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Rare Manuscript Map of Northern Baja California Rancho

Rancho Valle de las Palmas (near Tecate) Granted to Two Women

Rare, possibly unique example of a Diseño map for Valle de las Palmas, a valley just south of Tecate, Baja California Norte, Mexico. 

This is a rare example of a Mexican land grant given to a pair of married women in northern Baja California. In 1845, Governor Pio Pico granted joint ownership of Rancho Valle de las Palmas to two married women, María Josefa Carrillo de Fitch and Guadalupe Estudillo de Argüello. At the time of the grant, the Rancho Valle de las Palmas consisted of eleven sitios de ganado mayor (so-called California leagues), thus totaling approximately 47,700 acres. The grant provided that the new owners could fence off the Rancho, provided that they build and occupy a house on the land within a period of no more than one year, cultivate the land, and did not restrict the roads and trails already laid out. It is interesting to note that cattle ranches in northern Baja California during the 19th-century were often owned by women, a fact evidenced by the large numbers of cattle brands registered to women in the Frontera Norte region at this time.

The map is very interesting for indicating numerous springs and arroyos, as well as "rocky" areas (pedragosa) and areas of palm trees. One of the arroyos is indicated as "este arroyo no emboca a Tijuana," an early reference to the Tijuana Rancho, using the modern spelling of the place name. 

Given the history of litigation over various rancho properties in northern Baja California, the present map was almost certainly drawn for some such legal proceedings. For instance, the litigation over Rancho Tijuana, which also involved members of the Argüello family (especially Pilar Ortega de Arguello, widow of Santiago Arguello), resulted in a similar style Diseño map of that rancho, now considered one of the earliest maps of what is now the bustling city of Tijuana.

Jose Antonio Altamirano

Jose Antonio Altamirano, a later owner of the Valle de las Palmas, was born on May 31, 1835, in La Paz, Lower California, the son of Thomas Altamirano and Dolores Carrillo.  His mother was a sister of Joaquin Carrillo, the father of Mrs. Henry D. Fitch. In 1849, he journeyed to California during the Gold Rush, initially engaging in mining. However, he later transitioned to large-scale stockraising near San Jacinto.

In addition to Valle de las Palmas rancho, Altamirano also held ownership of the Algodones grant on the Colorado River near Yuma. Interestingly, during the Mexican War, he served on the American side. Altamirano settled in Old Town, San Diego, where he married Ysabel de Pedrorena, daughter of Miguel de Pedrorena, and together they raised a large family. He is remembered as an adventurous entrepreneur, a skilled rancher, and a devoted family man, who contributed significantly to the early development of Southern California and Northern Baja California.


Original 19th-century Diseño maps of northern Baja California ranchos are rare, especially for lands located so near the Mexican frontier settlement of Tecate, located on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Condition Description
Pen and ink on drafting linen, mounted on cardstock. Some wear. Overall quite clean and very good.