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Neuroscape Guest Journal: Ryan Anderson

Ryan sends us images and thoughts about memory and history-- lingering voices in a California valley.


On July 17, 1769 a Spanish exploration party, lead by Gaspar de Portol, descended into a little valley that was formed by the Buena Vista Creek in what is now Carlsbad, California. I live just up the hill from that little valley, two hundred and thirty-five years later.

That night in 1769, the party camped on the western slope of the valley. There was a water source close by, and good grazing grass for the animals. Father Juan Crespi, a Franciscan priest who left a careful record of the expedition, wrote this: "We saw from camp a village of the heathen on the summit of a hill." The Indians they saw that day were later named the Luiseños, after the nearby San Luis Rey Mission. Stories float around these days about an archaeological site right in that same valley which was destroyed in the 1960s, before law required developers to record and collect artifacts that were left by Indians. The site was allegedly an old village, and as the story goes there were dump trucks full of artifacts that were hauled away. It is unclear where they were all taken; there are no records beyond hearsay. And what happened to the people? There were other villages as well.


The path that was taken by that group of Spanish explorers has been memorialized as El Camino Real. Taking that same road these days, descending into the same little valley you will run into the Carlsbad Mall.
It is built right on top of that old Indian village that was once in the valley. On the same land where Indians used to live for thousands of years, there are now countless clothing stores and restaurants jammed under one massive roof.

Times change.


Sometimes I walk around down by the mall, and by the Buena Vista Lagoon (which is southwest of the mall). I try to imagine what it used to look like around there 235 years ago, and long before. The Historical Society in town has a compilation of the early history of the City of Carlsbad, including descriptions of old houses and structures. There is no mention of any places where the Luiseño Indians and their ancestors once lived.


History, for the most part, has pushed the Indians aside and erased their memory. I have lived here since I was 11 years old (17 years), and I never heard anything about the people who lived here before the Spanish arrived. They were never mentioned in any of my "history" classes. Interesting. History, it seems, is not all inclusive.

They were here. Their marks have not been fully eradicated.

According to the cartographer Miguel Costanso, those Indians near the Buena Vista Creek were fully aware that the Spanish were coming. In fact, the Indians greeted the newcomers in large numbers.
I wonder how they felt that day in 1769 as the Spanish foreigners traversed into their little valley.

Did they know then that things would never be the same again?


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