Listen: What's the Real History of El Camino Real?
"If you live or work on the San Francisco Peninsula you probably spent a lot of time on El Camino Royale Road that runs from San Francisco to San Jose through the center of many towns. Along the way. It's one of California's best known roads. And if you grew grew up here you probably learned about it in school. The story goes L. Community out is an ancient road built by the Spanish to connect the twenty one missions along on California's coast. But here's the thing that story. It's not exactly true. This big curious. I'm Olivia Allen Price Today. We're bringing you a story that first aired on our show back in twenty seventeen about the real history of El Camino real support for bay. Curious comes from Sierra. Nevada Brewing Company family owned operated and argued over since one thousand nine hundred reminding listeners to think for themselves but drink with others. SIERRA SIERRA NEVADA DOT COM K. Committees Rachel myrow senior editor of the Silicon Valley Newsdesk hit the trail with this week's question. Asker we met at mission in Santa Clara because this story dates all the way back to the Spanish colonial era in California. My name is Debbie Tori. I live in Campbell California Tori aspect curious the question. What can you find out about the El Camino real history? My name is Robert Cinco. wits professor of history at Santa Clara University sank quits is the man who can answer that and then some starting with the perhaps surprising truth that there were many El Camino rails all over the land. Spain used to control in the WHO world from seventeen sixty nine to eighteen twenty one royal roads. That was what you would call the main roads in any particular area because technically all of us belong to the King of Spain but wait. I read on wikipedia that this El Camino real but one in silicon valley is part of the historic mission trail on ancient fro that connects the Spanish missions. Like a string of pearls along the California coast. Also I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere possibly in school that the distance between each mission. It's supposed to be about a day's journey. What happened has to do more with southern California than it does with with Northern California a by about the eighteen seventies? As you get more and more Anglo Americans coming in the southern California and the the angle population really increases With the arrival of the railroads in Los Angeles listen the eighteen eighties now in America. There's a rich tradition of just got here yesterday. People concocting romantic origin myths and a number of influential fluential southern Californians wanted one of their own. They looked around and saw crumbling. Spanish missions twenty one of them stretching from the Mexican border all the way north to Sonoma's. Here's the story is told in Nineteen Fifty one promotional film for Greyhound buses called Freedom Highway Bridge the same road. The Spaniards followed almost two hundred years ago. Only they call it El Camino real kings highway. China imagine how was on horseback. Of course what was really going on here was the enslavement of local tribespeople. who were reeling under? The impact of European diseases forced religious religious conversion and the destruction of their entire way of life. Not that our question Asker Debbie Tori or I learned much of this in the fourth grade which is when a lot of California school. Children studied the subject. You're right they did glamorize it thinking it was a wonderful. The mission passed that they've construct was a fantasy past ROIC missionaries happy contented. Indians Fandango is all over the place. You know the Spanish mich- often enough you read and textbook that they blazed trails but they didn't blaze trails. They follow trails. That had already been developed by the indigenous people up and down the California coast I but at the turn of the twentieth century few people wanted that version of history. They wanted something fun. Happy Exotic groups like the landmarks club and the native daughters of the Golden West pushed to reframe collection of dirt roads into a rediscovered king's highway and the Automobile Appeal Club of southern California kind of sides. This fantasy past is a great way of getting people to buy drive automobiles and so what they do. is they begin. The push the notion that there was one central road which they named the commuter rail that connected the missions they began to push the notion commissions were located A day's journey from each other. You know which kind of when you think about. It makes them motels rather than what they actually were. Agents of simulation immolation of of the native peoples so wind in northern California. Play along with this southern California Fantasy Sanca wits says the concept caught on with wealthy Californians leg Jane Stanford wife of the Real Road Barren Lewin Stanford and wealthy Catholics like San Francisco. Mayor James Phelan Eland. They wanted the Spanish missions restored to something like their former glory. Lot of them were in really sad shape. If you look at pictures from the eighteen sixties exceeds eighteen seventies. The missions are crumbling. Consider this if the Spanish revival movement had not happened we might be looking at a string ruins along the California coast standing inside the sumptuous renovated mission. Santa Clara on the Modern Day campus of Santa Clara University Tori agrees. I'm actually kind of speechless. Listen here it's it's just magnificent. I feel like I'm in Europe. Then we hop in a modern day car and drive a half an hour to mission San Jose which is actually in modern day Fremont think of it as a mini mission road trip focused on the South Bay and here in Fremont we find one of the most historically accurate restorations in the California commission system and the on site museum is not to miss. debby Tori grabs a fact based map of the missions from the gift shop. So so debbie do you see yourself going on a mission tour. After this as a matter of fact yes. Tory took her kids on a mission tour like this years ago but told them a lot of Steph. She genuinely believed the turns out to be bunk. Her grandkids will get the truth. But Rachel I still have a question so every now. And then. When I'm driving along El Camino scenerio I will see a shepherd's crook on the side of the road and from the Crook hangs a bell that I have been told Marks this historic historic trail. Are those what's deal with spells. I guess those also stem back to the same period of time when people I came up with El Camino Rail There was a wife of a foundry owner in Los Angeles who conveniently suggested that she could manufacture these handy bells that were sort of reminiscent. I'm a nuisance of the Spanish era. Up and down the new route that they had just created Mrs Arbitrage C. E. Forbes and and in one thousand nine hundred ninety six cal trans decided to resurrect the bells So you'll spot him one or two miles apart on a variety of state routes because of course there isn't one route reality fantasy. Don't quite match up REX payer dollar's have helped to feed this fantasy fans. Yes well the taxpayer dollars to feed it the first time too so people are making money off of this. Yes this is a a two million dollar testament to the enduring appeal wheel of a made up version of history."