Chapter 3: Mexican San Diego
6. When and how was the city of San Diego created?
In 1833 a group of San Diego Californios petitioned the governor to formally declare the settlement a pueblo with the right to have self-government and exemption from military rule. Governor Figueroa approved of the petition and so did diputación.
Pending approval by the Mexican President, the San Diegans were instructed to hold the first municipal elections on January 1, 1835. This was the creation of the ayuntamiento or town council, an institution of local democracy with a long history in Spain and Latin America. The selection of town officials was indirect, through electors who were adult, male residents of the town. The electors in turn voted for the alcalde who was a mayor-judge, a number of regidores or town councilmen who assumed various positions within the town government, and the síndico procurador who acted as the town constable-attorney.
On December 18, 1834 the first municipal election took place and on December 21 the electors met and selected the new town officials. The alcalde was Juan María Osuna, a retired soldier who had been born in the San Diego presidio and who, a year later, would receive a rancho grant of San Dieguito. The regidores were Juan B. Alvarado and Juan María Marrón, both of whom would shortly receive land grants, and Henry D. Fitch, a New England sea captain turned merchant who had married Josefa Carrillo, from a well known Californio family.
A major consequence of San Diego's being given pueblo status was the eventual acquisition of vast communal lands. In May 1846 governor Pío Pico confirmed San Diego's ownership of 48,000 acres including water rights. It was the largest such concession ever given to a Mexican town in California. The grant, a heritage of the Mexican government, was a rich resource that subsidized much of San Diego's municipal development well into the twentieth century.
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