More than 200 years ago, Santa Cruz was inhabited by peoples who had lived here for millennia. They spoke a different language, called Awaswas, and they called the place Aulinta. The coming of Mission Santa Cruz in 1791 nearly destroyed them. In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, “Santa Cruz Is in the Heart—Volume II,” Geoffrey Dunn explores their culture, their near genocide, and the tenacity of their human spirit.
It was in 1890 that an aging and articulate gentleman—identified as “a Mission Indian” from Santa Cruz named Lorenzo Asisara—consented to an interview for Edward Sanford Harrison’s “History of Santa Cruz County,” scheduled to be published in 1892, just in time for the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of America. Asisara’s interview was something of an anomaly in Harrison’s expensively gilded and leather-bound volume that generally celebrated the “prominent” rung of Santa Cruz County society and culture.