In the Spotlight: Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted on September 19th, 2022 by pcofresi

Hispanic Heritage Month has been observed and celebrated since 1968. President Lydon B. Johnson established the celebration as a one week event. It was not until 1988 that President Ronald Reagan extended it to the full 30 days, September 15 to October 15, that we celebrate today.

Today we would like to acknowledge and celebrate the story of the namesake of Monterey. In 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno named Monterey in honor of Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo, the Count of Monterrey and Viceroy of New Spain.

But who was the Count of Monterrey? We invite you to travel back in time with us and learn a little about this Spanish nobleman.

The Count of Monterrey's name was Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo. He was born in 1562 and was the eldest son of the fourth Count of Monterrey, Jerónimo de Zúñiga Acevedo and Inés Velasco y Tover. He grew up and studied in Galicia, Spain at the College of Monterrey, which was founded by his grandfather Alonso de Zúñiga y Acevedo Fonseca, III Count of Monterrey.

When he was 18 years old, in 1578, he decided to enter the service of King Philip II. He participated in the Portuguese campaign, where he led the Galician militia, paying for them out of his own pocket. Seventeen years later, on May 28, 1595 he was appointed by King Philip II as viceroy, governor, and captain general of the kingdom of New Spain. On November 5th of that year, he made his way to Mexico City, taking up the reins of government with singular virtue and selflessness.

It is reported that the Viceroy Count of Monterrey made a special effort to help the indigenous nations that still remained nomadic, finding settlements for them and providing them with land for their sustenance. In addition, he prohibited the natives from selling their private plots or those that belonged to the communities, in an effort to prevent them from falling victim to the abuses of Spaniards and Creoles, who had deceived some and purchased their plots at a very low price.

In 1596, he sent two expeditions up the Pacific coast and named Sebastián Vizcaíno the head of the expedition before embarking from Mexico. Vizcaíno sailed from Acapulco that year with three ships, it was on this expedition that he founded La Paz, Baja California Sur ("Paz" translates as "Peace") and named it after the friendly reception by the natives.

Vizcaíno sailed another expedition on May 5, 1602. On this mission the city of Ensenada in Baja California was founded, San Diego Bay was explored, and Catalina Island was named. These explorers reached Monterey Bay, Alta California, and it is here where Vizcaíno decided to name the bay in honor of the viceroy.

In recognition of his successful expedition, King Phillip III promoted Zúñiga y Acevedo to viceroyalty of Peru. Following this promotion, he left Mexico and embarked to Peru; it is said that Mexicans were saddened by his departure. After a difficult journey, which aggravated his already fractured health, he arrived in Paita, Peru.

The Count of Monterrey and Viceroy of Mexico took possession of the government in Lima on December 8th, 1604. He was a very pious catholic with a big sense of responsibility and with his patrimony he covered the debts of the Peruvian government. In spite of his poor health, he visited churches and distributed all his income in acts of charity. He favored the natives, honored the Incas and caciques, and punished the corregidores and Spaniards who mistreated the native people.

After a long illness that forced him to bed rest for more than two months, the Count of Monterrey passed away in February 1606 in Lima, Peru. His remains were taken to Spain in May of 1607 and he was buried in the church of Monterrey's castle located in Galicia.

Fun facts:

  • On September 20, 1596, Don Diego de Montemayor founded the capital of Nuevo León, Mexico, which he named Monterrey in honor of the viceroy’s wife.

  • Monterrei (in Galician) is a municipality located in the In Galicia region of north-west Spain.

  • The Romans introduced winemaking to Monterrei and since then it’s been a wine region.

  • Three ways to spell it: Monterrei (Galicia), Monterrey (Mexico), and Monterey (CA)

Now that you know a little more about the life of the Count of Monterrey, we invite you to walk through the streets of our Monterey this month and rediscover its incredible history. For this is only the first chapter of our history…

Written by Celeste López Baird - Communications Director

References and Further Exploration*:

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the above links do not reflect the views and opinions of the Old Monterey Business Association. They are merely there as sources of information and reference. Thank you.