Spanish Discovery of Catalina

The Pimungans of Santa Catalina Island paddled out to greet the Spanish galleon that bore the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to their shores on October 7, 1542. Just 50 years after Columbus first sailed into the Western Hemisphere, the Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) had authorized an expedition up the coast of California in search of a passage to the Far East. The Pimungans were invited aboard ship and gifts were exchanged. It is not known which cove the Spanish ship anchored in. Cabrillo, of course, claimed the Island for the King of Spain. The visit was duly noted in the ship’s log and the Island was given the name San Salvador, after Cabrillo’s ship. Cabrillo sailed on up the coast after about half a day.

Except for the possible occasional sighting of the yearly Manila Galleon sailing down the coast on its return to New Spain from the Philippines, the Pimungans were left in peace until 1602. On November 24, the eve of St. Catherine’s Day, the ship of the second Spanish explorer, Sebastian Viscaino, sighted the Island. Viscaino renamed it Santa Catalina in honor of Saint Catherine. His party stayed a day or two longer than Cabrillo and explored a bit on foot before sailing on. An Augustinian friar with the expedition said the first Catholic Mass on Santa Catalina. Relations with the Pimungans were amicable, although the Islanders became distressed when the sailors shot some Ravens, which held a special place in their world.

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