The Dollar / Spanish Peso 1776

The Spanish empire and its economy dominated the Americas in the late 18th century, and the Spanish peso was the premier currency in the rebellious North American colonies.  The Spanish peso was so widely used that even the British paid their soldiers in the colonies in silver pesos.  The majority of the silver for the pesos was mined in Mexico during the late 18th century, and the coins were also called “Mexicans”. The US Congress instituted the Continental dollar in May of the previous year (1775), and provided that the notes would be payable in “Spanish Miller Dollars or the value thereof in gold and silver.”  As the American Revolutionary War progressed, the Continental dollar hyper-inflated and rapidly lost value. In November of 1776, Congress adopted the Spanish peso as their unit of currency. (Please visit for more information on the contribution of the Spanish and Latinx to the American Revolutionary War.)

Mission of San Juan Capistrano, 1776

The rustle of swallows’ wings and their soft songs have graced the area now known as San Juan Capistrano since all of our times began.  The region was initially settled by the Native Americans. The Spanish arrived in 1775, and founded the Mission of San Juan Capistrano on November 1, 1776.  This mission was the 7th of 21 missions established by the Spanish across California. In 1821, the area was under rule by the Mexican government.  The territory changed hands again in 1848 after the Mexican-American War, and the US took control. The mission was in a period of decline until President Abraham Lincoln returned it to the Catholic community, who restored the mission to its present beautiful state. And each year, regardless of wars or governments or ownership, the swallows faithfully return. (Image from

Happy Birthday to Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis

Today is the birth date of an unacknowledged hero of the 18th century American Revolutionary War, the Spanish soldier and secret agent, Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis.  Saavedra was born in Sevilla, Spain, and fought in the military campaigns in Algiers.  He was sent to the Caribbean region by King Carlos III, with instructions to work with the French against the British and to aid the North American rebels.  Saavedra was instrumental in the French victory at the Battle of the Capes in 1781 and in organizing the collection of silver and gold in Havana, Cuba, that funded the Siege and Battle of Yorktown.  After retiring to Spain due to ill health, he once again rallied to serve his country during the Napoleonic invasion of 1810.  An educated and prescient man, he wrote in his journal that, “What is not being thought about at present, what ought to occupy the whole attention of politics, is the great upheaval that in time the North American revolution is going to produce in the human race.”  (Please visit for more information on the contribution of the Spanish and Latinx to the North American Revolutionary War.)

The Old Spanish Trail 1776

On July 4, 1776, as the ink began to dry on the US Declaration of Independence on the East Coast, two Spanish priests began their journey to find a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the California missions. The priests were accompanied by a small number of explorers and a talented cartographer (a “cartographer” is the person who made the maps before Google). The men traveled through Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. The route that the party mapped eventually became the Old Spanish Trail, and later a well-used trade route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, California. (Image from, painted by Paul Salisbury)

San Francisco 1776

In sunlit wilderness on June 29, 1776, the Spanish founded the city of San Francisco.  California was then part of the Spanish empire, and the founding was days before the US colonies declared their independence from Britain.  On that date, Spanish padres said a mass among the trees near where Fort San Carlos was built a few months later.  The Spanish were enchanted with the future city’s location, just as the millions of admirers of San Francisco who followed them.  One of the padres wrote, “From this tableland one enjoys a most delicious view; for from there one observes a good part of the bay and its islands as far as the other side, and one has a view of the ocean as far as the Farallones. In fact, although, so far as I have traveled, I have seen very good places and beautiful lands, I have yet seen none that pleased me so much as this.” (Image from Virtual Museum of San Francisco)

En desierto iluminado por el sol el 29 de junio de 1776, los españoles fundaron la ciudad de San Francisco. En esa fecha, padres españoles, dijo una masa entre los árboles cerca de donde Fuerte de San Carlos fue construido unos meses más tarde. Los españoles estaban encantados con la ubicación de la futura ciudad, justo como los millones de admiradores de San Francisco que les siguieron. Uno de los padres escribió: “A partir de esta meseta se disfruta de una vista más deliciosa, porque desde allí se observa una buena parte de la bahía y sus islas hasta el otro lado y se tiene una vista del océano en cuanto a la Farallones. De hecho, a pesar de que, hasta donde he viajado, he visto muy buenos lugares y tierras hermosas, he visto todavía ninguno que me complace tanto como esto. ” (Imagen de Museo Virtual de San Francisco)

Miguel Eduardo Antonio, Spanish Agent and Spy

On May 23, 1776, shortly before the July 4 Declaration of Independence was signed, the Cuban vessel, the Santa Barbara, was captured by a British warship in the Delaware Bay. On board was Miguel Eduardo Antonio, sent by the Spanish government in Havana to make contact with the North American rebels. He was traveling under the guise of merchant.  The British searched the ship, found 12,000 silver pesos, and accused Antonio of being a spy coming to aid the rebels (which he was, actually).  Antonio was taken prisoner, but given his fluency in English and charming personality, he was soon invited to dinners with the British officers.  He had several interviews with James Murray, Earl of Dunmore and Royal Governor of Virginia, all of which he reported to the Spanish military commanders in Havana when he eventually returned. For more information on how the Spanish and Latinos helped to win the American Revolutionary War, please visit


The Founding of San Francisco

On c28, 1776, Hispanic-American explorer Juan Bautista de Anza selected the site for the Presidio in San Francisco, California.   The Presidio, or fortress, was built later in September of that year, and served as an important location for the Spanish colonization of California.   Anza and his expeditionary forces traveled from Mexico to San Francisco from 1774 to 1776.  Today the Presidio is maintained in a national park in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.