The first people of California were the California Indians. They lived off the land for thousands of years before the Europeans began to explore and settle in California. In the mid-1500's, Spain began sending expeditions to explore North America. Cortes (Spain) conquered the Aztecs in 1521 and established the colony of New Spain in present-day Mexico. Cabrillo (Spain) discovered San Diego Bay in 1542. Drake (England) explored San Francisco Bay in 1579. In 1602, Vizcaino (Spain) made maps and gave names to places along the coast of California. Bering (Russia) discovered the Bering Strait, a narrow water passage between Asia and North America in 1728. For more than 150 years, Spain ignored California...until England and Russia started showing interest in the area. Jose de Galvez, a New Spain's representative of King Charles III of Spain, decided to send an expedition to Alta California to establish Spanish settlements and secure the Spanish Empire in California. The Sacred Expedition of 1769 consisted of four groups: two by land and two by sea. The first ship, the San Carlos, was led by Captain Vila and Lt. Fages. It left New Spain on January 9, 1769 and sailed north towards Alta California. On February 15, 1769, the San Antonio, led by Captain Perez, headed north. The first land expedition, led by Captain Rivera and Father Crespi, left on March 24, 1769. Finally, Captain Portola and Father Serra left New Spain by foot on May 15, 1769. The two ships met in San Diego at the end of April. Rivera's land expedition arrived near this location on May 14th, and Portola and Serra's land expedition met them here on July 1, 1769. Nearby, Portola established the San Diego Presidio and Serra established the San Diego Mission on July 16, 1769, the first European settlements in California.
"Near this point, sea and land parties of the Portola-Serra Expedition met two ships, the San Antonio and San Carlos, anchored on May 4-5, 1769. The scurvy weakened survivors of the voyage established a camp, where on May 14 and July 1 they greeted the overland parties from Baja California. Together, they began the Spanish occupation of Alta California. "