Maritime Museum of San Diego
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is building a full-sized, fully functional, and historically accurate replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador.

A Legacy of Genocide: The San Salvador

Will Falk

What do you see when you look out across San Diego and see the San Salvador being reconstructed?

Do you see the first wave of wave upon wave of white settlers who systematically dispossessed California’s indigenous people of their lands?

Do you see the beginnings of a process that reduced the indigenous population of California from 250,000 in 1800 to less than 20,000 in the matter of a century?

Oil painting of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. He was painted about 1,500 times. (Wikimedia Commons)Do you see the face of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo grinning maniacally back at you? Do you see the faces of him and his men joining up with Hernan Cortes in the ethnic cleansing of Mexico?

RELATED: Steve Newcomb's column, "The San Salvador Project: Ignoring Genocide"

Do you see Cabrillo and the men who Bernal Diaz del Castillo, the conquistador and chronicler of the Mexican conquest, wrote about when he famously stated, “We came here to serve God. And to get rich”?

Do you see the faces of miners who came here not to serve God, but simply to get rich? Do you see the flames in indigenous villages started by miners in acts where, as Robert F. Heizer described in The Destruction of California Indians, “It was not uncommon for small groups of villages to be attacked by immigrants…and virtually wiped out overnight”?

Do you hear the clink of gold and feel the excitement of loot in the words of Board of Port Commissioners Chairman Scott Peters when he declares, “One mission of the Port is to activate the waterfront and this will bring millions to the waterfront”?

Do you select “a slice of San Diego’s heritage and history” that fits your agenda while ignoring the facts like Kevin Faulconer did with this reconstruction and that he’s doing with his statements about Barrio Logan?

Do you see the bloody swords of men who ruthlessly slaughtered 1,000 Aztec nobles participating in religious celebrations at the main temple in Tenochtitlan?


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