Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo - soldier, navigator, and explorer - led the first European expedition to the shores of what is now the state of California between the years 1542 and 1543. Little is known about Cabrillo’s early years. Some biographers describe him as being born in Portugal, but living most of his life in Spain. Other biographers write that he was born in Spain. For many years, Cabrillo’s discoveries went unrecognized and unappreciated. Spain didn’t make any claims to California until the late 18th century, when colonization began.