El Rancho de Tijuana

According to Documentos para la historia de Tijuana, a collection of historical documents compiled by David Piñera and Antonio Padilla Corona, the title to "el sitio de Tijuan" was granted on the 24 of March 1829, to Santiago Argüello. Don Santiago was born in Monterey in 1792, but came south to San Diego where he played important roles both in the military and customs services, and even served as alcalde (mayor) of San Diego.

Like many prominent Californios, his biography is sketched in Bancroft's History of California, a work which interested readers may consult in any large public library.

As for his Tijuana ranch itself, the original grant papers have been lost, along with the diseño — a hand-drawn map traditionally accompanying and roughly delimiting the grants. But the title was revalidated in 1846, and this document still exists. Curiously, the ranch was now referred to as "el rancho de Tia Juana" — leading Mikey and Dano to infer that the nickname was made up by Mexicans, not Yankees — although it is now we gringoes who so often "mispronunce" the name of the city as "Aunt Jane."

Still, nothing is certain, because, by 1846 California had been filling up with Americanos — in fact that was the year the U.S. attacked Mexico in order to conquer all the "southwest".

PIO PICO, GOBERNADOR CONSTITUCIONAL DEL DEPARTAMENTO DE CALIFORNIAS. Por cuanto Don Santiago Argüello, mexicano por nacimiento, ha pretendido para su beneficio personal y el de su familia el terreno conocido con el nombre de "Tía Juana", colindante al N. con la Mesa del Arroyo de la Cruz, al S. con el Aguaje de la Nopalera que confina con la cañada conocida con el nombre de la Olla, al E. con el Datilar, y al O. con la Posa de los Adoves, cuyo terreno ha poseído por justo título que le fue librado por el Jefe Político Don José María de Echeandía, desde el año de mil ochocientos veintinueve, según lo ha acreditado satisfactoriamente y que ahora solamente se le revalida de aquel, ratificándole su misma propiedad; practicadas nuevamente las diligencias y averiguaciones concernientes según lo dispuesto, de conformidad con la ley de 18 de agosto de 1824 y el reglamento de 21 de noviembre de 1828; he venido, en uso de las facultades que me están conferidas a nombre de la Nación Mexicana, al hacer esta revalidación, en concerderle el expresado terreno declarándole la propiedad de él por las presentes líneas a reserva de la aprobación de la Excelenti´sima et cetera etcet. etc....

PIO PICO, CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE CALIFORNIAS. In as much as Sir Santiago Arguello, native-born Mexican, has intended [to possess] for his personal benefit and for his family the lands known by the name of "Tia Juana," bounded on the N. by the Mesa of the Arroyo of the Cross, on the South by the tidewater-flow [?] of the Nopal-Cactus-Plant which confines with the valley known by the name of the Cooking-Pot, on the E. with the Date-Palm-Place [??], and on the W. by the Resting-Place [???] of the Adoves [Adobes?], which lands he has possessed by legal title which was given by the Political Chief Don Jose Maria de Echeandia, from the year Eighteen-Twenty-Nine, according by how he has acredited this satisfactorily and that now only is revalidating it, ratifying to him his own property; newly practicing the due diligences and proofs concerning the deposition, in conformity with the law of the 18th of August of 1824 and the regulation of the 21st of November of 1828; I have come, in the use of the faculties which are conferred in me in the name of the Mexican Nation, to make this revalidation, in conceding the expressed lands declared the property of him by these present lines contingent on the approval of the most excellent et cetera etcet. etc....

A slight linguistic digression: "pretendido" (intended to do something) in Spanish does NOT mean "pretended" in English. The words, both from Latin roots, have grown far apart.

Be that as it may, if this document is valid, the title to the Tijuana rancho was given to Don Santiago in 1829. For over 160 years there has been controversy surrounding the land grants signed by California's last Mexican governor, Pio Pico. The gist of the critique is that he backdated a number of grants, after the U.S. conquest, seeking to get lands into the hands of his fellow countrymen. This always sounded like sour American grapes to Mikey and me, just another excuse to take the lands away from the Mexicans — which is pretty much what happened, anyway. One way or another, most of the great ranchos up and down the state passed into Yankee or Southern hands. And why not, multicultural knee-jerk U.S. melting pot revisionists expound, "they" took it from the Indians and "we" took it from "them". In point of fact, things are never quite that simple. Although that is what happened. The Spanish Mexicans conquered the Indians on the coastal strip, and the Yankees came and took it away and started to work cleaning out the Indians back in the hills. Yes. Not a pretty picture, but real.

The Tijuana rancho, being as it was mostly south of the new international border, mostly escaped the fate of its northern sisters, although portions, just across the line, were lost. The bulk of the land remained in Arguello hands until near the turn of the 20th century, when the first "city" was established by an agreement drawn up between the brothers and cousins over how they would legally all right & proper divide the land between them, a contract dated 11 July 1889 — now celebrated as Tijuana's birthday. There had been various little settlements before then, periodically washed away by the river, but now the city had a legal basis on which to divide and conquer sell real estate lots.

And the rancho had begun to change into a town to let the border tourism begin.

copyright 2005 Daniel Charles Thomas

We believe that in those positions he would have had plenty of opportunity to interact with visiting Yankee merchant and whaling ships from places like Boston and Salem, and that as a landowner and rancher, he probably sold them his own fair share of "California banknotes" i.e. cowhides, in exchange for silk from China and shoes from New England factories. BUT UNTIL WE OBTAIN PROOF OUR SPECULATION SHALL REMAIN PRINTED IN INVISIBLE INK.