Father Junipero Serra

Father Junipero Serra
Father Serra

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The California Jesuits – How Did They Do It? Part VI

And, as they return to camp, Mayorga sees upon the crest of a hill, the silhouette of a coyote calling to its clan. He wonders is it has caught a rabbit with the long ears of a mule and calls him family to join him.

After punishing himself for his early sins of pride, Father Mayorga kneels in the sand of the river bed still warm from the sun's rays and fervently says the Rosary, seeking to calm his mind from spinning from all he has seen and learned. His brow sweats and his stomach churns from the difficult foods and he earnestly prays to have sufficient strength and health to carry out his mission.

Please, oh Lord, give me strength to carry out Your will. Thy will be done...

The sounds of others moving rouses Father Mayorga. He struggled to open his eyes and rise, frustrated by the weakness of his body. He manages to make it to the stream, kneeling in the soft sand to lave his face, hands and arms – also splashing some on his intimate parts to remove the sweat gathered there.

De Castro has the fire going and Pedro, el arriero, brings an armload of firewood to add to it. A small iron pot is already in place and he knows it had pozole in it from the kitchen at the mission.

His only addition to the morning ritual is the recitation of Our Father, Ave Maria, and the Credo. The others softly speak the words as they continue preparing their break fast.

Father Mayorga's hands slightly tremble as he ladles the gruel in between his parched lips, trying not to savor the feeling of sating the weakness of his body. And, he struggles to mount the mule Pedro has saddled and bridled for him. Seeing his efforts, the Cochimi muleteer steps forward, then drops to his knees so the holy father can mount.

The priests signs the cross to Pedro who lowers his eyes as a sign of respect.

De Castro indicates they are but an hour's ride from Loreto and Mayorga thanks The Lord that the trek is almost over.

Blackness engulfs him.

He awakens, lying on the pebbles of the riverbed. De Castro and Pedro hover over him, fear in their eyes.

Reverend father. Are you well?”

The priest tries to respond but his mouth is dry, his throat parched. Pedro puts a calabaza de agua to his mouth and he shivers at the coolness of the liquid coursing down his throat.

You have not been drinking, reverent father.”

de Castro's words were as much an accusation as a question. Seeing the priest was not about to answer, he tells Pedro to refill the water gourd and have it ready when the priest needed. Both of them helped Mayorga mount the mule and Pedro moved up next to him, there to prevent another fall.

They soon reach the mission and de Castro leads the way directly to the infirmary. He and Pedro help Father Mayorga dismount. Father Brave arrives and, upon hearing what happened, orders the priest to a cot, motioning over a convert nurse to watch over him.

Staring up at the thatch roof, Mayorga watches the little creatures darting here and there. He wonders what they are finding to feed upon, shivering at the though of what it might be. He continue to recite his Rosary, still noticing the creatures seemed to come in several varieties, each with its own markings and colors.

Do not blame yourself, father. Even after all these years here, I find the food and climate difficult to cope with.”

Mayorga turns his eyes to the Father Procurator and whispers, “Does He forgive us for our weakness?”

Father Bravo smiles. “He must for He continues to give me the strength to do His will.”

The next months are difficult for him and Mayorga often wonders if the Father Visitador will ask that he be assigned to a mainland mission. Not that a personal weakness inwardly speaks to him that such a move would be good. But, he has set his mind in spreading The Word of God in California and does not wish to displease his Heavenly Father.


We have been blessed by an honored benefactor of having sufficient supplies to found another mission.”

Mayorga listens to Father Visitador Salvatierra announce this to the gathered group. Present are Fathers Ugarte and Bravo, Hermano Mugazábal, Captain Esteban Rodrguez, Sergeant Valdez, and Corporal de Castro.

Don José de la Puente Peña Castejón y Salcines, Marqués de Villapuente, has generally bestowed the funds for the venture.” Father Visitador Salvatierra turns to Father Ugarte and the captain. “It is the valley the Cochimi call Comondú. As you remember, there appears to be sufficient soil and water to support such an enterprise.” He also adds that the nearby Cochimi rancherias appear eager to have a mission among them.

Mayorga intently listens, learning the site is on the other side of the mountains about ten leagues north and slightly west of Loreto. He hears it was not far from where Father Kino had founded Mission San Bruno, which had been abandoned due to poor soil, lack of Cochimi, and undependable water.

Father Visitador Salvatierra then turns to him. “Father, I have been given a sign that you are to be the one to start and maintain this new mission which will be dedicated to Saint Joseph.”

Mayorga's heart sinks and he feels sweat in his armpits. Why me? I am neither strong nor experienced in the ways of this harsh land. Gathering himself, he lowers his eyes and responds, “It will be my honor to serve Him in whatever manner is set before me, reverend father.”

Preparations for the undertaking are complicated. Father Mayorga is involved in every minor detail, from the various holy articles necessary to conduct rights, the special slab of stone so carefully crafted to serve as the altar, the tools for constructing and preparing gardens and fields, and the various materials for the expected converts. The list is endless and he finds himself often bewildered and confused. Fortunately, Brother Mugazábal is a patient and understanding man.

Fortunately, Mayorga has always been a good student. He has studied Cochimi since his arrival, laboriously copied Father Salvatierra's dictionary, to include every Mass and prayer in the Missal. He had even struggled to say his Rosary and other personal prayers in the language of the natives. So, communicating with those who will come to the mission is not going to be a problem for him.

Father Mayorga has become accustomed to the wildlife of California, especially the lizards that skitter everywhere one looks. Vees of Pelicans skim the surface of the sea and gulls twist and turn overhead. But it is the spiders that cause him to shudder. He watches the converts pick them up and caress their backs. He is even told that when food is scarce, they eat them – along with every other living creature. But, the time one crawled upon him while he fitfully slept terrorized him and he could not settle into his cot for a fortnight afterwards.

Having been in California a little over one year and never feeling to be in good health, Padre Julián de Mayorga prepares to set forth on the most difficult journey of his lifetime. The party is large, led by Father Visitador Salvatierra, accompanied by he and Father Ugarte, a seasoned explorer. Capitán Esteban Rodríguez, his sergeant, several soldiers, some arrieros, and neophytes had loaded the pack mules with food and supplies. In addition, a steer and five heifers, a ram and three sheep, a male and three female goats, swine in baskets loaded on mules, along with similar baskets of chickens are prepared to follow along.

Nothing can be done to alter the well-established routine of the mission day so they first attend prayers, then eat pozole, before mounting.

They travel north along the coastline to the site of Mision San Bruno, now nothing but scattered piles of rocks and stones. Father Salvatierra sadly explains how it had been the very first attempt at establishing a foothold in California and had simply not been suitable. “What we learned here was most important in selecting the site of Mision Nuestra Seora de Loreto. This is a lesson you must learn, Father Julián. The Lord Almighty sets barriers in our way to test our faith. By overcoming them, we strengthen ourselves and the faith of those who come to us in Jesus, Our Lord.”

Mayorga hears the words, but continues to fear that he may not be up to the task ahead of him.

They turn inland into the daunting mountains known as Las Sierras Gigante. Rugged peaks and winding canyons with rocky floors and spiny plants. Father Ugarte leads the way as he had explored this area before, in fact locating the site where they would build the new mission.

Crossing a pass, Mayorga gasps at the panorama of twisting, turning canyons with steeps sides. How can there possibly be a place in this wilderness to plant gardens and orchards and graze the livestock that will come there.

That is where we will establish the mission dedicated to Saint Joseph.”

Mayorga hears the Father Visitador's words and wonders if what he says is possible. If it is the will of God, he prays.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The California Jesuits – How Did They Do It? Part V

In spite of his recitation of el Rosario, Father Mayorga cannot wipe out the sounds of the desert night from his ears. He finds it difficult to believe that a land so barren and hostile can hold such life.

A coyote calls out in the light of the three quarters moon and is quickly answered by two or three others. Insects chirr and make sharp noises, suddenly silent when the soft call of an owl signals its hunt. One of the mules stamps its foot and nickers, another responding. Night birds call to one another as they seek the creatures that come out once the light of day has faded.

While fingering the beads in the decades of the prayer, the priest looks up at the sky filled with twinkling gems, wondering if He is listening to his prayers. He then cringes and almost cries out at having doubted The Lord's love for His faithful. Without hesitation, he stops his prayer and turns to the small cloth bag he carries with him. Beside his bible and missal, it contains a single spare cassock and his látigo. After withdrawing it, he bares his back and whips himself with the leather strings with sharp pieces of metal embedded in them. Such a sin deserves nothing but the most severe atonement.

The night air caresses the blood flowing down his skin and sinfully provides slight relief from the pain.

After thirty lashes, the priest replaces the whip in his sack and covers his back before returning to saying his Rosary.

Padre Ugarte is a stern man but clearly shows his love for those Cochimi who have come to him to accept The Word. When not conducted religious rites, he teaches them more, not only of matters of doctrine, but those things needed to provide themselves with food in a land of great difficulty.

As you learned in Loreto, one of the most difficult part about raising crops is keeping arable land from washing away when we irrigate it.” He led to where several converts were scooping up dirt to place in canvas containers to take back to the garden plots. He bent to the task of helping, Father Mayorga pitching in.

Meanwhile, Castro is busy with the local Cochimi governor, explaining which plants in the gardens are unwanted and need to be removed. The convert smiles and quickly orders sever of the converts to do as directed. He then moves to the area set aside for the livestock to care for his horses, along with the mule Father Mayorga had ridden.

As it had been done at la Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the day is carefully structured to enable to converts to participate in religious rites and training, perform the tasks needed to make the mission successful, and generally keep them from mischief. Father Mayorga enjoys passing out food to the converts, especially watching them chatter among themselves as they eat.

He also surprises himself by quickly learning some of the Cochimi words. Listening to Father Ugarte reciting prayers in Cochimi is a big help, although when he learns the various meanings of the words, he sees how difficult it was to translate them to Latin. His respect only increases for those who came before him who taught the concepts of the church to people who had no belief in a supreme being.

That The Son of God had died, only to rise again, was a concept that awed them. Their lives had always been centered upon knowing that death was always nearby and often took their loved ones in unexpected ways. The knowledge that death was no longer a thing to be feared helped them cope with a discipline never before experienced.

One thing that puzzles the good father is the care taken in gathering material for the cooking fires. A land so dry should provide plenty. Yet, Father Ugarte and Castro urges the converts to carefully select the wood.

When one removes too many of the plants from a hillside, it easily washes away when we get the rains. That clogs up the stream and reduces the amount of good water we have to drink and irrigate.”

Mayorga is impressed with the extensive knowledge of the man he knows to be a soldier in the service of the society. He is also aware that he has much to learn if he is to be successful in his calling.

A rider comes to the mission on the third day. The tall lance is noticeable from a distance so Father Mayorga rightfully guesses it to be Father Ugarte's escort. Juan Carrillo is a man in his late thirties, his visage dark and creased from the strong sun of the land. He has hazel eyes, dark hair, and a gleaming smile. He clearly appreciates the presence of de Castro and this new priest. More importantly, he is eager to see he supplies they have brought.

He goes directly to Father Ugarte and, after dismounting, apologizes. “I am afraid, reverend father, they killed one of the cows before I could get there. They had already cut it into pieces and were cooking it over a big fire.”

He explaines how the Cochimi who had stolen the livestock had come to a fiesta several months before and, seeing how easy it is to eat a cow instead of scrubbing for insects and small animals, had decided to take the three cows.

Just then, two converts riding mules drive the remaining two cows up the river bed. One of them also leads an Indian tied by a rope. Piece of the carcass are draped over the back of the spare mule.

He is the leader of the family who decided to take them, reverend father.”

Father Mayorga is more than curious to see exactly what is going to be done with the culprit. He has no idea what kind of punishment will be called for by the local rules.

He is further surprised when, far down the river bed, a small group of Indians appears. Like other wild ones he has seen, the males wear nothing but tattoos and paint while the females only have leather strips around their waist with a flap covering their genitals. One male is about twelve or thirteen while the other could be no less than four or five. The woman is clearly their mother with three little girls who are her daughters.

Father Ugarte walks to the man and carefully unlooses his ropes, signaling for the herder converts to take the cattle to their place with the others. The then turns to the man and speaks to him at length in Cochimi.

