The 9-foot statue was sculpted by Spanish artist Josep Maria Subirachs and his associate, Francesc Carulla. It was given to the State of California by the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain in 1988. Catalonia was the birthplace of Don Gaspar de Portola, leader of the expedition responsible for the European discovery of San Francisco Bay. The explorers camped on the beach near the statue site (erected in the public parking lot at Crespi Drive and Highway One.) and later journeyed up the hills to Sweeney Ridge.
The Portola expedition was well documented. Over two hundred years ago, the Spanish expeditionary force "missed their turnoff" at Monterey Bay and ended up in what is now Pacifica. Aided only by a mariner's navigation handbook of the Alta California coastline, Captain Gaspar de Portola and his party set out to map the land route from Baja California to Monterey Bay.
Expecting to find a "fine harbor, sheltered from winds," they concluded that the rough seas they met at the mouth of the Salinas River could not possibly be their goal and continued north. The party was running short of food and supplies. Many were sick with scurvy and had to be carried by litters, yet they still persisted. On October 31,1769, they reached the top of Montara Ridge. From there they could see the Farallons and Point Reyes and realized they were too far north. Before turning back, Portola set up camp in a peaceful valley (now Linda Mar) to rest, explore and scout for much-needed food. In early November, Sergeant Jose Francisco Ortega climbed the hills northeast of San Pedro Valley and discovered "an enormous area of the sea or estuary which shot inland as far as the eye could see." A few days later, the entire Portola party traveled up the ridge line to continue explorations.
©1995, June Langhoff. All rights reserved.
Additional Reading: "The Land Called Pacifica", by Dema Savage, 1983. Friends of the Sanchez Adobe, Pacifica, CA and Brochure: The Sanchez Adobe, San Mateo County Historical Society