Poetry collection by devorah major, San Francisco's third Poet Laureate.
The state of California was named after Queen Califia. It is said that Africans came across sea currents to arrive in South America and then moved east and west through Mexico and around the gulf settling in the south, mixing blood and dance, color and culture with the people of the corn. Cortez's crew of six hundred held two hundred Africans who worked its sails, cleaned its decks and sometimes served as interpreters. Because of this, Cortez thought that Africans populated this part of the world too. He named this land California, the isle of Queen Califia.
But where did he get the name? It is believed by some that the legend of Califia was initially formed by seafaring Kalifuna Mandinka who arrived in the new world before Columbus. African Moors who traded and sailed with their Mandinka brethren brought the tale of Calfia to Spain where, around 1510, (pulp) novelist Garcia Rodr guez de Montalvo in Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Adventures of Esplandian) refashioned the tale of a compassionate, fearless, and beautiful African Amazon queen living on a steep, rocky-cliff, gold-rich island. With Queen Califia were fierce and able female subjects, hundreds of griffins, wild beasts harnessed in gold, and occasional visiting (or captured) men. Some also assert that California once held a vast inland lake, and appeared to be an island for hundreds of years, and that during this time it was explored by a few of these early Kalifuna Mandika voyagers, and that it is, in fact, the actual land of the Califia myth.--devorah major