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Knowledge Base .: Archives Fiction and Non-Fiction Reviews .: History .: Reviewer: N. Goldman .: Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port (The Making of America Series)

Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port (The Making of America Series)

Author: J.D. Conway

Publisher: Arcadia Publishing

ISBN: 0738524239

The following review was contributed by:  NORM GOLDMAN:  Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW MORE OF  Norm Goldman's Reviews  

To read Norm's Interview With Jim  Conway CLICK HERE

From its opening pages,  Jim Conway’s Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port demonstrates an impeccable scholarship of the subject area that will no doubt prove to be an important contribution to our understanding of the history of Monterey, California.      

According to Conway, the history of Monterey is more than a mere categorizing of its history into four periods- Indigenous, Spanish, Californio and American, but rather this seaside picturesque community developed as a result of its cultures derived from Native People to its current inhabitants.

Today, people come to Monterey to vacation and experience the splendor of its natural surroundings. Conway explores how Monterey has reached this interval in its history as it grew from a Presidio to a Pueblo and into a Port. It is a story that comes from real places and people where cultural conflict and historical tolerance played a significant role.

The book is organized in a concrete and logical manner with the first chapter focused on Monterey’s natural history and its original inhabitants, the Rumsien Oholone. According to Conway, “to understand Monterey it is important to start with its natural history, because not matter what man has endeavored to accomplish, it is the weather patterns and topography that ultimately fashioned Monterey.” It was Monterey’s native people who depended most on the indigenous trees, grasses and plants in their daily lives, as well as the changing seasons. As pointed out, O’chons was the word for “seed times,” and these Native Americans measured time not by a calendar but rather by the natural events that made up their seasons, as they considered themselves to be a part of nature.

Not very much is known about these Native Americans, as their story was told by Euro-Americans, and as many of us are aware, historians have constantly debated among themselves how to differentiate the ultimate "facts" and "objective truth."  Although, the Spanish were the first to keep written records of the native people, unfortunately, there seems to be an absence of the stories and interpretations of the losers in the battle-the natives themselves.

From this interesting opening chapter, Conway proceeds to explore the contributions of the Spanish settlers and missionaries, however, as he points out, prior to the arrival of these individuals, Monterey bay was visited and promoted by Spanish explorers and fortune seekers. Considerable ink is given to who these adventurers were and the role they played in the history of Monterey.  One such important figure that we read about is Rodriguez Cabrillo’s and his expedition in 1542 and as we are informed it was his expedition that helped to identify and map the coastline of California. Moreover, his discovery of the San Diego and Monterey Bays brought further exploration, which ultimately led to the first European settlements in Alta California.

These first European settlers were soldiers and missionaries who had arrived with Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra whose primary aim was to protect Spain’s political interests.  As Conway states, Spain’s goals were threefold: the protection against foreign encroachment; the mercantilist development of Alta California as an economic resource; and the Christianization of the “heathens” or native people. These objectives all led to the construction of the presidio and a mission, although as mentioned, Monterey did not gain pueblo status until 1795. Monterey was designated a port of entry on December 15, 1821, and this changed it from being a Spanish outpost to an international port. It should be noted that for several years prior to this designation, Spanish law prohibited foreign ships from entering her ports, although smugglers often ignored the law.

Conway explores in depth the Mexican period from 1822-1846 and the Pueblo of Monterey that was designated the official port of entry for Mexican California in 1831. As the author states: Monterey was not only the commercial center of Mexican California but the political center as well.

The remainder of the book provides a well-rounded portrayal of the American period that begins with pre-statehood and concludes with the present day community. We are shown how diverse groups as the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, as well as the Spanish and Mexicans all have contributed to Monterey’s remarkable history. How the fishing industry and the canneries played an immense role in shaping this picturesque seaport city. And not to be omitted is Monterey’s military heritage that even today contributes a great deal to its community. As for tourism, no doubt the Monterey’s first grand-dame hotel, Hotel Del Monte can never be forgotten, as its influence can still be felt today.

History should not simply be a regurgitation of past events with dates and names with very little explanation- omitting stories and anecdotes. Conway must have kept this in mind, as his objectivity as an historian is quite in evidence. He presents the history of Monterey not only through his own perspective but rather through the eyes of people and the environment they inhabited. It is this presentation that makes Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port a book that you will want to keep on your shelf.














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