A traveling exhibit spotlighting the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail stops at Oakland City Hall this month.

The Anza Trail exhibit traces California's ethnic diversity back to the arrival of its first colonists and settlers. It is presented by the National Park Service, and co-sponsored by the Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, the Oakland Black Cowboy Association and the Oakland Tours Program.

People can view the exhibit, on the third floor of City Hall, near the mayor's office, until Feb. 28.

Of the 30 families who followed Juan Bautista de Anza north from Mexico in 1776 to establish a settlement in the San Francisco Bay, nearly a third were of mixed African, Native American and European heritage, said Hale Sargent, an interpretive specialist with the National Park Service.

"These families ushered in the so called Californio period (1776-1848), when the territory they called Alta California was ruled by Spain and then Mexico," Sargent said. "Anza's mission was to seek a new, safer overland route north from Mexico to the Bay Area, and to forestall what the Spanish believed to be encroachments from the north from Russians and the British."

Two hundred hopeful colonists -- 42 men, 39 women and 119 children -- along with 1,000 horses, mules and cattle, made the arduous journey that lasted 8½ months. Traveling 15 miles a day over difficult terrain in arid desert heat and across frigid winter mountain passes, Anza's group was given invaluable assistance from Indian tribe members they met along the route, Sargent said.


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Among the children making the trek with Capt. Anza were Luis Peralta and his siblings, traveling with their parents, and also Maria Loreta Alviso, who was with her family. Maria Loreta and Luis would later marry, and Peralta, after serving many years in the military, was granted a rancho by the Spanish king that would encompass all of today's Oakland. Peralta's sons would raise cattle on their 44,800 acres during the time they controlled the rancho.

In recognition of how the Anza Expedition changed the course of California history, Congress in 1990 established the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historical Trail as a part of the National Trails System. The 1,200-mile trail in the United States traverses from Nogales, Ariz., to the San Francisco Peninsula, then around the bay through Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Another 600 miles of the historic corridor is in Mexico. Surviving diaries and journals tell the story of the epic trip.

In the East Bay, there is a permanent Anza Trail Exhibit at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, for those wanting to learn more.

Sargent will present a short film about the trail at noon, Wednesday, Feb. 20, followed by a discussion. The program takes place in Hearing Room 2, City Hall. It is free and everyone is welcome.

For more information about the historic trails program, visit www.nps.gov/JUBA. To make a reservation for the Feb. 20 program, leave a message with the Oakland Tours Program, at 510-238-3234.