Running through history in Cupertino — who is the famous De Anza?

Posted by Joe, edited by Phyo in July 2022

I temporarily moved to California in June 2022. Everytime I exit from Highway 280 to my Airbnb, Google Maps will dutifully tell me “in 300 feet, turn right to De Anza Boulevard….”

Street names in the Bay Area fall into several categories. There are the futuristic – 1 Infinity loop (for Apple), 1 Hacker Way (for Meta); the natural – Steven Creeks Boulevard, North Shoreline Boulevard; the mundane – Technology Drive, Technology Road. Then there are the non-obvious – names with obscure spellings or foreign references. De Anza Boulevard falls into the last category. After hearing the name so many times, I wondered: who is De Anza, and why does his name appear in California?

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What cool street names have you seen? Source: Medium

Juan Bautista De Anza is a leader, military officer and politician under the Spanish Empire. In January 1774, Anza assembled a team of explorers and left from today’s Tucson, Arizona. Two months later, Anza arrived at today’s Cupertino. Near the entry of Rancho San Antonio County Park, he stood on a hill, looked north, and spotted a strategic piece of land – later known as San Francisco. Later, Anza established a military base at San Francisco (today’s Presidio, which in Spanish means fortified settlement), and Pedro Font, a missionary who was also part of the expedition, established today’s “Mission“ district.

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Portrait of Juan Bautista De Anza Source: Wikipedia

On a Sunday morning, I drove to Rancho San Antonio County Park with Phyo, and went for a trail run. Unlike when Anza first arrived, the park is now crowded with local residents. There are 4 parking lots. When we arrived at 7:30am, at least 2 were full. The run uphill is gradual but not too steep. After 3 miles, I arrived at the "High Meadow Vista Point." I looked for San Francisco, but that morning was so foggy that I couldn't see anything. Maybe Anza came up on a good day, a sunny day. I snapped a few photos, headed downhill, and passed groups of hikers – two guys talking about software development, a few Chinese aunties chatting with each other, their lively conversation audible far away… The conviviality of the morning belies the fear and unknown Anza felt here 250 years ago.

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This is the peak. Another runner was running into the fog...

On our drive from the trailhead back to the Airbnb, I could not stop thinking – if Anza is alive and comes back to De Anza Boulevard today, what would he think? Probably too many Asian restaurants and not enough Mexican food!


A book I recently read inspired me to write my own story. In his book A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion, Dean Karnazes talks about his journey running the Western States 100 Mile Race. Dean is a world famous ultramaratoner and endurance athlete. His book is full of wisdoms and thoughtful quotes. For example, regarding endurance, Dean said "Until you go over the edge you don’t know how far the edge is". I had an unexpected encounter with Dean during a 50 mile trail race near San Francisco in 2022, but that is for another story.