Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo was credited with the discovery of the Santa Barbara Channel during an exploratory voyage in October 1542. He claimed the land in the name of the Spanish king. Sixty years later Sebastian Viscaino named the channel in honor of Saint Barbara when he sailed in on the eve of the feast of St. Barbara, December 3, 1602.
The first Mission founded by the Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra was San Diego de Alcala in July 1769. Serra along with the Spanish military opened alta or upper California to settlements. The Spanish missionary effort was to educate and convert the Native Americans (Indians) to Spanish culture which included Christianity. The historian Maynard Geiger stated "This was to be a cooperative effort, imperial in origin, protected in purpose but primarily spiritual in execution."