He is telling him what a bad thing he has done and how it has hurt many other people.”

Father Mayorga listenes to Carrillo while paying attention to Father Ugarte.

He tells him that he and his family must stay here at the mission and work to earn the meat they have eaten. He also explains that, in the eyes of The Big Father and His Son, he must suffer for his actions.”

And the Indian understands this?”

Yes, reverend father. He and his family have been here several times before but have not yet accepted The Word to where they can be baptized.” He smiles and adds, “They will work and attend classes beside the converts until they are ready to accept The Rain of Jesus, as they call baptism.”'

Mayorga also learns the father will be punished. But it will not be given until after the evening's prayer and before the meals.

When the time comes, Carrillo and Jorge, the converts' governor, bring the man to the center of the plaza where everyone is assembled. The Cochimi is pushed to the hard-packed earth to kneel. Father Ugarte, holding a slim willow stick, addresses the crowd and explains in their language just what the man did and why it is against the customs of the church, of all gente de razn, and the community of the mission. He asks and, when the man nods his understanding, carefully rests the stick against the man's bare back.

Reciting the Our Father to provide the tempo, the priest lays strokes upon the man. Not too hard so as to break the skin and cause blood to flow or to cause bruising but enough to shame him in front of the others.

The worst punishment for any Cochimi is to be made to appear smaller than another in front of other Cochimi. It will be something he can never forget.”

Mayorga nods his thanks to de Castro and turns his attention to the converts. He notices the man's woman and children looking down at the ground, unable to watch what is happening.

When twenty lashes are complete, Father Ugarte says Amen, to which the congregates loudly responds. Carrillo and Jorge then ties the man's hand around the pole by the door to the chapel and Father Ugarte tells all it is time to partake of the evening meal.

He will stay here in the plaza until tomorrow at evening prayers. He will then be cut down and put to work under close supervision.”

Father Mayorga is impressed with Father Ugarte's action and carefully notes the reactions of the converts and the man's family.

He and de Castro prepare to depart early the next morning for the return to Loreto. Instead of allowing the soldier to prepare his mount for him, the priest does it himself, finding it slightly more difficult than it appears. But, he manages to do so, proud of his accomplishment. He instantly chastises himself inwardly, determined to atone for the sin that evening during his prayers.

During the ride back down the river bed, Mayorga continually asks questions about the land and what de Castro has learned from the Cochimi to survive in it. He knows it is but the first of many he will need but is determined to carry out the task set before him.

That night, after prayers and their meal, Mayorga convinces de Castro to show him the land at night. The soldier prepares two torches and, in their light, they walk through the area nearby the camp. Many creatures are barely glimpsed as they skitter off into the dark, but some are visible long enough to be identified.

There is el alacrán, the creature carrying its poison-filled tail high above its head. An serpiente de cascabel coils and shakes its tail in the clear warning that it feels threatened. Una troglodito del cactus pops in and out of the hole it has drilled high atop a towering cactus as it and its mate enter and depart to bring insects to its brood.

When the wren family moves away, other creatures will use the nest for their own uses,” de Castro explains.

And, as they return to camp, Mayorga sees upon the crest of a hill, the silhouette of a coyote calling to its clan. He wonders is it has caught a rabbit with the long ears of a mule and calls him family to join him.

After punishing himself for his early sins of pride, Father Mayorga kneels in the sand of the river bed still warm from the sun's rays and fervently says the Rosary, seeking to calm his mind from spinning from all he has seen and learned. His brow sweats and his stomach churns from the difficult foods and he earnestly prays to have sufficient strength and health to carry out his mission.

Please, oh Lord, give me strength to carry out Your will. Thy will be done...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jesuit Missionaries – How Did They Do It? Part IV

Let’s bring things up to date - at has been almost a month.

Julián de Mayorga, having left a privileged family in Toledo, Spain, finds himself far away in Loreto, the center of Antigua California, as it will someday be known. He is now a missionary of the Society of Jesus in that furthermost frontier of New Spain. Never of strong health, he has suffered months on a creaking, leaky ship sailing back and forth as it struggled north from Acapulco to Loreto with much-needed supplies.

