Part 1 — Early Visitors to La Ventana Bay
Time: 10,000 years BCE. Location: The bluffs above the shores of present day La Ventana and El Sargento. Sea Level: 300 feet lower than the present. At dawn’s first light, the men followed a well-worn path east through grasslands to fish and gather sea food from the shore. They arrived at sunrise, and two youths floated rafts a short distance to the island to hunt for seals and turtles. The women finished gathering the last of the acorns from the live oak woodland where they had camped for the past moon. While they crushed them between metate and mano, they discussed moving camp to the base of the mountains where pitahaya were ready to harvest.
A young girl approached the small band’s oldest and most respected member, and asked her a question: where did our people come from? The elderly woman repeated the story she had learned from her mother: Many winters ago to the west, just before dawn on the shortest day of the season, Niparaja descended from the sky on the three stepping stars that mark the hunter’s waist. He stood on Cerro Del Puerto, our sacred mountain, and created all that we need to survive. Pericú is the name he gave us. It means The People. [Niparaja = Pericu deity, Cerro Del Puerto = highest peak west of La Ventana (4134 ft.)]
Location: Pericú gathering place a day’s journey north of Punta Gorda. The Pericú women gathering seeds on a knoll above the shore stared in disbelief. A gigantic raft had just drifted into the bay. It made the balsas their men propelled with double-bladed paletas look like twigs floating in a tide pool. One woman sounded the alarm. [ balsas = rafts made by binding reeds or light tree trunks together, paletas = paddles ]
Fortún Ximénez, and his fellow mutineers dropped ancla and went a tierra in the mythical land of California, first imagined in a popular 16th century novel. They were the first Europeans to set foot on the Baja California peninsula. Some would be the first to die there. [ancla = anchor, a tierra = ashore]
The Spaniards came ashore to find water. When they saw the women, they knew they would find una fuente nearby. The sailors whistled and joked as they approached the group who watched the extraños with apprehension. [ fuente = source, extraños = strangers ]
This will be más fácil than slitting Becerra’s throat and commandeering the ship, Fortún thought to himself. Cortés had sent Becerra to look for an expedition that had vanished without a trace. Fortún was an exceptional pilot, but he didn’t like taking orders. He preferred looking for the island of pearls described in the popular novel. For many Spaniards in 1533, that was evidencia enough that it existed. [ más fácil = easier, evidencia = evidence ]
The Pericú men appeared without warning. What they saw angered them. Arrows were already nocked in their bowstrings. But it was the strings of pearls around their necks that distracted the sailors. They missed the signal the Pericú leader gave to kill the crude intruders. Before Fortún could react, una flecha pierced his heart, and twenty of the crew would soon be muerto. The survivors escaped to the ship. They sailed home with tales of pearls that spawned new expeditions, some that would never be heard from again. [ flecha = arrow, muerto = dead ]