Hernán Cortés, the famous Spanish conquistador, sent five maritime expeditions to the northwest of New Spain in search of a passage that could connect the Pacific with the Atlantic. The expeditions aimed to increase the power of Spain in the New World.
The first three failed, while the fourth one faced a mutiny. The rebels fled to the north and arrived in La Paz, where they were initially welcomed by the natives. However, they were later expelled due to their attempts to commit abuses.
Cortés himself led the fifth expedition, and upon arriving at the site where the mutineers had been, he named it Santa Cruz on May 3, 1535. The Spanish then founded a colony, and Cortés and his people stayed there for almost two years.
However, the difficulties in obtaining food and the rejection of the natives towards the Spanish domination led to the abandonment of the enterprise.
The Origins of California's Name
From then on, the southern part of the peninsula started to be known as California. The word "California" had already existed in a novel called Las Sergas de Esplandián, which featured an island with the same name.
According to the novel, California was located to the right of the American continent and was governed by Queen Calafia. The island was populated only by women, and everything there was made of gold.
Perhaps some people believed that Cortés had indeed arrived in California as described in the novel, while others, seeing the precarious conditions of the new land, began to give it that designation ironically. For a long time, people believed that the known part of the peninsula was the main part of the Californias.
The discovery of California by Hernán Cortés was a crucial event in the history of the New World. Although the expeditions did not achieve their original objective, they paved the way for future explorations and colonization of California by the Spanish.
The naming of the southern part of the peninsula as California has an interesting history, as it was inspired by a novel from the time. Today, Baja California Sur is one of the least populated and prosperous states in Mexico, with a rich cultural heritage and a diverse population.