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Origin of "California"

When Columbus discovered America, the fertile Spanish imagination gave birth to mythologies about the new world utopias. Garci Ordonez de Montalvo was among them. In 1510 he wrote about the rich island of "California," inhabited by Black, Amazon-like women.

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island named California, very close to thatpart of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, and that they lived in the manner of Amazons.

They were robust of body, withstrong and passionate hearts and great virtues.The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.

Their weapons were all made of gold . . . The island everywhere abounds with gold and preciousstones, and upon it no other metal was found. They lived in caves well excavated. They had many ships with which they sailed to other coasts to make forays, and the men whom they took as prisoners they killed . . .In this island, named California, there are many griffins . . . In no other part of the world can theybe found. . . .

[And] there ruled over that island of California a queen of majestic proportions, more beautiful than all others, and in the very vigor of her womanhood. She was desirous of accomplishing great deeds, she was valiant and courageous and ardent with a brave heart, and had ambitions to execute nobler actions than had been performed by any other ruler."

Fanciful, perhaps, but as of today, the truth in California is no longer any stranger than its fiction.

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