A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith
The year Tijuana recognizes as its birthday could have been 1864. Or 1888. Or 1890. Or 1925. Or 1929. Or perhaps some other time.
But in 1976, a panel — which included future San Diego state Sen. Lucy Killea — decided on July 11, 1889 as the date, because that was when a legal conflict over Tijuana's land was settled by the Argüello family, setting the stage for Tijuana to be subdivided and for the family to try to profit from the real estate boom then sweeping Southern California. The settlement occurred after several presidents of Mexico, Ignacio Comonfort, Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz, had something to say about the title to the land held by the Argüello family,
According to a presentation made last week by Tijuana Archive director Gabriel Rivera Delgado and accountant Mario Córdova Torres (introductory slide of their presentation above), these are among the dates that could have selected as Tijuana's birthday:
Jan. 2, 1864: José María Bandini is named judge for the locality of Tijuana. A customs house was added in 1874 (see postcard of the ruins of the first customs house at right).
April 6, 1888: A council creates Tijuana as an entity that can have a justice of the peace. Ignacio Palacio is appointed.
Oct. 15, 1890: A judge in Ensenada orders land subdivided and sold in Tijuana.
Oct. 15, 1925: The federal government names Tijuana a free municipality, but there are bureaucratic complications.
Dec. 16, 1929: Tijuana formally becomes a municipality.
In the end, July 11, 1889 was selected. That was when the heirs of Santiago Argüello, who died in 1862, (pictured at left in introductory slide above) and his widow, Pilar Ortega, who died in 1879, settled their dispute. In part, the heirs wanted to settle because they saw the profits that were being made when land was being subdivided during Southern California's real estate boom, which included the rise of communities such as Oceanside, Lemon Grove, National City and Chula Vista, Córdova said.
The administration of Tijuana Mayor Fernando Márquez Arce held two symposiums on the issue of establishing a date to celebrate the founding of Tijuana. One symposium was held in 1975 and one in 1976. Arce was present at the lecture. (A book presentation by Márquez Arce will be held July 27).
Members of the commission helping decide the birthdate of Tijuana were:
Historian David Piñera of the Autonomous University of Baja California;
Lucila Lúa de Partida of the Technological Institute of Tijuana;
Ethnologist Wigberto Jiménez Moreno;
Alejandro Lugo of the Tijuana Historical Society;
Guadalupe Kirarte, who coordinated the symposiums. She attended last week's presentation.
Lucy Killea of the San Diego Historical Society; Córdova said seeing as to how the history of the property in question has many binational links, it was appropriate that a foreigner was involved in the deliberations.
Slide above shows Lucila Lúa, Lucy Killea and David Piñera.
The commission was apparently persuaded by a presentation made by Magdaleno Robles Sánchez about the virtues of July 11, 1889. His presentation also was accompanied by the 1889 layout for the community drawn up by engineer Ricardo Orozco (plan seen at right -- the pueblo was then called Zaragoza.) In 1977, in gratitude for the research he had done, Robles Sánchez was named the first chronicler of the city of Tijuana. He also was present at last week's lecture. (His picture is featured on the right side of the introductory slide at top). 1977 also marked the first time that July 11 was celebrated as the city's birthday.
History of the Argüello family's ownership of the Tijuana land to 1889:
1791: Santiago Argüello born in Monterey in Alta California (then part of Spain).
1805: Argüello enters Spanish army as a cadet at the presidio of San Francisco. He later serves in the presidios of Santa Barbara and San Diego.
1810: Argüello marries María del Pilar Ortega in Santa Barbara. Five of their children are born in Santa Barbara and 10 in San Diego.
1818: He becomes paymaster in San Diego.
1821: Mexico wins independence from Spain.
1829: Argüello granted Rancho Tia Juana land, apparently on March 24, for his services as a soldier, by Gov. José María
Echeandía. At this point Argüello is a lieutenant.
1830-35: Argüello commands Presidio of San Diego.
1846: Argüello granted Rancho Ex-Mission San Diego lands by Gov. Pio Pico (58,875 acres). Pio Pico also revalidates Rancho Tia Juana grant, saying it was six "sitios de ganado mayor," or about 10,530 hectares for grazing horses and cattle. The eastern edge was marked by the Cerro Colorado and the northern edge by Otay Mesa. The land is mostly used for grazing cattle.
1846-48: U.S.-Mexican war. With Juan Bandini, Argüello urges San Diego residents not to resist U.S. forces. Alta California and other parts of Mexico are ceded to the United States.
1857: Decree by Mexican President Ignacio Comonfort saying Baja California land grants issued by governors without approval of the national government must be revalidated causes Argüello to have to defend his title.
1861: Title for the Tia Juana ranch is revalidated by President Benito Juárez on June 1.
1862: Santiago Argüello dies at the Tia Juana ranch without a will, causing legal complications.
1863: Law issued by Juárez while French occupy parts of Mexico limits land grant ownership to three sitios of ganado mayor.
1870: Argüello's widow, María del Pilar Ortega, tries to meet the letter of the 1863 law by selling half the ranch to her son Ignacio for 700 pesos. This causes conflict with other family members, some of whom say she was only entitled to one-tenth of the land in the first place.
1879: María del Pilar Ortega dies on Feb. 7, also without a will.
1879: President Porfirio Díaz revalidates María del Pilar Ortega's Tia Juana ranch property title on Aug. 6. The title says the grant is for 10,530 hectares, the size of the grant mentioned by Pio Pico, giving some family members further ammunition to argue that the 1870 sale to Ignacio was invalid.
1889: Argüello heirs come to legal agreement over the property and contract with Ricardo Orozco to help divide the ranch. It was divided into two parts, a northern one near the border and a southern section that contained the Agua Caliente ranch, whose sulfurous waters were considered to be a tourist attraction. The southern part went to the heirs of Ignacio Argüello. The northern part was distributed to the remaining son of Santiago Argüello, José Antonio Argüello, and to the heirs of his brothers. Part of the land was also set aside to form the town of Tijuana and divided into two sections that was partitioned between the two sides of the family. A court in Ensenada approved the agreement on July 6. On July 11, the court declared that the family's agreement was "based on the map presented by the expert Ricardo Orozco." The pueblo of Tijuana was on its way.
Gabriel Rivera (left) and Mario Córdova made the
presentation about how July 11, 1889 became
Tijuana's official birthdate.