Remixing El Presidio

Milestone 2

University of California, Berkeley Anthropology 136e, Summer 2008
Residential fieldschool in Digital (New Media) Documentation and Representation of Cultural Heritage

“New Media and Interpretive Trails at the San Francisco Presidio”

Milestone 2: (Due Monday, 2 June) (20%) storyboard for narratives and activities related to the walk; based on documentary research

Working individually write a 1-2 page (1.5 space, 12 pt) narrative about some place in or around the project area of El Presidio – Tennesse Hollow – Lovers’ Lane that is mentioned in Barbara Voss’s book. Take one photo to represent/demonstrate your narrative. Make sure that the image is geo-located and has the correct filename format. Make sure that the source of your information is well referenced in your narrative by in-text citations and a bibliography at the end. Post it to the Remixing El Presidio blog under Milestone 1.

Anywhere in the the project area (see the Google Map of the zones: ( of El Presidio – Tennesse Hollow – Lovers’ Lane

1) Each of you will write a 1-2 page (1.5 space, 12 pt) narrative about some place in or around the project area of El Presidio – Tennesse Hollow – Lovers’ Lane that is mentioned in Barbara Voss’s book. The narratives that you create will form the basis for a number of small vignettes of related text-image-video that we will use as content for our interpretive trails. This could be about people moving, seeing, hearing, talking, experiencing the place. Different people experience the same place differently. You can think about the place changing through the time-period of our project (1776-1846). How does Barbara Voss invoke the place you have chosen at different scales. Can you incorporate this into your narrative? If other people in your readings so far have mentioned the same place, bring their ideas and interpretations too in too.

A good way to start this milestone is to think about a theme of the Voss book that appeals to you: the use and movement across the landscape beyond the “gaze” of the quadrangle; the viewpoint (and standpoint) of the different people who lived and worked at the Presidio and how they constructed their identities of social status, ethnicity and/or gender; the architecture and buildings and the intimate scale of living and moving in the buildings on the Quadrangle; what the archaeologists found and how they used multiple lines of evidence (documentary and archaeological to construct their interpretations about El Presidio; how and why different materialities that have their archaeological expression changed during the time period of El Presidio, eg food and raw materials (timber, water, building materials, containers, clothing, access to imported materials (ceramics, cloth, jewellery).

2) It is important that each of these bigger narratives are located in both space and time. To help this you will take a photo to stand for and demonstrate your narrative that is geo-located using the Nokia phone. Back in the lab, download the image(s) to your project folder on your machine, or a lab machine Make sure that the image is logged and uploaded with the correct filename format (remember from Milestone 1?) to Flickr.

3) It is also important that you give your sources of ideas, quotations, pictures etc. credit for their authorship. Make sure that the source of your information is well referenced in your narrative by in-text citations, for example (Voss, 2008, 46) and a bibliography at the end.

4) Post it to the Remixing El Presidio blog under the Milestone 2 page.

Useful references for inspiration:
About El Presidio
Barker, L., R. Allen and J. Costello 1995 The Archaeology of Spanish and Mexican Alta California. Historical Archaeology Guides 3:3-21.(BSpace pdf)

Blind, E., B. Voss, S. Osborn and L. Barker 2004 El Presidio de San Francisco” At the edge of empire. Historical Archaeology 38(3):135-149. (BSpace pdf).

Clevenger, L., E. Blind and S. Osborn 2007 Methods for Documenting Colonial California: Case Studies from El Presidio de San Francisco. Society for Californian Archaeology Newsletter 41(2):24-31. (BSpace pdf)

Doherty, B. 1998 The Lost Frontier. American Archaeology 2(3):23-27.(intro package)

Fracchia, C. 1998 Fire and Gold: the San Francisco Story. Heritage Media Corporation, Encinitas, CA. (MediaLab Library)

Langelier, J. and D. Rosen 1992 Presidio of San Francisco, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California. National Park Service, US Dept of the Interior, Denver, Co. (MediaLab Library)(used heavily by B. Voss)

Osborn, S., E. Blind and L. Clevenger 2004 Levantar: The Presidio of San Francisco Archaeological management Strategy. (BSpace pdf)

Osborn, S., E. Blind, B. Voss and L. Clevenger in press The Presidio of San Francisco, Golden Gate Natinal Recreation Area. In Archaeology in America: an Encyclopaedia.

Osborn, S. and R. Wallace 2001 New Frontiers, New Soldiers of Preservation. CRM (3):38-41. (intro package)

Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. (MediaLab Library)

To inspire your imaginations
Harmon, K. 2004 You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination. Princetom Architectural Press, New York. (MediaLab Library)

Ingold, T. 2000 The perception of the environment : essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. Routledge, London ; New (MediaLab Library)

Student responses


A family sits in their mud walled house staring into a courtyard at dawn. A bay area fog rolls over the coast blocking anything further than a hundred yards. The storm last night finally did away with the roof of the church. The man, his wife and their child have been shivering and wet long before then. As they look past the courtyard into the grey veil and the dunes, they plan to patch the roof with mud and thatch because that’s what they’ve been told to do. The man wonders if maybe there’s a way to find a native to do the work he’s done a hundred times before. The woman hopes half-heartedly that her garden nearby hasn’t been washed away in the sandy soil. The child looks up and asks again why the supply ship he heard talk of is hasn’t brought them what they need to live in this new place.

