Saturday, December 22, 2007

Myth of California & Queen Califia

Queel Califia

valiant and courageous and ardent with a brave heart,
Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián) is the fifth book in a series of novels on Spanish chivalry by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, which began with Amadís de Gaula. The first known edition of this work was published in Sevilla in July 1510, but there was undoubtedly one prior (perhaps published in Sevilla in 1496), since the sixth book of the series, Florisando, appeared in April 1510.
Las Sergas mentions an island named California, inhabited only by women. When Spanish explorers learned of an island (actually a peninsula) off western Mexico rumored to be ruled by Amazon women, they named it California.

Califia (aka Calafia) is the name of a legendary Black Amazon warrior queen, associated with the mythical Island of California. The U.S. state of California is thought by some to be named after Queen Califia.

The legend of Queen Califia appears to date back to the novel Las sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián), written around 1510 by the Spanish writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo
"It is known that to the right of the Indies there exists an island called California very near the terrestrial paradise; and peopled by black women among whom there was not a single man since they lived in the way of the Amazons. They had beautiful robust bodies, spirited courage and great strength. Their island was the most impregnable in the world with its cliffs and headlands and rocky coasts. Their weapons were all of gold. . . because in all the island there was no metal except gold. And there ruled over that island of California a queen of majestic proportions, more beautiful than all others, and in the very vigor of her womanhood. She was not petite, nor blond, nor golden-haired. She was large, and black as the ace of clubs. But the prejudice of color did not then exist even among the most brazen-faced or the most copper-headed. For, as you shall learn, she was reputed the most beautiful of women; and it was she, O Californias! who accomplished great deeds, she was valiant and courageous and ardent with a brave heart, and had ambitions to execute nobler actions than had been performed by any other ruler — Queen Califia."

This document helped to precipitate the Spanish hunt for gold in North America. In 1536 when the explorer Hernán Cortés landed with his crew in what is known today as Baja California, that they had arrived in Califia's land. A portion of the original of this document Las sergas de Esplandián was translated by Edward Everett Hale for The Antiquarian Society, and the story was printed in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1864.[By 1770, the entire Pacific coast controlled by Spain had been given the name California, and the Spanish speaking people who lived there were called Californios.

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