Canyon to San Javier

He meets the priests who will lead him in his new calling and, in spite of his illness, is set to work assisting Brother Coadjutor Bravo in inventorying and sorting the much-needed supplies brought on the ship. And then, he receives the shocking news that Father Visitador [Inspector] Salvatierra, the head of the missions, is sending him with supplies to Misión San Francisco de Viggé.

The time ashore, a few meals he is able to keep down, and working in the storehouse restores some of Father Mayorga's strength. Although shaken to the core by seeing naked native females, he is resigned to seek guidance from The Lord in helping him carry out his calling.

One of the converts, un ganadero, or drover, prepares six mules to carry packs of supplies through the wilderness. A young soldier, Francisco María José de Castro, is assigned by Captain Rodriguez to escort he and the mule train to the mission.

How old are you, my son?”

The youth braces himself and replies, “I am seventeen years of age, reverend father. I was born in Villa de Sinaloa and my father is a soldier. He taught me what he knows and supported my desire to come here and serve The Lord in this land.”

Mayorga sighs, crosses himself, and begins to finger his prayer beads in a Rosary after mounting a mule. The soldier rides a horse, a second one tied to the last mule in the train. He is well-armed with a tall lance, a sword, a musket, and two pistols. Mayorga instantly wonders why such a show of arms is necessary. Did not Brother Brave tell him the natives were not hostile? And certainly did not possess weapons to be feared by he or the soldier?

There is no road. Not even a trail he can recognize. They ride in the middle of a dry riverbed until rocks make them move up the hillside into plants with thorns and stickers everywhere.

Having suffered greatly from the heat in his heavy wool cassock, he appreciates its thickness as it protects him from plants reaching out to draw blood. He also notes the heavy leather protector of the horse's neck and forelegs ridden by Francisco Castro. He also notes the long leather leg coverings he heard called chaparreras.

They ride. And ride. Up and down hillsides. In and out of the riverbed that appears as if never a drop of water ever flowed in it.

He is surprised when he comments on that, how quickly the young soldier responds. “Reverend father, in this land, one must always look ahead at the sky. It may happen many leagues from here, but a heavy downpour will cause the riverbeds to fill beyond the height of a horse.” He then points to markings along the wall of the riverbed, explaining that is how high the water flows – faster than a horse can run.

If one does not climb to a safe height, death is certain in the flood.”

What other terrible dangers does this land hold? Mayorga crosses himself and continues his Rosary with an intensity he has not felt for some time.

They leave the riverbed as the sun lowers in the west and the soldier indicates where they are to make a dry camp. Mayorga notes that the Indian drover has led the mules to some low trees and bushes, surprised when they happily munch on leaves and strange balls of plants.

It is called ball moss for its shape, reverend father. And the trees are acacia, something they also enjoy eating.” He then turns to gather dry wood, forming a pit by surround it with rocks that the priests helps him gather. With flint and steel, Castro quickly starts the fire. As the only water they have is carried on their animals, there is no thought of brewing anything. As it turns out, the fire is simply to heat tortillas brought from Loreto to eat with dried beef strips.

This charki de carne de vaca is something you will become very tired of, reverend father. These strips of dried beef are our staple in the field – and at the missions.”

It grows late and Mayorga has no idea where he is going to bed down for the night. The ground is nothing but rocks, pebbles, and thorny plants. So, it is with great interest that he watches Castro carry his bed roll, saddle blanket, and saddle down to the river bed.

Taking it as a cue, Mayorga follows and copies the soldier as he digs a shallow hole in the sand still hot from the sun. The saddle blanket goes over the hole and he places the saddle at one end of it. The bed roll is to cover him during the night. “It becomes unusually cold at night, reverend father, and one must cover up.”

They return to the fire and Mayorga sees the driver sitting with his back to one of the towering saguaros, his wide-brimmed sombrero over his eyes, his serape wrapped around him.

This can be a cruel land, reverend father. There is little water and we have not yet learned the tricks the Cochimi use to quench their thirst. Few plants are edible and a wide variety of creatures roam the land that bite and sting.”

It is what The Lord calls us to do, my son. There is a path He has set before us and we must gird ourselves to follow it.”

Castro crosses himself and, after adding several more sticks to the fire, continues his Rosary.

