Celebrate 233 years of history at the birthplace of Santa Barbara
El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park
Saturday, April 23, 2016
12:00 to 4:00 PM

When Lieutenant Jose Francisco de Ortega and his soldiers arrived in Santa Barbara in 1782 to establish the last of the California presidios, they were accompanied by Padre Junipero Serra, the kind, dedicated monk credited with establishing many of the California missions. They sought a location that met two specific criteria: a large, friendly native population to work with them and a consistent source of good water.

Attempting to find a site where the tribes were not warlike, Ortega was relieved when he met Chief Yanonali, the tribal leader of thirteen peaceful Chumash settlements. Yanonali was born in one of the oldest settlements in Santa Barbara, (near today’s Bath and Chapala Streets) that is believed to have been continuously inhabited for over 10,000 years.

According to legend, Yanonali led Ortega to a lush thicket where fresh water bubbled from two crystal clear springs. This discovery convinced Ortega to select Santa Barbara as the site for the presidio.

Yanonali initially resisted Ortega’s idea of building near the springs, afraid that a presidio would cause in a water shortage for his people. In order to gain Yanonali’s support, Ortega had to compromise by promising that his soldiers would protect the Chumash people from attack by warlike inland tribes. Once this agreement was in place, the Chumash became willing participants in the building project, making adobe bricks and carrying stone for the aqueducts.

The land surrounding the springs turned out to be swampy and mosquito infested, so the site for the Presidio was moved to high ground that crisscrossed today’s intersection of Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Streets.

“On April 21, 1782, the birthday of Saint Barbara, Padre Serra formally dedicated the Presidio; praised its perfect location with sweet water, beautiful ocean views, and fertile land; and spoke of the mission that would soon be built. Thirty-six soldiers and several Chumash attended the consecration.” (Gayle Baker, Santa Barbara, Another Harbor Town History)

You are invited to join in a celebration of this historic day on April 21st at a costumed reenactment of the original Founding Ceremony at El Presidio, followed by a day long festival of free activities.