Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

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Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio
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By Betsy J. Green

100 years ago, folks were remembering that April 21 marks the founding of Santa Barbara’s Presidio back in 1782. On this date, “Father Serra arrived here and blessed and consecrated the district and preached a sermon. The royal standard of Spain was unfurled.”

This year, there will be festivities at the Presidio today (Saturday, April 27, 2019) to mark this day.

This early diagram, which shows the layout of the Presidio, is a bit confusing because the south side of the fort is at the top of the map. The notation “110 varas cuadradas” means 110 square varas. A vara is 33.33 inches. (Image: History of the City of Santa Barbara, California, from its discovery to our own days. Written in Spanish by Rev. Juan Caballeria y Collell and translated by Edmund Burke, 1892)


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1918 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the fifth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com

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a-1571599351 Apr 28, 2019 10:41 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

I would LOVE to sit at the Presidio, in all my Native finery (Bear cape, head-dress, beads from the islands, carved a rethousand yrs ago)..& regale those stories & wisdoms of my culture..things not found in books..but to get folks to "hear", to accept..to believe? Impossible.

RHS Apr 28, 2019 10:10 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

The Presidio should never have been reconstructed. It should never be held in esteem. Do we really honor the Atlantic Wall? The fort was an occupation force stronghold. There was no cultural or community benefit for the natives. It exists today (despite its originally very short tenure) only to attract tourists and to facilitate myth building stories justifying European behavior.

Factotum Apr 28, 2019 10:36 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

The Presido is such a small footprint with very few personnel. It hardly impacted any native populations unless they chose to come to interact with it on their own. Which they did voluntarily. There was food and pretty new things at the Presido and Chapel. But they were always free to return to the vast empty expanses which they called theirhome any time they wished.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 28, 2019 10:19 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

Shhh. We prefer to "white" wash history around here. Its much better to think of the natives as savages and the actual savages as saints... Let's not talk about historical truth, it will make the kids scared. Besides, its an old building and as everyone knows, any building older than 40 years is the most important thing in the community and must be saved at all costs!

NostraChumash Apr 28, 2019 07:59 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

Yes, And that's what was printed..imagine what has gone unwritten about SB, the Mission, the underground Chumash movement & the treatment by the Spanish, as well as the treatment received to this day.. What treatment?... There are no Chumash businesses in town..what does that tell you?.

a-1571599351 Apr 27, 2019 10:58 PM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

Thanks to a recent wi-fi outage (Cox Comm, sometimes I really hate you), I had to read a book. I chose to read "Santa Barbara's Royal Ranchos" by Walker Tompkins. Then, online, a couple days later, I somehow (a mystery to me) came across "Mission Santa Barbara, 1782 1965 By Maynard Geiger." =========(https://archive.org/stream/MissionSantaBarbara17821965ByMaynardGeiger/Mission%20Santa%20Barbara,%201782-1965%20by%20Maynard%20Geiger_djvu.txt)====== Between the book and the paper by Geiger (a California Missions historian), I was brought to tears reading about how the Spaniards and Friars and white land grabbers tormented and abused and killed off the Chumash from Ventura all the way up to Cojo. The Spanish soldiers in particular were horrible to the native Chumash. Of course, both Tompkins' book and Geiger's paper (Geiger was a Friar/Roman Catholic) virtually whitewash (a most appropriate word here) what was done to the native peoples. I can't even think about the Santa Barbara Mission now or The Presidio without feeling stricken to the heart over the dehumanization and decimation of the Chumash that took place. I grew up here and am ashamed to admit that I never before fully grasped the extent and horror of the genocide, deliberate or not, wrought upon the indigenous people in our part of California.

Factotum Apr 28, 2019 10:45 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

The Black Plague in the Middle Ages did a real number on the population of Europe as well when close to half the population was decimated in a few years. Was that genocide? Isolation and lack immunities is a politically and socially neutral event; tragic but not culpable. Did the post Columbian contact with this part of the world have sophisticated knowledge about infection and disease they intentionally and wilfully inflicted on these native population? Look how many are refusing vaccinations today - will consequences for their deliberate or unwitting decisions also be called genocide? Don't err using today's knowledge to inflict judgement on the past, particularly if it requires wearing a perpetual hair shirt today.

a-1571599351 Apr 28, 2019 07:40 AM
Way Back When: Celebrating the Presidio

Thank you for this comment. I am not of Chumash heritage, but grew up learning of how the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving with the “Indians” — and only as an adult realized that those same folks probably were giving thanks for stealing their land. Young people here need to know local history, not least to understand why there are casinos in this country, but to appreciate the present, how powerful nations prey upon the less powerful. Although I appreciate the architecture of the presidio, the history of Santa Barbara, I feel a sadness that the city we know started with such a cost to the peaceful inhabitants living here in what was then a geographic paradise.

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