KCBS Radio explores bull and bear fighting history

November 30, 2017

KCBS reporter Matt Bigler recently visited the Castro Adobe to learn about the history of bull and bear fights at the property after recent archaeological work at the Castro Adobe unearthed what appeared to be the remains of a bull and bear fight pit.

Listen to the story.

Times were very different during the Mexican Rancho period of the 1821-1850. The Spanish brought with them the tradition of bull fighting. The grizzly bear roamed freely in California at that time and skilled vaqueros (cowboys) would ride and capture a bear with their reata (lasso) and bring the captured animal back to where the fight was to be held.

Prior to the mid-1860s, the spectacle of brutal bear and bull fights were enjoyed on the Sabbath after church services. Fights were held at Whisky Hill near Watsonville, in Santa Cruz at the junction of Branciforte Creek and San Lorenzo River (San Lorenzo Park) and at the Castro Adobe.

It took four or five vaqueros on their horses to go out and capture a grizzly bear. They had to lasso the grizzly’s neck and legs, and coerce the animal into walking many miles back to the mission or rancho. One description states that “one unattached vaquero might actually ride in front of the grizzly and tease him into charging, which was not hard to do, and the longer the charge, the more ground was gained.”

Once at the Castro Adobe, bull and bear fights were held in the front of the adobe building, probably in a corral or designated fighting ring. Women and children would sit up on the balcony and watch while the men were closer to the action. When the two animals fought each other, people would bet on which one would survive or be killed.

In 1854, a state law was introduced to “provide better observance of the Sabbath.” Bear and bull fighting were banned, but after the law was passed it was not strictly enforced. It is not clear when the last bull and bear fight took place in Santa Cruz County but in the 1870s, they were considered “disgraceful exhibitions, cruel sports and barbarous amusements.”

At the Castro Adobe, a reminder of the bull and bear fights was in place until the late 1950s when a hand wrought iron ring and tang was found inserted into a dying oak tree near the front of the building. It was used to tie up one of the animals during the fight. Times have changed at the Castro Adobe and bull and bear fighting today would be considered a crime. We can use historical accounts detailing the bull and bear fights to show us how much the culture (and animal rights) have changed since the late 1870s.

 


Thank you, Boho Castro sponsors

June 7, 2017

We appreciate the generous support of Boho Castro, a Bohemian-style fundraiser for the Castro Adobe, held Saturday, June 10 at Castro Adobe State Historic Park. This event is a fundraiser to support the opening of Castro Adobe State Historic Park. The following sponsors and supporters have helped make this event possible. Thank you!


Progress made on Castro restoration

June 5, 2017

The accessible pathway in front of the cocina has just been extended to meet the beautiful, newly built redwood boardwalk.

 


Honor the Jowers, past Castro Adobe Stewards

May 9, 2017

The Jowers, Castro Adobe stewards (1963-68), owned and lived in the Castro Adobe during the Bohemian era of the 1960s. The Jowers also were the proprietors of the avante-garde Sticky Wicket restaurant in Aptos, a center for Santa Cruz County’s artistic community. The Jowers were instrumental in establishing the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and even held early fundraising events for the festival at the Castro Adobe.

Victor and Sidney Jowers led remarkable lives, part of them at the Castro Adobe. Victor – reporter, restaurateur, Londoner – and Sidney – author, costume  designer, New Yorker – loved the Old Adobe, as everyone called it in the 1960s. It was Victor’s home  when he died at 39; it was the home Sidney left soon after when she moved with her two children to England, there to stay. For them, the Adobe was a celebration of culture, history and family, of the arts and of life.

Join us for a Bohemian-inspired gathering to honor Castro Adobe stewards from the past and celebrate recent progress toward opening the Castro Adobe State Historic Park at Boho Castro, the fourth annual stewardship event at Castro Adobe. Get tickets.

Step back into the 1960s at the Castro Adobe, a time when the Jowers family owned and cared for the property. Relive the Jowers’ good times, when an eclectic ensemble of their artistic friends made the Castro Adobe a Bohemian center of arts and culture. We’re honored to be joined at Boho Castro by Victor and Sidney’s children, Laura and Andrew.

Stewardship Honorees to date

—2016—
Fred Webster, Castro Restoration Engineer
—2015—
Elizabeth & David Potter (1968-88)
—2014—
Edna & Joe Kimbro (1988-2001)
Jim Toney, Friends’ Board Member & Castro Volunteer


Master craftsman works on balcony columns

April 29, 2017

Work continues to restore the historic Castro Adobe. In April, the columns for the east façade were crafted by contractor Brian Bogaard. Sizing of the columns and cut of the chamfers were painstakingly researched to ensure they matched the original columns. Brian’s expert craftsmanship really shows on each carefully cut column. The columns have been carefully inserted and are awaiting final installation.

The next phase of work includes the beginning installation of the balcony.


