Who is Gaspar de Portola?

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Gaspar De Portolá

Our school is named for the 18th century sea captain Gaspar De Portolá, called by many the First Governor of California. He had many adventures exploring early California and Mexico. He led an expedition that traveled with Father Junipero Serra, an important figure in California history who was a leader in creating the series of missions in the state that led to its early settlement.

De Portolá, was a nobleman who served as a soldier in the Spanish army in Italy and Portugal before being appointed Governor of Las Californias from 1768-1770. In 1767, the Viceroy of Mexico ordered the arrest and deportation of all Jesuits (a branch of Catholicism) in colleges and missions. De Portolá, as the newly appointed Governor of Baja California, was responsible for expelling the Jesuits from Baja California, where they had established 14 missions in 72 years.

De Portolá, a good leader. In 1768, he led an expedition to create bases up the California coast in San Diego and Monterey. Three ships left headed for San Diego. The San Carlos, which left first, hit heavy winds and storms and took 110 days to reach its destination. A navigation error caused them to miss San Diego on the first try and having to double back. The San Antonio took 54 days to arrive. A third vessel with supplies was probably lost at sea.

After their hard journeys, most of the men aboard ship became ill and many died. A total of 219 men had left Lower California some two months before and little more than a hundred now survived. After replenishing supplies in San Diego, De Portolá and Serra decided to travel by land as well as sea to search for Monterey, and establish a colony there.

His route on his explorations included the beginnings of the Carmel Mission and the Presidio of Montrey.

When Governor De Portolà's task was finished, he sailed away never to return to California. In 1776, De Portolà was appointed governor of the Mexican state of Puebla. In 1784, he returned to Spain where he served as commander of a cavalry dragoon. He died in 1786.

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