Fast forward for a generation: the child is a man who, now abandoned and dejected by his country, has just finished an exchange with the Russian traders for materials for the new church. His wife, a native convert, exchanges knowledge about native wildlife with other healers in the community. Their two children run up the path to meet her, asking about news they just heard. Apparently they are no longer Spaniards. They are members of a Mexican Republic.

Forward again. The children, now grown, argue about whether or not they should be using unconverted natives, those who share blood with their mother, to build this new Presidio, bigger and better than the one before. The boy argues they need the labor, the natives are different from them, they live different from them. They are heathens. The woman looks dejected, reminding him that just because a person lives differently, doesn’t mean they aren’t people. He scoffs and heads out on the next roundup party. They need more labor, and there’s a church to finish.


To occupy a foreign space can be an affront: an affront to nature, to those who detest it, and a personal affront by shouldering the difficulties that would not otherwise be present if another location were chosen. Adaptation is required to inhabit a difficult landscape, especially when that place lacks a recognizable framework.

In El Presidio de San Francisco, Spanish Colonialists faced a foreign landscape that functioned outside of the environmental conditions in which they had be trained and encouraged to use. Strapped into a set of predetermined bylines and rules they were asked to exist in a place despite its differences. They were encouraged not to adapt. Adobe was made on top of the wet soil, a quadrangle was built atop a windy bluff, the ramshackle began and the people lived in it.

Presidio de San Francisco went through many transformations throughout its time. More so, it went through a long transformation that spanned the time of multiple rules and numerous environmental conditions. It was expanded and contracted, it conformed and rebelled, pieces were kept, others destroyed. Throughout this process, a few things never changed. There were always families; a community of people trying to survive in a place they had to call home.

If this was the case, what effect did this architectural flux have on the inhabitants of the Presidio? How did a displaced people make a home in a place that was never finished; consistently destroyed by the elements; rejected by the landscape? If the adaptations aren’t allowed to come physically, do they manifest mentally? If a home won’t stand through the winter, what purpose is there to keeping a fence mended, or in finishing a church? When things are built, what is the motivation and just as importantly, how was it done and by whom?

Zachary Mitchell


Milestone 2: The Russians are Coming

The European expansion into the new world was an increasing phenomenon in the 18th century. In 1776 el Presidio de San Francisco was established under the Spanish flag while just sixty miles to the north the Russian colony of Ross, later named Fort Ross was formed in 1812. This was due to the increasing further expansion of the Russians in search of hunting a fur trading grounds. “By the close of the 18th century, the Russians had become well established in the Aleutians and Alaska… the Russians had to sail further and further east in search of suitable hunting grounds” (Blind 136). However, the area around the Presidio of San Francisco marked the end of both Spanish and Russian expansion in the new world.

Once the Spanish-American war broke out el Presidio de San Francisco became increasingly isolated from Spain. This coupled with the increasing interaction from European maritime expeditions, most notably Russia, caused the economy of the Presidio to rely more on trade than political sovereignty. “The Presidio, no longer receiving regular supplies from San Blas, became especially dependant on Colony Ross for access to manufactured goods, while the Russians desperately needed agricultural products” (Voss 201). With a bond beginning to flourish on the coasts of California it is important to note that back in their native lands these countries were progressively more hostile towards one another. In fact, the primary function of el Presidio de San Francisco was to “forestall the maritime invasions of European forces” (Blind 136).

Back in California, trade between Colony Ross and el Presidio de San Francisco created an opportunity for collective interaction between the two settlements. “Social events between the two settlements fostered friendships, alliances, and romance among the colonial communities” (Voss 201). These social events would include dinner parties, dances and bull-and-bear fights. Traditionally these fights would include a bull, representing Spain, and a bear, representing Russia, in a fight to the death (Blind 2008). One can only imagine the excitement that colonizers would have received from these events, not to mention the help they gave to the local economy. In fact from these interactions a scandalous relationship was formed and has become one of el Presidio’s most romantic legends…

Megan Ballock

Works Cited

Blind, Eric. Personal Interview. May 27 2008.

Blind, E., B. Voss, S. Osborn and L. Barker 2004 El Presidio de San Francisco: At the edge of empire. Historical Archaeology Newsletter 38(3): 135-149.

Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

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Pershing Square
During the occupation of el Presidio, 1776 to 1821, by Spain, the site of the current Pershing Square, were the personal quarters of the Commandant Jose Moraga. Com. Moraga arrived with plans to start the construction of el Presidio. The flag of Spain was posted at the northwest corner of el Presidio, in alignment with the Commandant’s home. (Voss:182) In 1822, Mexico fought with Spain over land issues and won the el Presidio de San Francisco, and occupied until 1848. During Mexico’s possession of el Presidio, the fort was expanded approximately 50 meters in length from the original fort built during the Spanish occupation. The Commandant of Mexico maintained the same residence as the Commandant of Spain. (Voss:189) As a result of the American-Mexican War, the United States Army took possession of California, including el Presidio, establishing the locale as one of Army’s main posts. (Voss:192)
Brigadier General John J. Pershing, along with his wife and daughters, moved to el Presidio and adapted to the American culture and lifestyle. With the flagpole in the same location, as the other two occupants, the American flag at the same location as the original fort. While Pershing had relocated his family to el Presidio in 1914, he and the 8th Brigade continued to patrol the Mexican border. During the summer in 1915 there was tragedy at el Presidio. There was a fire that destroyed the Pershing household at el Presidio, including with his wife, Helen, and three daughters; the only survivor of the family in this disaster was Pershing’s son, Warren. Pershing continued serving in the Army in numerous wars, including World War I, with George Patton as his first lieutenant. Pershing retired from the Army in 1924, as “General of the Armies.” Pershing passed away in Washington D.C. in 1948.
The now Pershing Square is where the General’s living quarters were, along with his family. Pershing Square is where the house and its occupants perished in the fire of 1915. The area was never excavated and the remains of the Pershing family still remain there. (TMP:24) The flagpole/area is in dedication to General Pershing, as a memorial for his wife and three daughters, lost in the fire. This was erected and dedicated in 1963 and there is a commemoration plaque with the indication that this is what was done.
Currently there are plans to excavate this area that have been in the workings since 2003. The “flagpole, cannons, markers and plantings…” (TMP:6) would be moved through the route of the dig. Among the progressive interpretive square, at the peak of Pershing Square, foot traffic would create an arena, for the linking of these historical sites.
Gwendolyn Blair


The Main Parade. Environmental Assessment, July 2003.
Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Briana Robertori

The Natives and the Colonists
Although this image appears to be a only a picture of a gate and a pathway, it represents much more than meets the eye. There is history behind this gate that goes way beyond what our eyes can see today. This quaint pathway, Lover’s Lane, was actually the trail from El Presidio, the Spanish colonial military settlement to a nearby mission where many converted native peoples lived. This gate and pathway represent the relationship between the missions and their native populace and El Presidio’s colonists. This picture and its straightforward appearance represents the latent history of hardship that the native peoples experienced in their probable countless journeys between El Presidio and the nearby mission.
When Juan Bautista de Anza’s troop of 193 Spanish colonists arrived in what is now San Francisco in March of 1776, they did not establish the Presidio and Mission on untouched land. The Presidio fort was built on land that the Native Californian Yelamu Ohlone tribe had inhabited. According to researcher and professor Barbara Voss, the native peoples had no centralized military, so the Spanish colonists did not go to war to obtain the well-situated position at the mouth of the San Francisco bay for their fort. Because the land was already inhabited, the Spanish colonists began a policy of reducción, which was the policy of removing native peoples from their villages and moving them into the Mission to be converted by Catholic missionaries (Voss, 51). The natives’ transition and conversion to the colonial culture of the mission was marked by very little native resistance and warfare for several reasons. When the Spanish colonizers set up El Presidio and the mission, they disrupted the natives’ food practices and ecosystems. Spanish colonists prohibiting the natives historical practice of seasonal burning, introduced new weeds, let their cows to graze the land until the natives’ seed crops were destroyed. Ultimately, because the natives were not equipped to attack the colonists, they had to choose between joining the missions, hiring themselves out as laborers, or moving into uncolonized land.
In order to stay on their land, the natives had to subordinate themselves to the colonists’ religion, military, and culture. If the natives chose to stay on the land, they moved onto the Mission to be converted to both Christianity and a colonial way of life. By the year 1790, almost all of California’s natives had either fled from the colonists or entered the missions. Native cultures, settlements, and foodways were disrupted by the colonists’ arrival, so many native people watched their way of life perish at the hands of a people whom they now had to join in order to survive. However, life in the missions was also not assured, and many neophytes died in disease epidemics. These missions’ job was to direct the natives’ land, agriculture, and labor, so these settlements were under tight surveillance. Guards were disciplined, prevented escapes, and suppressed rebellions among their captive neophyte population. This obligatory living and participating in missionaries was important because El Presidio had grown to depend on the mission’s labor, food, and crafts. When native populations chose not to join the missions, El Presidio’s soldiers went into the natives’ villages and captured men, women, and children. The adult male captives were taken to El Presidio to work as forced laborers, and the women and children went to the missions.
The relations between the colonists, the mission’s neophytes, and the native Californians from villages were structured by a separation between these groups and their different roles in El Presidio’s community. The colonists’ ethnocentric view of the neophytes and Native Californians justified using them as labor. Very few Native Californians were considered residents of El Presidio because they were there only to work. The missions provided a large part of this labor force, but rather than being directly paid for their labors, all payments went to the missionaries. Between 1790 and into the early 1800’s, the colonial settlements began negotiating not only with the mission’s neophytes for labor, but also with willing natives from nearby villages. The tasks these willing village people did ranged from chores like milling grain, to building adobe bricks, to working on construction and agricultural projects. Although the colonists gave these laborers wages of food and clothing, many Native Californians did want to work on El Presidio because it meant they had to leave their villages. Natives who were captured in battles between El Presidio soldiers and native villages were also were forced into servitude. Generally colonists believed these natives to be pagans, and therefore considered them potential enemies. When these captive Natives worked, they often worked in shackles. With so many native people working on and within El Presidio’s walls, male colonists often used Native women as sexual partners, or even sexually assaulted them outright.