Vaqueros at the Castro Adobe

March 29, 2017

Vintage photo of early vaquero c1910, a head vaquero for Miller & Lux operating in Santa Cruz & Santa Clara counties, his name was Narcisco Jesus Castro. (photograph courtesy of Frank Estrada)

From the first Spanish expedition into Alta California in 1769, the vaquero played a significant role in California’s heritage. Vaqueros, or horse-mounted livestock herders, originated on the Iberian Peninsula and were brought to the Americas from Spain. The vaqueros of the Americas were horsemen and cattle herders in Spanish Mexico who came to California. The vaquero “culture” developed into a fine art through the Mission and Rancho eras, and continued into the early 1900s.

At the Rancho San Andres Castro Adobe, herds of cattle and livestock grazed the land under the mounted vaquero’s watchful eye. The vaqueros were skilled in the use of the rawhide riata for cattle sorting, roping, branding and slaughter, as well as roping grizzlies. The rider and the horse worked in partnership with the slightest of “cues” hardly noticeable. True horsemen were held in highest regard for their patience, knowledge and skills regarding horses, cattle and the land.

Today, the history, horsemanship, equipment, knowledge of land use and lifestyle of vaqueros are revered traditions. Learn about the vaquero culture and view a demonstration of vaquero-style horsemen at Vaqueros on the Rancho, a ticketed fundraising event at Castro Adobe State Historic Park on Saturday, May 6.


Restoration Update

March 21, 2017

Contractor Brian Bogaard and the new 6 ¾ x 6 ¾ beams before installation.

Work is progressing on Phase 3 at the Castro Adobe. This work includes restoring the balcony and stairs, and installing a wood boardwalk underneath the balcony. This also includes the final piece of the seismic retrofit with the installation of the cable wrapping around the center of building.

As part of the work, the non-historic balcony, stairs, columns and pavers were removed. Taking down the balcony exposed the pockets for the original balcony floor joists which indicated that the balcony was originally cantilevered.

Work this week and next continues with the installation of a concrete slab for the boardwalk and the footings for the columns.

New beams installed at roof.

Balcony floor removed.

Joists removed showing original joist pockets.

 


Castro Adobe State Historic Park welcomes new Interpretive Park Aide

February 24, 2017

Yovania Paniagua recently started as an Interpretive Park Aide at the Castro Adobe. Yovania got connected with the Castro Adobe when she visited the park with her daughter’s school field trip.

“I fell in love with the place,” Yovania said, whose dad (pictured with her on her first day) played a big role in her love of the woods, the environment and educating people.

She started volunteering at the park in June of 2016 and officially started as a Park Aide in February 2017. Working for California State Parks has always been a dream for her. Yovania said she loves talking to visitors about the history of the park, meeting new people who share her interests and being outdoors all day. She also is bilingual and helps with translation for visitors. 

“I wanted to work at the Castro Adobe because I love the history behind it and it’s right in my back yard,” Yovania said. 

Castro Adobe State Historic Park is at 184 Old Adobe Road in Watsonville. The park which is undergoing a multi-year restoration effort led by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, is currently only open for prescheduled tours, monthly open house events and special celebrations, such as Vaqueros on the Rancho on May 6.


2017 Open House Dates Announced

January 6, 2017

Castro Adobe State Historic Park will host monthly open house events in 2017. Located at 184 Old Adobe Road, Watsonville, the two-story Rancho San Andrés Castro Adobe, built between 1848-49, is one of the finest examples of a rancho hacienda in the Monterey Bay area.

The Castro Adobe is open on a limited basis as Friends leads a multi-year restoration effort to preserve and interpret Pajaro Valley’s first State Historic Park in partnership with California State Parks.

All events are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the exception of Evenings at the Adobe on Aug. 19, which will be 6-9 p.m. Admission is free; donations are gratefully accepted. Parking is limited; please carpool.


Kids connecting with history at the Castro

December 16, 2016

By Charlie Kieffer, Castro family descendant and Castro Adobe Committee member

I want to share with you something very heartwarming that took place at the end of a school tour at the Castro Adobe on Friday, Dec. 2.

We had 19 kindergarten children from Watsonville Charter School for the Arts. They had a very good time. They did roping, tortilla making, adobe brick making and checked out the bear skin.

It is such a joy to see very young children take their minds to places that we adults will never understand … or maybe we just lost how to do it.

To make a small adobe brick and be so very proud to show it to you and then tell you that they are going to take it home to show their mother and father… To make a tortilla, cook it on a cooking area that has a very hot, flaming fire, put whatever they want on the tortilla — no one is telling them what to put on it — and think it’s the best tortilla they ever ate …

At the end of the tour, their teacher handed me an envelope and said, “What a great time they had.” On that envelope was all of the 19 children’s names and inside the envelope was $47.50 in cash. Each child had donated $2.50 for the Castro Adobe. It was so very heartwarming!