Dept. of subject prefix: AMST (American Studies)

Title of 99: “Pioneering the Anza Trail”

Faculty Sponsor: Professor Rúa


A group of six students will travel to Nogales, Arizona, and trek the Juan Bautista de Anza* Trail to San Francisco, California, exclusively by running and biking. We have been in contact with David Smith, a National Park Service (NPS) park ranger and interpretive specialist of the Anza Trail. To his knowledge, this is the first time a group has attempted to complete the trail in its entirety, and views us as “pioneers in this endeavor.” We will retrace the steps of Anza while observing and experiencing the culture of the southern Arizona and California.

*Spaniard Juan Bautista de Anza was Captain of the Royal Presidio of Tubac (in southern Arizona). By 1775, though the Spanish had been in the new world for two centuries, they had yet to establish a stronghold on the Pacific Coast. It was then that Anza set out to create an overland route that would better be able to sustain Spanish colonization of California and prevent influence of the British and Russians. His route was made a National Historic Trail fifteen years ago, with many sites along the way dedicated to his expedition campsites, historic sites, and other sections of the trail of cultural significance. (NPS website)

Intellectual Merit:

The focus of our class is to fully experience the impact of Anza’s journey on the current culture of this area. Most members of the original group were born on the continent with varying ancestry, all bringing their “language, traditions, and a New World Hispanic culture” (NPS). We expect to find strong effects of the different peoples who colonized the area. We will also expect to notice the influence on current culture of the Native Americans who served as Anza’s guides. We anticipate discovering remnants of the diverse culture of the original settlers in differing forms and intensities throughout our journey, specifically in the language, customs, art and architecture of each area. Particularly interesting will be observing areas whose culture has remained relatively unchanged and can be easily traced back to Anza’s expedition, most likely in Indian Reservations, and contrasting this with areas whose culture is a mix of the original colonizers and countless other newcomers, most likely urban areas affected by globalization. Anza’s journey undoubtedly sculpted the evolution of southern Arizona and California’s culture. Understanding this development will clearly benefit our educational growth, for it enhances our ability to perceive the roots of certain customs and traditions in society.


For previous groups who did segments of the trail, “cities along the way often sponsored them and the expedition turned into a major social event for the communities along the way,” says Mr. Smith. He is going to advertise our trip in his October newsletter so that families can volunteer to host our group for a night. We have arranged meetings with Austin Nunez, tribal chair, and other representatives of the Tohono O'odham Nations. By spending a month immersed in many different cultures along the trail, focusing on family and community customs, we can accomplish our goals as stated above.

Reading List:

The National Park Service website dedicated to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Map details of the 18 counties along the trail, displaying the route and the historical markers along the way

Jay W. Sharp, "The Juan Bautista De Anza Trail"

"People and Cultures of the Southwest"

"Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Website"

"Web de Anza"

Font, Pedro, and Teggart, Frederick John, ed., The Anza Expedition of 1775-1776.
Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1913.

Garate, Don, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Southwest Parks and
Monuments Association, 1994.


In order to appreciate the impact of the historic trail on the area's culture today, we must ourselves travel through the area. We will also most fully appreciate the difficulties of an overland journey by completing the trail solely under human power, and therefore having a greater understanding of how the journey must have been like for Anza himself.


Our evaluation will be a collective anthology of the journey. Prior to leaving the trip, the group will put together an historical background of the trail. During the trip, each participant will experience first-hand the culture and geography of the southern Arizona and California coast areas. After the trip, each participant will complete a paper of at least ten pages analyzing a particular aspect of the culture as it was affected by Anza’s journey and settlement. For example, one section might focus on the customs of the Native Americans we meet. Another might address the development of a contemporary urban area from a settlement or historical site created by Anza. We will combine the initial historical summary with each member’s paper, and also include photographs and other representations of our experiences, into an anthology. This will better communicate how we saw the culture of southern Arizona and California through a lens of the historical implications of Anza’s journey.


There are six participants. We will have four bikes, so that two people are running and four are biking at a time. Every ten miles or so, the runners will switch with two of the bikers so that all six people will run. We will also make ground by hiking. Traveling this way would allow the runners to complete any section of the trail not accessible to the bikers, while the bikers could stay on roads and meet the runners at the end of the trail. This way, the group could make between 30 and 40 miles a day while only running 10, a feasible amount for our fitness level. We would carry all our gear on the bikes. Each night we will either camp out or stay with a sponsoring family. Below is a rough outline of the trail given by Mr. Smith. Our proposed itinerary (listed by county) follows. Exactly how much we do each day and week will be determined by the locations of the host families and available campsites.

At this point, we included 7 pages detailing our route, with every turn from the border to San Fran. As it (most likely) annoyed the 99 committee, we spared you the trouble of also having to read it. Plus, it differed in many places from our actual route, which can be found broken up into each daily summary (linked from the homepage).