State of California Named for Queen Califia?

(ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN 2016 MARCH EDITION)

By Kenisha Prendegast Campus Press Staff Columnist

Queen-CalifiaIt is the picture displayed here that got me intrigued in knowing more about this outstanding figure.   I see a woman of great serenity and an infallible posture. Her eyes pierced through her chiseled face; observing her presence while she looks in-depth to what is to come. Her portrait had me staring in amusement: A body covered in melanin, crown atop her head, matted with lengthy, dark hair locks.   This picture depicts power and indeed it says a thousand words which beckoned me to read. Queen Califia is her name; her existence got lost in America’s history but as always, what’s in the dark must come to light. Queen Califia is a strong Black Queen after whom the state California was named. She was of African descent; graced with thick wooly hair, full nose and thick lips.

“A black Amazon queen who rules a land at the edge of the world, where the women were warriors and decked in gold (according to Ordonez de Montalvo). Califia ruled in the same era, as the Nubian queens from Africa. Her followers and fellow traders across the Mediterranean gave her outmost love and respect; she was not just about the power, but also about peace.”

Queen Califia’s Reign   Califia ruled in the 15th century during a time prior to Columbus’s visit and even prior to slavery. She traded gold tip spears, gold, diamonds, precious stones, furs, food, plants, rare birds and animals.  According to Diane Blackmon Bailey, writer of the History of Queen Califia and the California Blacks, “Queen Califia ruled a civilization with an abundance of natural resources: gold, diamonds, vast quantities of precious stones and metals, with territory spanning thousands and thousands of miles throughout California — from the coast of San Francisco to Bahia Mexico, as far inland as Colorado, Utah, and all the Pacific Ocean Island Nations including Hawaii, and Australia.”

Fact or Fictional?  Many may view Queen Califia’s story as mythical, however, artifacts that are visible today in California state and sources of historic facts have proven that this story, if not true, is somewhere close to the truth. The most dominant story of Queen Califia was written by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s in his 16th century romance novel Las sergas de Esplandían where Califia’s story was written as fictional.   Other Spanish writers have portrayed black women rulers in their novels. “Descendants and relationships were determined through the female line, a practice that was very common in West Africa and throughout the world,” according to Bailey.

Evidence Point to Fact   In such times, society was based on maternal values, hence the ruling of a powerful woman such as Califia. Various online sources have mentioned recent discoveries of cave arts in California. Such pictures depict matriarchal society, trade, and exotic animals. It is said that ancient artifacts can be found in California on what is now a United States Army base. The Queen Califia Magical Circle can be found today in Escondido, California. It is a sculptural Garden created by world-class artist Nikki De Saint Phalle. It is a garden of colorful sculptures of the state’s historic, and of course, mythical past.  The writings of Queen Califia’s existence, whether fact or fictional, is of significant inspiration to me. Upon reading about this powerful female leader, chances are I would have created a similar image of her in my head; poised and fierce. It is rather impossible for me to view the cave arts where the military base is now located but “The Queen Califia magical circle” is definitely thrown unto my bucket list. I will continue to research more on this inspirational figure from an era where women ruled!  Happy Women’s Month!

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