Fernando Rivera y Moncada

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Fernando Rivera y Moncada
3º Spanish Military Lt. Governors of California Nueva
In office
Preceded by Pedro Fages
Succeeded by Felipe de Neve (Spanish Governor of Las Californias)
Personal details
Born c. 1725
near Compostela, New Spain (Mexico)
Died July 18, 1781
lower Colorado River
Profession Soldier and governor

Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada (c. 1725 – July 18, 1781) was a soldier from New Spain who served in the Baja California peninsula and upper Las Californias, participating in several early overland explorations. Fernando Rivera y Moncada served as a Spanish Military Governor from 1774-1777.[1][2]



Rivera was born near Compostela, New Spain (Mexico). He entered military service in 1742, serving harmoniously under Jesuit direction in Baja California. In 1750 he was promoted to command of the presidio at Loreto. He participated in the important reconnaissances of the northern peninsula together with the Jesuit missionary-explorers Ferdinand Konščak and Wenceslaus Linck. Rivera's situation changed in 1768 when the Jesuits were expelled and replaced in Baja California by the Franciscans and by the civil authorities of New Spain. The latter ordered a bold move northward to colonize Alta California.

Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada violated ecclesiastical asylum at Mission San Diego de Alcalá on March 26, 1776 when he forcibly removed a neophyte in direct defiance of the padres. Missionary Father Pedro Font later described the scene: "...Rivera entered the chapel with drawn sword...con la espada desnuda en la mano." Rivera y Moncada was summarily excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for his actions.[3]

Alta California[edit]

First overland expedition

In 1769, Rivera led the first overland party, which founded the settlement of San Diego in upper Las Californias Province, together with Juan Crespí and José Cañizares, traveling in advance of the party led by Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra.[4]

After the several land and sea groups assembled again at San Diego, Rivera continued north with Portolà to Monterey. Rivera retired to the Mexican mainland around 1772, but he was soon recalled to service.


Serra and the Franciscans had quarreled with California's military governor, Pedro Fages, and Rivera took over as Fages' replacement in 1774. The results were not happy. Rivera himself was soon in conflict with Serra and the Franciscans and with Juan Bautista de Anza. Rivera opposed the settlement of Yerba Buena (present day San Francisco). When several Kumeyaay Indian communities joined together to sack the mission at San Diego in 1775, Rivera had the responsibility of suppressing the revolt. For forcibly removing one of the rebels from a temporary church building at the mission, Rivera was excommunicated by the Franciscans.

Military commander[edit]

Following his tenure as governor, in 1777 Rivera was reassigned as military commander at Loreto. His final posting was centered on assisting settlers as they made their way overland to Alta California. Rivera was killed along with the local missionaries including Francisco Garcés, settlers, and travelers at Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer on the lower Colorado River during the civil resistance uprising and revolt of the Quechan Indians in 1781.


  1. ^ "Spanish Governors". missiontour.org. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  2. ^ "Spanish Governors of Alta California". mchsmuseum.com. 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  3. ^ Engelhardt 1920, p. 76
  4. ^ Wilson Engstrand, Iris (Spring 1975). "Pedro Fages and Miguel Costansó Two Early Letters From San Diego in 1769". The Journal of San Diego History (San Diego History Center and the University of San Diego) 21 (2). Retrieved 1 November 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin, O.F.M. (1920). San Diego Mission. San Francisco, California: James H. Barry Company. 
  • Ives, Ronald L (1984). Bill Shakespeare, ed. José Velásquez: Saga of a Borderland Soldier (Northwestern New Spain in the 18th Century) (Seventh ed.). Tucson: Southwestern Mission Research Center. ISBN 0-915076-10-1. 
  • Rivera y Moncada, Fernando de (1967). Ernest J. Burrus, ed. Diario del capitán comandante Fernando de Rivera y Moncada (in Spanish) (Colección "Chimalistac" de libros y documentos acerca de la Nueva España, 24-25 ed.). Madrid: Ediciones J. Porrúa Turanzas. OCLC 2882621.