by Anne Petersen
On Tuesday September 3, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library co-sponsored a lecture by Maria Isabel (Mabel) Cobo Hernando, a graduate student in the early Modern Research Group at the University of Cantabria, in Spain. She is researching the “collective biography” of noble families in Cantabria, from the mid-17th century to the 19th century.
The de la Guerra family is one of Ms. Cobo Hernando’s research case studies, and her informative lecture traced several generations of the de la Guerra family’s struggle to maintain and increase their socio-economic status in Spain. Her research focuses on primogeniture, the chaplaincy, marriage, service to the Crown and Church, and also emigration to America as collective strategies to improve family status.
Fittingly, Ms. Cobo Hernando’s lecture was held in the comedor of Casa de la Guerra, the family seat in Santa Barbara established by José de la Guerra, who constructed his adobe in home in 1828 after becoming the comandante of the Santa Barbara Presidio in 1815. In addition to his military duties, José grew to become a successful merchant and landowner. Interestingly, of the many “social reproductive” strategies analyzed in her research, Ms. Cobo Hernando argues that it was the emigration of José de la Guerra from Spain to Mexico as a young man that finally opened up a level of socio-economic success that the de la Guerra family had been struggling to achieve for generations.
Ms. Cobo Hernando spent the day following the lecture working with the de la Guerra collection at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, where she hoped to find further detail about José de la Guerra’s continuing relationship with his family in Spain after his emigration. Before reaching Santa Barbara, Ms. Cobo Hernando spent time with de la Guerra descendants at their annual reunion, held this year in Las Vegas. I imagine I can speak for all of the organizations and individuals who had the pleasure of meeting Mabel Cobo Hernando on this, her first trip to the United States– we hope her visit was enjoyable and we look forward to maintaining this international friendship as she continues to explore the complex history of the de la Guerra family.
Anne Petersen is the associate director for historical resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation