Washington State Hispanic History
On the Shores of a Spanish Lake English and Yankee explorers of the Pacific Northwest such as Cook, Vancouver, Gray, and Lewis & Clark are well known to most, but some of the first and most important discoveries were made by navigators sailing under the flag of Spain. Indeed, Spain regarded most of the Pacific as its own "lake" under a Papal decree of 1494 dividing the New World between it and Portugal and by dint of Balboa’s discovery of the ocean’s east coast in 1513.
In a new series of essays prepared by Antonio Sanchez, Ph.D., under a grant from Humanities Washington, HistoryLink is pleased to balance the record. We begin with Sanchez’s fine recounting of the monumental first European investigation of Nueva Galicia (the Pacific Northwest), led by Juan Perez in 1774. He mapped the Northwest coast, discovered Nootka Sound, which would become a major anchorage on Vancouver Island, and was the first European to sight and name a feature in Washington state: Cerro Nevada de Santa Rosalia, known today as Mount Olympus.
More Spanish expeditions followed, including the first European settlement in modern Washington state (to be detailed in coming essays), but other explorers from Britain and the new United States of America refused to accept Spain’s patent on the Pacific. After nearly coming to war with England in 1790, Spain agreed to "share" the North Pacific under the so-called Nootka Convention of 1794, and it withdrew from the region soon after. Two centuries later, people of Hispanic and Latin American descent constitute Washington’s largest and fastest growing ethnic group.
We printed this article with permission of HistoryLink.org