The ornate statuary on the south facade of the California Building in Balboa Park includes representations of nine figures from San Diego’s Spanish and Mexican history. Friar Antonio de la Ascención is less well-known than Junípero Serra, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, or Sebastian Vizcaíno. But since he’s near the bottom of the facade he’s one of the easiest to photograph.
Friar Antonio was a Carmelite monk who accompanied Vizcaíno on his voyage to map the California coast in 1602. He served as Vizcaíno’s chaplain, kept a diary of the voyage, and provided Vizcaíno with appropriate saints for whom to name (or rename— and in the case of San Pedro, misname) each of the places he mapped, including San Diego. Antonio was also apparently responsible for the misconception among early Spanish explorers that California was an island.