Chapter 3: Mexican San Diego
1. What was California's first multi-ethnic love story?
The story of Josefa Carrillo, daughter of the Joaquin Carrillo family in San Diego, is one of the best known in early California history.
In 1829 she eloped with Henry Delano Fitch, an American merchant sea captain, thus becoming one of the first Californianas in San Diego to marry a foreigner. When Capt. Henry D. Fitch made a call on the port of San Diego in 1826, Josefa was introduced to him. She remembered that she was attracted to him by his "fine manners and handsome demeanor." Within a year he requested her hand in marriage and her parents approved. Josefa promised to marry him but she was legally unable to do so because he was a foreigner and a Protestant. Several years passed until Capt. Fitch agreed to be baptized Catholic in order to be married.
On April 15, 1829, the day after his baptism, the marriage was to take place. It was arranged for them to be married in her father's house. The day for the marriage arrived and scores of family members and important guests assembled in the Carrillo parlor to witness the marriage vows. Halfway through the ceremony a message arrived from Governor Echeandía ordering the rites to cease, because the marriage was a violation of the law. At this point the uncle, Domingo Carrillo, refused to be the marriage witness and the priest stopped the ceremony. In Josefa's view the people who refused to continue with the ceremony were "
persons who by character and education who were accustomed to blindly obey all the government's orders. . . .."
This tragic turn of events became a scandal when Capt. Henry Fitch convinced Josefa to elope with him. Henry and Josefa sailed away towards the south and eventually were married in a Catholic ceremony in Valpariso, Chile. Fitch conducted his business ventures and they sailed up the coast to Mexico. Josefa had given birth to a son when Capt. Fitch's ship put into San Diego harbor for the first time since their elopement. When they anchored in the port, Josefa immediately went to visit her mother and sisters who greeted her with great affection. She was soon reconciled to her father as well.
After a time Josefa and her husband had to go to Monterey where Capt. Fitch faced charges of forcible abduction. While in Monterey Josefa was separated from her husband for three months and eventually Governor Echeandía sent them to Mission San Gabriel where Fitch was incarcerated for three months until it was determined that their marriage in Chile was legitimate. Nevertheless Fitch had still broken the law. As a penalty Don Enrique (Henry Fitch) was given a penance of donating a bell of 50 pounds for the church at the Los Angeles pueblo and the couple were commanded to hear high mass with lighted candles for three dias festivos.
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