Many might not know of the adventurer that goes by the name of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo; the name Cabrillo may sound very familiar but not too many people actually know the history behind the name. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is remembered as the first European to travel to the California coast. This is why there are so many schools, monuments, and much more named after Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. It is commonly debated whether Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was of a Portuguese or Spanish descent as there are many different sources contradicting themselves. Several locations in Portugal claim to be his birthplace; however, there are multiple historians that believe Cabrillo was from Spain because of information from a set of documents discovered in 2015.
It was stated that Cabrillo was born in 1499. When he was young he shipped for Havana; he then joined forces with Hernan Cortes in Mexico which was called New Spain at the time. Later in life, he became one of the richest conquistadores in Mexico from his success in mining gold. According to his biographer Harry Kelsey, he took a native woman as his common-law wife and was said to have multiple children; later on, during a hiatus in Spain, he married Beatriz Sanchez de Ortega with whom he has two more sons.
Later he went on to begin building ships and went on several different voyages throughout Mexico and along what is now the California Coast. One of his most famous expeditions began in 1542 where he set out with 3 ships where they left from Navidad to sail north by September of 1542 they had reached what is now San Diego Bay and then soon after Santa Catalina Island which he named “San Salvador” after his flagship. After on one of his trips to Santa Catalina Island as he was stepping out of his boat he had stumbled, splintered his shin and fell on a jagged rock on which he cut himself. The cut developed gangrene from which he died on January 3, 1543. Cabrillo was one of the founders of San Diego and this is why he is so important.