Juan Bautista de Anza

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Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto (July 1736 - 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 Perez de 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.

Las Californias expedition

In 1772 he proposed an expedition to upper Las Californias 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 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 Northern 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.

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