Voss, Barbara. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008.


El Presidio’s “Useless” Canons: The Best Defense is a Good Offense
By: Jason Felix
The age-old saying that the best defense is a good offense could probably best describe the defensive strategy of the Spanish controlled Presidio of 1776-1822. One would typically assume that the main function of a coastal fort would be to protect from foreign attacks. But surprisingly, El Presidio de San Francisco was rarely attacked by foreign invaders. In fact, canons were never used for combat and not even a single shot was fired as a defensive response to coastal attacks. The San Pedro and the Poder are the canons located directly on each side of the front of the Officer’s club front entrance on 50 Moraga Street. These canons are some of the weapons that were never used for defensive combat. It is interesting to think about why these canons were rarely used and how the Spanish were able to in a sense, defend themselves by focusing on offensive attacks outside of El Presidio.
The Spanish at El Presidio depended on geo-political positioning for defense instead of relying solely on their artillery. A Spanish flag that symbolically represented protected territory strategically marked the enclosed fort. This served to prevent aggression from foreign invaders by associating the Presidio with the strength of the Spanish military. The Spanish flag communicated a powerful message that evoked fear from outsiders and enabled El Presidio to rely less on its defensive structuring.
Based on archaeological evidence, it that seems that the military residents of El Presidio didn’t rely on strong fortification or weapons for defense. Excavations suggest that the structure of El Presidio did not adhere to Reglamento, the Spanish standard for defensive military architecture. We know this because historical accounts claim that for years El Presidio lacked a fourth wall, bastions, patrolling cordons, and other Spanish military regulations. Barbara Voss asserts in her book The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis that,

“Although colonial regulations dictated that presidio architecture be defensible, in practice the quadrangle at El Presidio de San Francisco rarely was, lacking a complete separate defensive wall, and bastions. This absence of defensive capability suggests a lack of fear by military settlers that their homes, workshops, administrative offices, and storage buildings would be attacked” (155).

Since the Spanish were confident that their homes would not be attacked and had to devote less time to defending El Presidio, this enabled them to venture outside of their territory and attack the outlying lands of the indigenous people.
By freeing themselves from the burden of defending their base of operations, the Spanish were able to engage in more offensive military excursions. Spanish soldiers were able to explore, colonize, and attack Native Californians like the Ohlone people. The Spanish military even used rape as a standard practice. It is stated that, “The colonial military attacked Native Californians in their own inland villages, regionalized armed conflict farther and farther inland. Sexualization of military conflict through rape and sexual assault also terrorized Native Californian communities” (Voss, 155). These offensive strategies coupled with less reliance on defending El Presidio were what made the colonizers so successful in their militaristic endeavors. The Spanish didn’t need to fire canons to defend themselves or built a strong fort. Offensive attacks gave them an advantage and as a result, became one of the best ways they defended El Presidio.


Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

< The photo above is a picture of the Main Post at the San Francisco Presidio in 2008. The Main post of the San Francisco Presidio was constructed in 1776 by Spanish emigrants, and was the center of many changes for the Spanish emigrants and the surrounding Natives.
How can we ever know how much someone or a group can change when they are involved in a new experience that throws them into a completely foreign place, were many new cultures and ideas are introduced to their environment? Although the settlers that emigrated from the Spanish empire, were of Spanish decent their experience of emigration to the el presidio changed their lives forever. You can see this in a quote by Barbara L Voss the author of The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis were she states “Their decision to emigrate to the northernmost edge of the Spanish empire irrevocably changed their lives and those of their descendants.” So even though they were of Spanish heritage their new experiences had changed them to witness the world and their lives differently. The Spanish Settlers of the el Presidio had taken on a new life of their own and identified themselves differently than that of their Spanish Heritage. Barbara L Voss addresses this change in the settlers view by stating “It was here that the settlers rejected the racially charged casta terms that had been their primary form of identification and forged a new.”(Voss 2008) This came about for the Spanish Settlers of the el Presidio because in order for them to survive they had to integrate new elements into their lives so that they could produce enough food and goods for their survival. This was necessary because even though they were a part of the Spanish empire they only received goods from their mother country once a year, and during the Spanish Mexican war they received no supplies and were expected to operate completely independently. This made them a separate community from their mother country because they had to adapt to survive under the situations that were presented to them. Without the help of the natives that were surrounding the Presidio, the Spanish colonizers would have never survived so a less harsh racial perspective was necessary. Even though a less harsh racial perspective was in place, the Spanish colonizers still used violent punishments to keep the natives in order, so that they could convert them to their ideas of life and make them more productive for their needs.
A whole new community was developed for the Spanish because they had to adapt to the elements of their new environment, and this also changed the Native Americans way of life. On page 53 of Barbara L Voss’s book The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis she explains “In only one year, the Yelamu district was transformed from a network of interconnected native communities to a landscape dominated by colonial institutions.” The Spanish expanded this rule and in time dominated all of the local natives near the Presidio. So not only was a new community experienced by the Spanish, but a new community was also forced upon the Native Americans. A whole new community was developed between the Natives and the Spanish emigrants that was disconnected from the Spanish mother country. So the history that exists here at the el Presidio in San Francisco is rich and unique with its own life.

