I enjoyed the Trades That Shaped the West event in Old Town San Diego last Saturday so much, I decided to return today to experience another Stagecoach Days event: Days of the Vaqueros!
Days of the Vaqueros invited curious visitors to experience what life was like when San Diego was a part of Mexico. The emphasis was on the vaqueros–the first true cowboys. During the era of the Californios, wealthy ranch owners employed vaqueros to manage their stock.
For a couple of decades–from the early 1820s to the mid-1840s–cattle hides were the primary export of Alta California. Merchant ships from the East Coast (and other places about the Pacific Ocean) would trade the plentiful hides for finished goods that were in high demand in early, geographically isolated, sparsely populated towns like San Diego.
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The second oldest residence in San Diego County can be found inside Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. The adobe ranch house was built in 1823 by Captain Francisco María Ruiz, who was Commandante of San Diego’s presidio. He built two small adobe buildings on Rancho Santa Maria de Los Peñasquitos, his large 8,486-acre Mexican land grant north of the Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá. It was first land grant made by the Mexican government in this area, just two years after Mexico became independent from Spain.
The historic adobe ranch house has been modified, enlarged and restored by various owners over the years, and today is a popular destination for visitors to Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. People often bike or hike through the picturesque ranch, and motorists can park in a nearby lot. Picnic tables are plentiful; there are goats and chickens to captivate children; and guided tours are available on weekends.
I toured the ranch recently and took photos of its various features. There are a variety of interpretive exhibits within the adobe house. Please read these informative displays (click to enlarge the images) to learn more about this fascinating place’s long and colorful history.
(What is the oldest structure in San Diego County? You’ll be completely surprised! I blogged about that here.)
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