Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
Portugese Spanish Explorer

? - 1543

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition to explore the coast of what is now California. His explorations aided the Spanish in settling California.

Cabrillo was born in Portugal. Scholars know little about his early life. He came to Cuba about 1520 and joined the Spanish army there. Cabrillo participated in the Spanish conquest of what is now Mexico in 1521 and of present-day Guatemala in 1523 and 1524.

In 1541, Antonio de Mendoza, the Spanish ruler of Mexico, ordered Cabrillo to explore the Pacific coast north of Mexico. Cabrillo commanded two ships, the San Salvador and the Victoria. The expedition set out from Navidad, Mexico, near Manzanillo, in June 1542. Three months later, the explorers reached San Diego Bay. They then continued to sail northward along the coast and met Indians from several villages. Some of the Indians gave Cabrillo fish and other supplies.

In November 1542, a storm blew Cabrillo's ships past the Golden Gate, the entrance to San Francisco Bay. Soon afterward, the expedition turned south. The explorers anchored at San Miguel Island, about 50 miles west of Santa Barbara. Cabrillo died on San Miguel Island.

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