Jonathan Holm

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Lauren Matley Matley 1
Ruth Tringham
Anthro 136e
June 1st 2008

Remixing the Presidio
Milestone 2:

People world-wide share a common fascination in the mysterious and unknown. Traveling from miles around, the public willing ventures to historic land sights hoping to have some kind of physical experience with legends of old, or land marks possessing magical powers. Among these historic sites the Presidio of San Francisco, established more than two hundred years ago, holds one of California’s most famous waterways, El Polin Springs and its famous legend.
El Polin Springs, also known as Ojo de Agua de El Polin, is one of the oldest local legends of the San Francisco bay area. “Whispers of this place have permeated San Francisco history from the earliest times” (Geoffery Coffey, 2007: “Whispers in the Water”). It is said that if a young maiden were to drink from the spring under a full moon, she would then obtain great fertility, and was sure to have an abundance of twins (Geoffrey Coffey, 2007: “Whispers in the Water”). As for the young men who ventured to the spring, with just one drink would gain great vitality. Aside from El Polin Springs’ serene and enchanting appearance, which only adds a romantic quality to the tale, the native and early settlers of the area did not understand the annual flow of the spring. The flow of the water fluctuates with the changing of the seasons; flowing abundantly in the spring due to the rains and melting mountain snow, and then is reduced to a dry bed in October from lack of rain in the summers. This misunderstanding in turn added more mystery to the spring. The origin of the name of the spring notes Geoffery Coffey is “the word for the great phallic rollers used dockside to load cargo aboard ships… [Though] the origin of the tale hints back to the Ohlone tribe, the origin of the name is Spanish” (2007). The legend is now marked with a replication of a well. The well rests peacefully in the center of what is today the El Polin Springs picinic area. The well marks the presents of the spring to the public. Though the well does not rest on top of the mouth of the spring, the flow of its waters runs down into the small valley weaving in and out of the landmark.
Mariano Vallejo remarks in his 1876 Discurso Historico that the legend of the spring was further believed by the locals because several of the families who resided near El Polin at the Presidio had multiple sets of twins in their family. Among these families was the Briones family, Juana Briones in particular, who had eleven children which incorporated sets of twins. The legend that shrouds this geographical location is also tied to this prominent female figure. Among many of her accomplishments as a respected business woman, she was also a curadera (traditional healer) (Barabara Voss: 2008). Though she was affiliated with the Presidio, through the marriage to an officer, Juana Briones and her extended family resided away from the quadrangle of the fort and next to the spring. In recounts of her descendants, the reasoning for the Briones family to reside next to the spring was because Juana used natural remedies from the local plant life that was restricted to growing only around the spring. This notion of a women with multiple sets of twins who happens to be a healer, who lives next to a magical spring lends itself myths of history.
Like most legends, the legend of El Polin Springs is subject to the passing of time, becoming a bedtime story for the young and hopeful. “Today, El Polin seems more forlorn than fecund; the water falls from its brick work cascade and meanders across a lonely picnic area into a dilapidated cobblestone “well”” (Geoffery Coffey). What remains today is the sound of birds, rustling of the forest, a whisper of trickling water, and a few words from only those few who keep the legend of El Polin Springs alive.

