This region has seen tremendous diversity in the people who call it home. For the original inhabitants, the Native American Rumsien people, it was close to paradise. State Park Ranger Chuck Bancroft:
If you can imagine this land with nothing else around but pine forest, the Monterey cypress on the headlands, the coastal scrub, the chaparral, the mountains, and the native animals that frequented this area—there were large herds of deer and antelope and elk, three different kinds of bears, flocks of birds that would darken the sky as they flew overhead, the number of plants that could be used for food, for building materials, for tools—it was really a land of plenty.
Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaíno entered the bay in 1602, searching for a safe harbor for his Spanish galleons. He claimed the bay Spanish territory and named it Mont de Rey after the Viceroy of New Spain. In 1769, Spain finally began colonizing Alta California, and, in 1770, the Spanish arrived back on the shores of Monterey Bay. Franciscan friar Junipero Serra established the Monterey mission. The native Rumsien people were forced into Spanish rule, and their hunter-gatherer life was destroyed.
Mexico obtained independence from Spain in 1821, and for nearly 25 years the Mexican flag flew over Monterey. The Spanish church lands were divided into Mexican ranchos, and large cattle ranches were created. Many of the mission’s Rumsien people now labored on the large cattle ranches.
Under Mexican rule, the Spanish trade restrictions were lifted, and coastal ports were opened to foreign trade. Cow hides became known as “California banknotes” and were exchanged for trade goods.
The prolonged cattle grazing in the Monterey area drastically altered the ecology of the land.
On July 7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, U.S. naval forces under Commodore John Drake Sloat landed in Monterey and took formal possession of Alta California for the United States. The American flag now flew over Monterey.
In 1848, the discovery of gold revolutionized life in California. The world rushed in, and the United States became eager to acquire California’s wealth. On September ninth, 1850, California became the thirty-first state in the Union.
Chinese settlers arrived to work in the gold fields and on the railroad lines. They established fishing villages here, often on top of the old Rumsien fishing settlements. Soon, Italian and Portuguese families followed suit, fishing and whaling off the coast. In the late 1800s, developers moved in. The luxurious Hotel Del Monte was built nearby in 1880, and in due time the area developed with the exclusive Pebble Beach Golf community.
Today, the spirit of diversity is reflected in the many international visitors who come here to stay.