It is only when the sun kisses the hills to the west that Castro carefully covers the fire with rocks and walks down to the river bed. Mayorga follows and discovers the reason for the shallow hole. It is to accommodate his shoulder. He tries not to sleep, spending every hour in prayer and contemplation. But, the day has been most difficult and his eyes close against his will.

They crest a pass and Father Mayorga looks down to see an unusual sight. A church of sun-dried bricks with white stucco on the walls and thick thatch upon the roof sits near what appears to be a small creek. He also spies a ditch carrying water to a garden and some trees next to the chapel.

Drawing nearer, the priest realizes the buildings are not of sun-dried bricks but stone held together by adobe mud. That makes sense as the entire countryside is covered in rocks and stones and boulders.

A man in a black robe is bending over in the garden with two others in white plants and blouses. When someone spies the supply train and calls out, the priest stands erect and slaps his hands together to remove the dirt. He shades his eyes and then waves.

Welcome, brother. I am Juan de Ugarte. You are new to this land.”

It was clearly not a question. Mayorga quickly introduces himself and tells how he was assigned to accompany the supplies.

You and young Castro are most welcome here. We badly need these supplies.”

The mules are led to a stone building next to the chapel. One is clearly where Father Ugarte lives and Mayorga wonders where his escort is. When he asks, Ugarte explains his soldier is in the hills seeking cattle run off by a band of unconverted Cochimi. “I do not expect him to return for several days.”

The mules are unloaded and Mayorga discovers that one half of the building is a storehouse with a big lock on a door to which Ugarte has the key tight to the belt around his middle. The sun stands high in the sky when they finish unloading and setting the supplies inside. Castro speaks of returning to Loreto right away but Father Ugarte denies it. “You will spend the night here and start off in the morning. That way you will not have to make a dry camp on your return.”

Mayorga clearly notes the absolute subservience the soldier shows the padre.

Mayorga spends the afternoon assisting Ugarte sort the supplies, not failing to note a surprising number of bolts of white cotton. All the while, he pays careful attention to the man responsible for the California Pious Fund and who had come to Loreto in 1701. When he tells about driving off the Cochimi who had forced Father Piccolo to flee, Mayorga easily believes it as his impressive size strikes fear into the heart of any foe.

During a meal of beef roasted on a fire with the usual frijoles y tortillas, he is surprised when Father Ugarte spoons some small green cubes onto his plate. “It is nopal, brother. The leaves of a cactus we call a prickly pear for the fruit it produces. It keeps the escorbuto away.”

Mayorga assists at the evening prayers and then spends several turns of the hour glass kneeling before la Virgen María, seeking forgiveness for his sins and weaknesses. When he prepares to bed down for the night, he finds his saddle, blanket, and bedroll on a cot. Castro already asleep while Father Ugarte busily makes notes at a small table with a candle lighting the page of his mission journal.

His eyes close once again against his will.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Antigua California Raped to Create Nueva California - Part II

How does one manage to do everything and still find time to post on a blog. In my daily news scan, I go through more than 400 feeds, many of them blogs with multiple posts. How on earth do they do it? Well, here's resuming our story.

If you remember, Governor Portolá has endured 40 days at sea in a creaky boat and finally landed at the tip of California. He finds a nearly abandoned mission with a soldier supervising the few listless converts who have survived rebellion, disease, and hunger. He has no idea where the other 2 ships are and has no idea what to do next.

So, he sends one of the local soldiers to the nearest mission and waits for someone to come who can explain the situation.

Padre Tirsch rode to del Cabo after sending a rider to find Captain Rivera. Tirsch arrived first with Rivera not far behind. The two managed to gather enough horses and mules to carry the new arrival to Misión de Santiago. Once there, he had seen the better part of Baja California without really understanding just what he had seen.