Works Cited:
Coffey, Geoffery
2007: “Whispers in the Water: Reviving the Past at the Presidio’s El Polin Springs”
Voss, Barbara
2008: The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco . University of California Press
Lauren Matley


Women Involvement in Presidio and Medicine
El Polin Springs is located Northeast of the San Francisco Presidio. Outside the Native Californians, a mulatto woman Juana Briones and her family from 1812 to 1840s were occupying the military. Briones was a healer; healer is someone who practices using plants and other techniques with the human body to help cure illnesses. In Barbara Voss’s book, “The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality In Colonial San Francisco”, she implies that woman who lived on the presidio tending to their livestock, cooked, marketed produce and dairy products (Voss, 165).
Briones used the landscape for her animals and plants. Some of the plants had to be separated from some of the farm animals like cows because they could be harmful to them. Her herbal plants might have been grown southeast of the Presidio near Lovers Lane. Voss also implies that Briones worked carefully with the Native Californians to blend the plants the existed in San Francisco (Voss, 166). Briones tried to duplicate how to use the plants that were in her living areas.
The plants that she used became very beneficial to her Briones was a healer. One of the plants she used Ranunculus; Buttercup (Voss, 167). There are several different species of Ranunculus. The Authority On Integrative Medicine implied that the plant was used as a painkiller; it would be heated or dried, then stuffed in a person’s cavity and the infusions would be rubbed on the gums of infants. The plant has to be dried out and prepared correctly or it could cause illness to someone. The plants that Voss gives are endangered or extinct (Voss, 167). According to the Center Plant Conservation, A. Nels and J.F. Macbr indicated that the plant would grow towards an open well drained sloped and where basalt emerges.
Women in the Presidio were engaged in colonial life. In the Presidio the women had roles other then just being wives they were craft servers, farmers, ranchers, healers, parents and educators (Voss, 94). It is not seen yet that the women who resides in Presidio were recruited into the military.
Women involvement in the Presidio, along with the illustration of Juana Briones shows that women did have a place and that the helped structure the land.

A. Nels, J.F. Macbr CPC Plant Profile- National Collection of Endangered Plants: Rancunculus reconitions. (Accessed 1 June 2, 2008).

Voss, Barbara 2008 The Archaeology of Enthnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA

National Standard. The Authority on Integrative Medicine. (Accessed 1 June 2008).

Rebecca McGee


Life as Doña Juana Briones de Miranda

You look around you and can’t help but beam at how far along you’ve come. As you stand at El Ojo de Agua, you smile at the beautiful fruit orchards, the cattle corral and the farm that you’ve created. The year is 1835 and it was only two years ago that this land was granted to you and your husband, Apolinario Miranda (Voss, 2008, p. 166). Not only are you thrilled at all the hard work you’ve put into this place, yet you’re even more proud that you were able to accomplish all this as a woman.
Having lived at the main quadrangle of El Presidio from the age of ten until about the age of twenty-two (from 1812 to 1824), you were accustomed to sexist discrimination, whereby women were subordinate to men. For example, you were aware or had heard of the raping of indigenous women by colonial men (Voss, 2008, p. 152), portraying the dominance of colonial men.
In addition, the architectural construction of the third quadrangle of El Presidio in 1815 did not allow any women to participate in the design and construction. You had heard from elders that prior to this, women, men and children had participated in the “architectural design, production, and maintenance of their homes.” However, a few years after you moved to El Presidio, the responsibility transferred to the military command and thus women lost an important role in the community’s development (Voss, 2008, p. 194).
Also, being raised Catholic, women had to be subordinate to men. This you understood from the Genesis, where Eve is made out of Adam’s rib. Also, the fact that you are only allowed to use the “missionary position” during sexual intercourse is another way you have come to understand your position as a woman as inferior to men (Voss, 2008, p. 95).
With all these aspects socializing you to think men were dominant to women, you were very proud of how you surpassed this ideology and not only created this farm, orchard and cattle corral, yet you also obtained a lot of land in your own name in the “newly established Puebla of Yerba Buena (present-day North Beach in San Francisco) and built an adobe house there” (Voss, 2008, p. 167). This is not to say you and other women in El Presidio do not have any agency of your own. On the contrary, Spanish colonial law allows you to have economic and legal status separate from that of your husbands. It allows your own property and wages, and keep your maiden name after marriage (Voss, 2008, p. 96).
Perhaps moving from El Presidio to El Polin and the separation from the dominant discourse of women’s inferiority also allowed you to become counter-hegemonic. Also, as you developed a reputation as a curandera and midwife, your status in society elevated and you developed more agency.

The year is now 1852. In 1844, you bought a 4,400-acre piece of land in Rancho La Pruisima Concepcion. You began developing the ranch and moved your children, sisters and extended family there during the land tenure disputes with the U.S. government (Voss, 2008, p. 167-68). This year you bought additional land in Santa Clara.
Another dramatic change in your life is that you have come to be known as a widow (Voss, 2008, p. 169). Through your interactions with Apolinario you realized that men see their patriarchal privileges as absolute. As Apolinario became increasingly abusive and alcoholic, you realized that you need to divorce him and he does not have a right to his patriarchal privileges. You and most women see the patriarchal privilege “as contingent on certain rights and obligations” (Voss, 2008, p. 97) and therefore you feel that Apolinario was undeserving. You tried to get protection from the military officers at the Presidio, “but Apolinario ignored the reprimands he received”. Finally, you “petitioned for ecclesiastical separation” from your husband. You had a priest transcribe your petition, claiming that you feared the loss of your soul and the destruction of your family due to the scandal and bad example Apolinarioa, a man who has forgotten God and his own soul, sets (Briones 1844) (Voss, 2008, p. 169). You are proud that you were able to divorce Apolinario and set an example for your children to follow.
Yes, there’s a dominant discourse of men being superior to women, yet possibilities for something new to emerge always exist. During my years at El Presidio, there was a gendered production of space. However, this is not to say that we cannot overcome this. We must take agency of our lives!


Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: University of California, Berkeley Press.

Nairi Varteressian


Milestone 2: Space Over Time

It is convenient to divide the history of The Presidio into three categories: Spanish, Mexican and American, all initially colonialist. This division may be useful when examining specific entities, practices, or ethnic groups, but it also reinforces the notion that history is finite and divisible and one era does not bleed through to another. The Presidio is a beautiful example of how the history of these three groups became intertwined with Californian history and identity, and the way in which we will examine their stories will be though their architecture.
The Main Post served as the focal point for the initial Spanish military garrison in the late 18th century and remains at the center of many activities taking place today. The physical and ideological top of the Main Post is The Officers’ Club, a building that has had many reincarnations and is a multi-use and integral part of public outreach. It is dedicated to communal endeavors, rather than private residences or commercial activities. Today it houses an art museum, informative historical and archaeological room, grand ballroom, archaeology classroom, and The National Park Service Visitor Center. The focus of this building is, and was, to serve communal functions. As interpreters we have to examine why this importance has been maintained over time but to see how the building and location was adapted to fit the needs of the public that was using it, and what type of communities were allowed access.
When the Spanish built their initial structures during 1776 they constructed a church along the main fortification wall that remained part of the three-sided fort for its entire military history. The church was one of the more prominent buildings, which is impressive because at the time there were not many prominent buildings, due to lack of suitable materials and labor. This church was the focus of extensive archaeological work and is now re-interpreted and re-presented symbolically to the public, which attests to the historical and contemporary prominence of this area, and the reason for the photograph, showing the church in the left side next to The Officers’ Club.
During the American period The Officer’s Club became, well, The Officer’s Club. It was a place dedicated to the leisure and enjoyment of the stationed officers and was for their sole use. Their status allowed them privileged access to the building for entertainment and as an enticing way to keep them on the military base during their leisure time. The restricted access to this building further emphasizes the prominent status it had maintained for several centuries.
It is now dedicated entirely to public use in an effort to create spaces for people who are interested in telling and learning the stories of The Presidio. In addition to the changed emphasis on public access to the building the governmental website states the Officers’ Club, “…is also the oldest and most revered building on the Presidio” ( This statement attests to the celebrated and crucial role the Main Post has served in the construction of California history and illuminates how, due to the adaptive use of the building, the Officers’ Club will remain one of the most important public outreach centers for this area.
Works Consulted

-Presidio of San Francisco: History of the Officers Club (

-Further history: (

Rachel Marks


You Are What You Eat
Often parents can be heard telling their kids, “you are what you eat,” as the little ones shy away from something that’s supposed to be good for them, or at the very least is something the parents want their children to eat. These words, invoked not just for children but for adults alike, are usually associated with the desire to keep the body in top physical shape by eating healthy foods. In looking at the physical aspect of this adage, however, it is easy to miss how an individual’s cultural identity is also linked to which foods are being eaten.

A strong bond between social identity and food can be seen in almost any culture throughout the world. The types of food being eaten and how that food is being prepared and consumed offer perceptions of how a culture is changing over time to negotiate the lifeways of an new environment and new social interactions. Take a look at people you see in everyday life. Each one has individual preferences of which types of foods they like to eat and some of those preferences reinforce how they feel about themselves as a person and as a member of social grouping. The inhabitants of El Presidio de San Francisco during the last quarter of the eighteenth century as also had certain foods which reinforced their identities, reflecting feelings towards their own community and how that community is viewed in relation to surrounding social groups. There are many examples of how food is affecting the identity of the colonists during the late part of the eighteenth century, two of which will be briefly explored here.

In keeping with cultural markers of Spanish colonial life, beef is a cornerstone of a Spanish colonists’ diet. Beef is common in the diet of many cultures, especially here in the United States today. Unlike the convenience of today’s fast-food, on-the-go lifestyle, the Spanish colonists had to plan far in advance and secure resources to keep this particular culinary favorite as in their new life in the bay area. To keep this identity through food alive, the colonists bring a thousand head of cattle with them to the San Francisco Bay. One complication of caring for such a large group of domesticated animals revolves how to keep them fed. A group of cattle at this size can make a dramatic impact on vegetation and seed resources in an area, a development which carries serious implications if there are other groups who happen to live on whatever the cattle are now consuming.

