But for quirks of colonial competition, the troubles with managing empire, and the shifting fortunes of international commerce, the Pacific Northwest could have been part of the Spanish Empire.
Juan Perez mapped and claimed the Pacific Coast south of Russian-held Alaska for Spain in the 18th century — before the United States was born. The first European settlement in the Pacific Northwest was the short-lived colony of Nunez Genoa at Neah Bay in what is now Washington state. It was established in the early 1790s at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to solidify Spain’s claims to the region, more than a decade before the 1805 arrival of the Lewis and Clark expedition on the coast.
Spanish names, like the San Juan, Camano, Fidalgo, Orcas, Lopez, etc. are now the most tangible signs of that early influence that survived the onslaught of Anglo-American conquest. But there’s new proof that Spanish empire had a much earlier, tangible impact: the wreck of a heavily laden Spanish “Manila” trade galleon on an Oregon beach in 1693-4.