previously, topographers did not acknowledge this perspective. Its name is closely associated with the rich history of the peninsula. California went through different phases of history, such as being colonized by missionaries, invaded, urbanized, and explored. Consequently, the name “California” was divided into Alta California (Upper California) and Baja California (Lower California). In 1846, Alta California became part of the United States, while Baja California remained a part of Mexico.

The “Día de la Californidad” commemoration was established on November 14th after a thorough investigation led by writers, municipal chroniclers, and the Los Cabos Institute of Culture. This commemoration marks the first step towards creating historical and cultural awareness of the significance of the name California.

On the Day of the Californidad, it is essential to remember that the soldiers of Hernán Cortés’ exploratory expedition, which he funded himself, baptized the area with the name “Cabo California” to what is now known as Cabo San Lucas.

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