California has exercised a haunting fascination on men’s imaginations ever since the days of Cortés. During the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, at least twenty expeditions served as a prelude to the occupation, first of the Lower California Peninsula in 1697, and then of New, or Upper, California in 1769. A complete list of these voyages and attempted entradas has not yet been made. Suffice it to say that we are far from possessing the accounts of all the efforts that were made to discover and colonize those regions from 1535 to 1769.
In 1769 New, or Upper, California was first visited by the pionéer founders of its missions and presidios. They had come from Loreto in the Lower California Peninsula, after an arduous trip of over two-hundred leagues over barren mountains. This was the famous expedition of Serra and Portolá, which marks the beginning of the Spanish colonization with the founding of San Diego and the exploration of all the coast up to San Francisco. That year records the birth of Upper California.