The more one studies history, the more secrets are unraveled, such is the case of the origin of the nomenclature of California. There are several schools of thought regarding this issue including one which tells us it comes from the term “Calida Fornax” which translates to “hot furnace” or another “cal y fornos” which means “lime and furnace.”
The latest revelation, however, tells us that California got its name from a black queen by the name “Queen Califia.” History has it that in the 1500s a Spanish writer, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, wrote a novel titled “Las Sergas de Esplandián” meaning The Adventures of Espaladian. The novel, which was quite popular at the time, was staged on the Island of California.
The author’s island was named after its queen, “Califia.” She was a very beautiful black Moor as well as a pagan. Her mission was to grow an army made up of women who would join in the Christians who were in a battle with Muslims for Constantinople. Despite the fact that she was defeated, she had already captured the imagination of several people around the globe, including Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortes, who later named California on one of his explorations.
John William Templeton, a historian, has stated that California’s history is incomplete without Califia in it. He also affirms that when Cortes came to name California, he was accompanied by 300 black men. Templeton was the curator of the Queen Califia exhibit organized by the African American Historical and Cultural Society Museum, San Francisco in 2004. He said in the fifteenth century, Europeans viewed Africans as having an advanced culture. A proof of this is that Christopher Columbus had a black navigator on his team.
It is true that many would contest the importance of Queen Califia to the history of California but more and more she is being depicted as the spirit of the city in different artworks and stories. Many have viewed the Queen to symbolize an untamed land filled with much abundance before it was seized by the Europeans.