When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1822, the citizens of San Diego had mixed feelings. Many in the pueblo had strong spiritual and ancestral ties to Spain and they were unsure of what independence would mean for the small outpost. The region at the time was barely populated - only 5,000 non-Indians resided in all of Alta California - and most of their economic existence depended on the hide and otter fur trade they conducted with American ships. But others saw the possibilities that came with independence. Under Spanish rule, the people of the pueblo shared common lands for grazing and raising crops, while the richest land was held by the Church. All this now changed with a series of decrees that divided up the former Spanish lands and ultimately wrested the mission lands from the padres, creating enormous tracts of privately owned property.
The Mexican period, while brief, was a time of fabled living for some. It was the era of the "Californios," who grazed cattle on their vast ranchos and who spent their days pleasantly engaged in all manner of sport, including cock fighting, horse racing, bull fighting, and bear hunting. Widely known for their generous hospitality, their welcome extended to foreigners, principally Americans, who married into their families and soon began building store and other businesses in the pueblos.
But for those missionized Indians, the process of secularization was devastating. Most drifted away until in 1842 only 500 remained at the Mission San Diego de Alcala; two years later the number had dropped to 100. The Mission was unable to support them and was also unable to pay the salary of its final majordomo, Santiago Arguello, who had been trusted with overseeing its remaining resources.
By 1845, the Mexican territory was facing the threat of American invasion. The Mexican president issued a proclamation directing the officers of the state to prepare to defend themselves. He vested them with extraordinary powers in order to use all means necessary. Under this order, the last Mexican governor of Alta California, Pio Pico, sold most of the missions to raise the money needed to finance the defense of Mexican holdings.
How the Mission San Diego de Alcala Lands were Sold
Governor Pico "sold" the San Diego Mission, its cattle, and its lands, including what is now Mission Trails Regional Park, to San Diegan Santiago Arguello. His justification was that "Don Santiago Arguello has rendered the Government important services at all times, and has also given aid when asked, for the preservation of the legitimate Government and the security of the Department, without having received any indemnification." The deed for the transaction was drawn in Los Angeles in June, 1846. It specified that Arguello was to pay the debts of the mission, support the priests, and maintain religious services, but this did not occur.
About Santiago Arguello
Santiago Arguello was born in Monterey, Mexico in 1791. He served in various political and military offices in San Diego and was the Commandante of the San Diego Royal Presidio from 1830 to 1835. He and his wife, Pilar Ortega, formerly of Santa Barbara, had 22 children.
Arguello never lived on the former mission lands; he made his home at Rancho Tijuana. His ownership of the ex-mission lands, however, was honored. In September, 1876, long after his death, Arguello's heirs were issued an American government patent declaring them the owners of the tract.
encompasses nearly 5,800 acres of both natural and
developed recreational acres Its rugged hills, valleys
and open areas represent a San Diego prior to the
landing of Cabrillo in San Diego Bay in 1542. read more
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