The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 23, July 1919 - April, 1920

Sebastian Vizcaino: Exploration of California

Even before Rodriguez Cermenho had reached the end of his
fateful voyage, there had appeared at Mexico City a rival for the
glory and profit of making discoveries in the Californias, a man
well acquainted with the galleon route and indeed a shipmate of
Rodriguez on the Santa Ana. This was a certain Sebastian Viz-
caino, who from being a moderately successful merchant desired
to convert himself into a conqueror and a "general," or commander,
of a fleet, the same Vizcaino who in later years headed an embassy
to Japan. By his own account' he "lost a great deale of treasure
and commodities" when Cavendish took the Santa Ana, but he
made the round trip to Manila again, reaching New Spain in 1590
with a profit of 2500 ducats on an investment of 200.
In company with several others Vizcaino worked out a plan which
he hoped might prove an even richer windfall than that of the
trade on the galleon. He and his associates approached the viceroy
for a license to engage in pearl-fishing in the Californias, in re-
turn for which they agreed to furnish the government with in-
formation about that country. In 1594 the viceroy, Luis de
Velasco, made a contract with them, but execution was delayed as
a result of a quarrel between members of the company. The mat-
ter was brought before the courts, which ordered Vizcaino and his
companions to begin the voyage within three months' time. Mat-
ters were at this point when the Conde de Monterey reached Mex-
ico. Believing that a policy of leniency would best serve the royal
interests, he amended the decree of the court, and granted the com-
pany a concession to enter the Californias and reduce them by
peaceful means to subjection to the crown, in return for which
the conquerors were to have the usual vast privileges and exemp-
tions granted to the pacifiers and settlers of new provinces. Ac-
cordingly, Vizcaino, who had succeeded to headship in the enter-
prise, began to raise recruits for the expedition, when it was brought
to the Conde de Monterey's attention that the original contract,
1In a letter to his father, dated June 20, 1590, translated and pub-
lished in The principal navigations, voyages, traffiques & discoveries of
the English nation, ed. by Richard Hakluyt. Everyman edition, VII
(London and New York. 1907), 133-135.


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 23, July 1919 - April, 1920. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 29, 2015.