The desire to retain certain food resources sometimes led to friction between the colonists and Native Californians. On both sides there is a desire to retain cultural identity through specific eating practices but sometimes these two sides come into conflict. One such time was during the 1780’s, in which many Native Californians were being arrested for killing or harassing the colonists’ livestock. It is believed that this violent behavior stemmed from the fact that the cattle and horses were feeding on the seed areas being used by the Native Californians to produce staple foods (Voss 2008, 79). This particular situation is a pristine example of how two cultures can come into conflict by the mere desire to retain the food practices. To put it into today’s context, imagine a group of people moving onto your street and then allowing their future meals to go through your kitchen to eat whatever they feel like.

A second example of how food can be a marker of cultural identity is reflected in the ways certain local food resources are being perceived by the Spanish colonists. The estuary system that makes up the San Francisco Bay supplies an abundant variety of food sources, mammals, fish and bird, and shellfish are all well represented in the area. What is interesting is how archaeological evidence suggests that while there is some outside acquisition of animal and fish, there is no noticeable evidence that shellfish were being harvested or consumed by any of the Spanish settlers. There are a couple possibilities as to why this could be happening that tie this into cultural identity. For one thing, there is evidence that Native Americans are associated with shell mound constructions around the bay area. It is possible that the Spanish settlers are showing some kind of respect to their indigenous neighbors by avoiding the shellfish. One the other hand, it is entirely possible that shellfish are so closely associated with the cultural identity of the Native Americans that the Spanish have no desire to diffuse their identity any further by partaking of the shellfish.

These two examples only scratch the surface of how food plays a part in shaping the cultural identity. In the initial years of establishing El Presidio, the culinary practices of the Spanish colonists reinforced a separation of cultural identity with the Native Americans. As life progressed and time moved forward, another rupture occurred in sustenance patterns as the colonists broke away from traditional Spanish practices to experiment with their own dietary habits, embracing their new identity as Californios.

    Works Cited

Voss, Barbara. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

-Michael Rutledge


Juana Briones as provider of healthful life in El Presidio de San Francisco through food, medicine, and an interactive relationship between multiethnic Spanish colonizers and Native Californians.

The story of Juana Briones and her several residences in and around El Presidio highlights questions about a sense of place and its relationship both to practical concerns such as health and survival and to socially constructed dynamics based on race, gender, and economic and social status.

Born in 1802 in Villa de Branciforte in the Monterey Bay, Juana moved from El Presidio de Monterey to El Presidio de San Francisco after the death of her mother in 1812. As most colonists do, she initially resided with her family in the main quadrangle of the post, and likely moved to her husband Apolinario’s quarters in the quadrangle after her marriage in 1820. By 1824, Juana and Apolinario had joined her sisters Maria de la Luz and Guadalupe and widower father Marcos in residence near El Polin Springs, located about half a mile outside of the main quadrangle in a river valley. The move was presumably made to take advantage of the fertile land and fresh water in an otherwise sparse landscape.

Besides birthing eleven children, Juana worked with her sisters to provide food for her large family and other settlers, raising chickens for eggs and meat, sustaining dairy animals, and growing produce. Unlike in the main quadrangle, where archaeological evidence of Native Californian habitation is found only in the prison cells, Native Californians were found to be living in close proximity to the Briones family in El Polin Springs, representing a rare and, based on Juana’s adoption of an orphaned Native Californian, perhaps friendly relationship between the colonizers and the colonized. Juana also became known for her skill in midwifery and in healing using local wild plants, thus providing health and life for her community in more ways than one.

According to history passed down through the Briones family, Juana worked with Native Californians to modify her knowledge of traditional Mexican plant remedies to fit the naturally occurring plants available in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although the Briones’ food production focused on traditional Mexican agriculture rather than native food acquisition techniques involving foraging and landscape management, Juana’s interest in learning locally useful forms of herbalism from Native Californians may have been a rare and significant incidence of symbiotic cultural contact.

Juana and her husband received a land grant in 1833 for El Ojo de Agua de Figueroa, half a mile from El Polin Springs, upon which Juana planted an orchard and kept a cattle corral. Juana soon acquired and developed another plot of land in the Pueblo of Yerba Buena, and began to profit from sales of her productive foodstuffs to sailors, visiting merchants, and presumably other settlers. She went on to purchase a 4,400 acre ranch in present-day Santa Clara County, where she moved her extended family and continued to expand her landholdings until her death in 1889.

Juana seemed determined to provide health and independence for herself and those around her, and she did so through hard work and cultivation of an agricultural niche that provided essential foodstuffs, seemingly without domination (although certainly with the help) of Native Californians. It is notable that Juana herself was illiterate and of noticeable African descent, and had no inborn social status or wealth upon which to build. Perhaps her dark skin and unprivileged background helped her to integrate with Native Californians, allowing her to gain independence through her profitable contributions to the food economy.

The metaphor of the live-giving spring by her first agricultural endeavor in El Polin is an apt one; Juana maintained healthful life for herself and her family by providing it to others through food, medicine, and peaceful cultural intermingling.

Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.

Jean Wallace

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