Portola’s real landing place – Pacific Grove.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The latest problem with reinstalling the 1969 Portola-Crespi Cross on Del Monte Beach is not a problem of separating church from state, but rather a problem of separating fact from fiction. There is compelling historical evidence that the city of Monterey is likely fighting the wrong battle, in the wrong place.
The issue to which I am referring is not constitutional but geographical. According to the earliest historical accounts, the monument cross which was maliciously cut down last month should have originally been erected in Pacific Grove, not Monterey.
A history lesson was recently given to the City Council on Gaspar de Portolà’s 1769 overland expedition to Alta California. What I observed presented were piecemeal historical facts, and non-facts loosely construed so as to make the illogical location of Del Monte Beach appear to be the site where Portolà had “landed” and then erected a cross.
CRESPI’S DIARY ENTRIES ARE THE GOLD STANDARD.
It is widely accepted that in 1602, explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno sailed into Monterey Bay and named it Puerto Monte-Rey. He dropped anchor and held Mass ashore under an oak tree in what is now Monterey. In July 1769, Portolà, a Catholic priest named Juan Crespi, and a small army trekked north overland from San Diego searching for Vizcaíno’s Puerto Monte-Rey.
In December 1769, Portolà’s provisions were nearly exhausted so he decided to return to San Diego. On the day of departure his men erected two crosses. It is uncontested that the first cross was erected near Carmel Beach and had a bottle with a message buried beneath it. Exactly where the second cross was erected in 1769 is the current issue.
At the aforementioned City Council meeting, councilmembers unanimously accepted as fact that the second cross of 1769 was erected “somewhere” on Del Monte Beach. Contrarily, Father Crespi’s 1770 diary accounts clearly state this cross was erected at Pt. Pinos, in Pacific Grove.
To wit, in The March of Portolà, (1909), Zoeth S. Eldredge writes, “On Sunday, December 10th, they began the retreat from Monterey. Before leaving Carmelo Bay, they set up a large cross on a little hill on the shore of the ensenadita, and on it, cut into the wood, the legend: ‘Dig; at the foot you will find a writing.’ A message was put into a bottle and buried at the foot of the cross. It gave the facts of the expedition… It states that from that day to this they have made a diligent search for the port of Monterey, but in vain, and now, despairing of finding it, their provisions nearly gone, they return to San Diego… The march that day was across the Point of Pines,one league and a half (3.9 miles), and they camped on the shore of Monterey Bay, where they erected another cross with an inscription announcing their departure.” Note: The shore of Monterey Bay begins at Pt. Pinos.
In The Franciscans in California, (1897), Zephyrin Engelhardt cites Crespi on his 1770 return:“In his diary of the second land expedition to Monterey, related under the date of May 2nd, what follows with regard to the cross. ‘After a journey of three leagues (7.8 miles) we arrived at one of the salty lagunas of Punta Pinos where a cross had been erected (in 1769)… The cross was surrounded by arrows and little rods, tipped with feathers, which had been set into the ground by the Indians. Suspended from a stick, at one side of the cross, was a string of half-spoiled sardines, a number of clam shells, and a piece of meat.”
But Crespi’s account of returning to Pt. Pinos to visit the cross in 1770 was not conveyed to the City Council. The historians told the account of the cross with the “arrows and fish,” but omitted the documented location of the “salty lagunas of Punta Pinos,” instead substituting the location on Del Monte Beach near Roberts Lake.
Crespi’s diary entries are the gold standard. His diary was written in a timely manner, not years later. He was there in 1769 when the crosses were erected. He returned to the same site six months later, on a day excursion from Monterey in 1770, identifying the location as at the “salty lagunas of Punta Pinos.” Today, the remaining salty laguna Crespi cites is known as Crespi’s Pond and Punta Pinos is known as Pt. Pinos in Pacific Grove.
This history, buttressed with logic, strengthens the argument that Pt. Pinos is the true location of the second cross, since its purpose was not to “landmark” the bay (which would have been obvious regardless), but to notify the supply ship that Portolà had returned south.
Since Del Monte Beach is tucked inside the bay and hidden by the Peninsula from the view of any passing ship, it’s an illogical location. Navigationally speaking, Pt. Pinos is an ideal spot for Portolà’s second cross of 1769, on the coast at the southern entrance of the bay, at a prominent place to which the mariner’s eye is naturally drawn.