Anza Trail Blog

A Beautiful Arrival Ceremony at the Presidio of San Francisco, June 25, 2016

by Martha Vallejo McGettigan, Descendant, 2nd Anza Expedition; Chair, Spanish Task Force, Presidio Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Tagged as:   California , Culture , Hispanic heritage , Mexico , San Francisco County , Volunteers , history , living history , women , youth

Descendants' flagpole ceremony at Pershing Square

Every year descendants of the original families of the second Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition, through their group Los Californianos, return to the Presidio of San Francisco in June to recognize the amazing journey of their ancestors and to celebrate the founding of that site with a special commemoration and luncheon, this year chaired by Sheila Ruiz Harrell.

This event is preceded a day by an afternoon of living history, displays, activities and participation for children and adults called Pasados del Presidio. Then an evening campfire and re-enactment campsite with more living history, music and dance instruction happens at the Rob Hill campsite at the Presidio.

The living history day events had the Mission Dolores & Rumsen Ohlone Tribe, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Rancho Life with Sanchez Adobe, Johnny the donkey, corn grinding, tortilla tasting, sensory experiences with Presidio Nursery, ceramic making with Ruben, nature lab and birding, majolica tile painting, music and dance by Ballet Folklorico Mexicano, The Anza Trail Color Guard from California and Arizona, and, in addition to these long standing partners more and new participants, Los Soldados del Real Presidio de Santa Bárbara, The Singing Vaquero and returning descendants, Martha Vallejo McGettigan for "Women of the Anza Expedition" and Dr. Greg Smestad for the Anza Trail.

That night at the campfire the soldados did a camp exhibition with Anza Expedition information, and there was music and dance instruction of the Anza colonial times. S'mores were for all and children answered questionnaires about the times, learning directly from the event. There was a larger turn out than ever and everyone was smiling and happy! These events are due with thanks to the diligence and organization by Hale Sargent (Interpretive Specialist, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail) and the staff of the Presidio Heritage Programs.

The next morning for the arrival ceremony it was without fog and showed off the beautiful views of the bay from the Presidio that had to be enjoyed by the Founders. The program began with the traditional Alabado being sung and then Dr. Smestad remembering the life of Father Palou and reciting the Te Deum. Both would have happened at the original arrival of the colonist. And then the ringing of the bells! All of which our ancestors would have heard on the very same spot.

The audience was treated with the program being done in two languages – English and the language of the time and people of the Expedition – Spanish. This presentation by a descendant of the last Comandante of the Presidio, General M.G. Vallejo, Martha Vallejo McGettigan and David Martinez, Comandante, Los Soldados del Real Presidio de Santa Bárbara was a tribute to what it took for the women of the Expedition to find a new life based on the Spanish 1635 poem by Calderón de la Barca – Life is a Dream - and it surrounded the theme of welcoming to all.

Dr. Eric Blind (Director of Heritage Programs and Sites, Presidio Trust) was introduced as a protector of the dreams of the Founders, and gave a wonderful overview of all the programs and events that are now possible at the Presidio, including what it takes to keep the information not only interesting, accurate but available to the public.

This year all names of those that began on the Expedition – men, woman and children – were remembered on the roll call with a special tribute to those not listed on Anza’s official list with a single symbolic flower placed by Phil Valdez, whose ancestor was a courier for Anza. The long, arduous trip could not have been made without the muleteers, vaqueros, interpreters, and assistants to Anza and Fathers Font and Palou.

Naomi Torres (Superintendent, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, National Park Service) and Phil Valdez are working closely with representatives in Mexico to have an official designation of the combined Anza trail in Mexico. The State of Sonora and INAH have expressed interest and a desire to mark and promote the trail in Sonora. Valdez arranged and hosted guests, Guillermo Molina Paz (Presidente del Consejo Directive, Ruta Rio Sonora) and Lic. Alma Angelina Tapia López (Presidenta Municipal de San Miguel de Horcasitas) to come to the arrival ceremony of the Anza Expedition and all the events in San Francisco. Torres introduced the guests and shared the podium with Paz as he shared his observations of all the activities and delight at being in San Francisco.

The Amigos de Anza Equestrian Drill Team, escorted by the US Park Police Horse Mounted Unit were then led in by a contingent of the Anza Trail Color Guard from California and Arizona with representation of Anza by one of his family descendants, and the soldados of the Expedition and a representation of Moraga by one of his descendants and the Comandante, Los Soldados del Real Presidio de Santa Bárbara.

A brief Taking Possession of the Land formal ceremony was presented. The combination and cooperation of soldados from several presidios reflected the working together of all the people on the Expedition.

Although this did not happen on arrival date, the Taking Possession of the Land and especially planting the Spanish flag was the most significant event for the colony.

A true connection to 1776 was made by having the current Regent of the Presidio Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American, Marilyn Gilmer, lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

All the additions of authenticity of the arrival of the Expedition made this year’s ceremony one that would have been close to the joy of the first arrival and I am sure made the ancestors happy.


Descendants' flagpole ceremony at Pershing Square
June 25, 2016; NPS photo

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