Portolá, Gaspar de (gäspärˈ dā pôrtōläˈ) [key], fl. 1734–84, Spanish explorer in the Far West. After serving in Italy and Portugal, he was sent (1767) to America as governor of the Californias to expel the Jesuits and to save Franciscan missions. In 1769, Portolá commanded an expedition sent out from Mexico to extend Spain's control up the Pacific coast by establishing a colony at Monterey Bay, which had been discovered and described by earlier explorers. Portolá's expedition, composed of two ships and two land parties, left Velicatá and met at San Diego Bay, where Portolá established a small colony. From there he continued with a small land party to Monterey Bay, which he failed to recognize. After exploring the region, he returned (1770) to San Diego. Convinced by one of his captains that he had actually seen Monterey Bay, Portolá again marched north. Recognizing at last the bay described by earlier explorers and the site chosen for Spanish occupation of Upper California, he established the mission and presidio of San Carlos. Portolá became governor of Puebla, Mexico, in 1776 and in 1784 returned to Spain.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.