San Diego Historical Landmarks—#7: Plaza de Pantoja y Arriaga site

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Plaza de Pantoja y Arriaga was built in 1851, being declared a San Diego Historical Landmark on January 23, 1969. It is a small urban park, Pantoja Park, in downtown San Diego, bounded by F Street, G Street, Columbia Street, and India Street.

Pantoja Park in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pantoja Park in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pantoja Park panorama

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My source books (real paper books sitting on shelves in my library!) about San Diego don’t have too much information about Pantoja Park.

One of my more obscure books, San Diego County Place Names A To Z by Leland Ferzer, says that the Plaza was created in 1850 (rather than 1851 as the San Diego Historical Landmarks document states) by William Heath Davis (see San Diego Historical Landmarks #6) et al. as the heart of New Town San Diego.

According to the book, the Plaza was named for Juan Pantoja y Arriola. Note that the San Diego Historical Landmarks document spells the last name “Arriaga.” Since my series of posts here are based on the San Diego Historical Landmarks document, I’m going to go with “Arriaga.”

Wikipedia tells me that Pantoja Park is the “oldest park in the City of San Diego,” while another source tells me it is the “oldest park in downtown San Diego.” I could not find out if the Plaza was created in 1850 as a park. Is “Plaza” just an 1850 name for “park”?

Pantoja was the second sailing master of the Spanish fleet who, in 1782, made the first good map of San Diego Bay, that map being published in 1802 in Madrid, Spain.

1782 map of San Diego Bay by Pantoja

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I could not find a picture of Juan Pantoja y Arriaga.

In the panorama picture above (click on it for a larger version), you can see a life-size statue.

Benito Juarez statue in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was sure that would be Juan Pantoja y Arriaga. It’s not:

Benito Juarez plaque

BENITO JUAREZ
1806-1872
******
THIS STATUE
WAS GIVEN IN FRIENDSHIP
FROM THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO
TO THE PEOPLE OF SAN DIEGO
JUNE 18, 1981

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I’m going to make an educated guess here and say that the people of Mexico have no idea that they gave that statue to the people of San Diego, and that the people of San Diego have no idea that they were the recipients of that gift. Heck, I had no idea it was there, and I do a lot of reading about San Diego and its history….

Now my problem was to find out who Benito Juarez was and why there is a statue of him in Pantoja Park. He certainly lived at the right time. Fortunately, Wikipedia came to the rescue: Benito Juarez.

Benito Pablo Juárez Garcia (March 21, 1806-July, 8 1872) was a Mexican lawyer and politician of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca who served as the President of Mexico for five terms: 1858–1861 as interim, then 1861–1865, 1865–1867, 1867–1871 and 1871–1872. He resisted the French occupation of Mexico, overthrew the Second Mexican Empire, restored the Republic, and used liberal measures to modernize the country. [Uh-oh. He was a liberal….]

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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