Californios at the Presidio

I was looking through Barb Voss’ excellent dissertation on the Presidio, and was struck by a particular footnote:

“I wonder, however, how the Californios – almost none of whom had ever been to Spain, and who rarely met non-clerical Spanish nationals – understood and defined “Spanishness” amongst themselves; I can only assume that it had little reference to actual practices on the Iberian peninsula and rather was constructed in reference to ideas and symbols of elite behavior. Leo Barker has pointed out to me that in the 1820s and 1830s, elite officers in the presidial community – such as Guadalupe Mariano Vallejo – were avid readers of Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire, and that these readings were undoubtedly influential in shaping their perceptions of European lifeways and values” (Voss 2002:161).

It’s so easy to think of the early colonists of Alta California as part of the Spanish hegemony, when in reality they constructed their own identities less as “Spanish” than as “not-Indian”, even though many were mestizo–along the many axes of racial, sexuality, and class identities.

Reading Voss’ dissertation was pretty intimidating–I hope I can come up with something even partially as good.

So, yes, I’m still commuting over to the Presidio twice a week, sharing seats with the hip young nerds that work at Lucasfilms. While I have certain tasks I need to complete, I still can steal time to riffle through the archives, read the gray literature, and hassle my friends who are processing the artifacts from the summer field school. Yesterday, in addition to reading Voss’ dissertation, I pawed over the 1868 coastline map of the Bay Area and compared it to a 1910 version, then google maps. We all know that a lot of the area is built on infill that is in trouble if there’s another big earthquake, but to have it graphically laid out in front of you is still pretty amazing.

Oh, and lest my previous sunny day photos have painted too pretty of a picture, here’s a more typical day at the Presidio:

P1000782
Cold, foggy, windy.

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