Portol, of course, sent one of Rivera's presidials the long grueling way north to Loreto to tell the Jesuit procurador to gather as much riding animals as possible. He then had time to view his first California mission, seeing how poor it was in food and supplies and how dependent the converts were on the missionary. He had already told the Jesuit he had been relieved of duty at the mission and ended up appointing one of the mission soldiers to oversee it until the Franciscan arrived.
Not a bad idea – except that the appointed soldier was semi-literate and had no idea of the record-keeping the padre went through daily.
Portolá then asked to be shown the mines providing the fabulous bonanza in silver. His disappointment can only be imagined. Brush and mud huts to house miners and their families – and the number of prostitutes and alcohol vendors who preyed upon them. A single store owned by the man claiming authority over the mines where the miners were gouged just to survive on beef run by the same man and with little or no fruits and vegetables beyond prickly pear leaves to ease their hunger. Hillsides denuded of vegetation to feed the smelting facilities and little or no drinkable water.

Finally, with enough animals and Captain Rivera to lead the way, Portolá and 40 men in his party, depart Santiago for the long march north to Loreto through country unlike any he had ever before encountered. Spiny cacti and bushes at every turn and he quickly admired the leather protective gear worn by Rivera and his escort. Beside himself, he had Ensign José Lasso, Chaplain Fernandez, and 25 Catalonian Dragoons. None had ever experienced the hardships of traveling through such a desert. All must have admired Captain Rivera, his escort of three soldiers and the 9 arrieros driving cattle, for their abilities to pass through as they did.

Portolá was a good commander, recognizing skill and ability, keeping Rivera close by his side for the entire trek. Arriving at Loreto after 10 grueling days, he found that Padre Visitor Ducrue was 60 leagues away at Misión Guadalupe. He did present himself to Padre Procurado Ventura and accepted accommodations for himself in the living quarters of the padres. During this time, he had notified the Jesuits he met along the way and ordering them to Loreto – still not having read the actual proclamation of expulsion.

At last, on the 20th of December, 1767, Portolá read the decree to the leading Jesuit authority and ordered word be sent out so that, one by one, they would gather and come to Loreto as quickly as possible. He still didn't let the word be spread beyond those he had already personally contacted.

While awaiting the arrival of the missionaries, Portolá sent Captain Rivera with an escort to tally the contents of the northern missions. At the same time, he sent Rivera's second-in-command, Lieutenant Fernández to do the same in the south.

The Franciscan had not yet arrived, as well as the remaining soldiers.

At last, Padre Visitador Ducrue arrived – on December 25. In deference to the holy festival of Christ's birth, Portolá withheld the expulsion part of the decree. However, the Jesuits knew their fate as Padre Tirsch had already notified Ducrue, who spread the word to the others. Finally, 6 months after the decree was to have been carried out, Portolá, accompanied by his ensign, secretary, and a sergeant of dragoons, read the entire decree. This included the fact that the Jesuits were, in effect, under arrest and would be removed from New Spain as quickly as possible.

With no place to actually lock them up, he restricted them to quarters. He then took the keys to the storehouse and all records of its contents. There is no direct evidence of his feelings. but it is clear the Jesuit's willingness – even relief – to depart as soon as possible was unexpected. Even then, it still took 5 more weeks to gather all the Jesuits. Father Linck at San Borja was delayed as an epidemic was ravaging his converts. Padre Retz at Santa Gertrudis was so obese that he could neither walk nor ride through the rugged hills and mountains. Teams of his converts took turns carrying the padre the 200 miles to Loreto.

La Nuestra Señora de la Concepción lay anchored offshore. Portolá ordered the padres be taken aboard well after dark so as to not arouse the converts and others. However, as they walked down to the beach, the locals surrounded them, falling to their knees and kissing the hands of each Jesuit. This included all the soldiers, workers, servants, naval types, and their families. Portolá then assigned California Presidial Ensign Jose Lasso and six soldiers to deliver them safely to Mexico with his first-hand account.

None of the newly arrived Spaniards could possibly understand the impact of a group of men who had, for 70 years, held absolute control of California and all of its inhabitants.

Thanks in part to the delay and their escort, the Jesuits avoided the brutal treatment suffered by their mainland brothers and all 16 of them reached Spain. Some returned to their homes in northern Europe while others went to the Papal states in Italy.

It took another 3 weeks until the Franciscan, under Father Serra, arrived to take up the task of supervising the missions.

With that out of the way, our brave governor had just begun his assignment. He still had to ensure ALL of California was secure for the crown. Then, on the 5th of July, 1768, five months after the Jesuits departed, the “big guy” arrived, Visitador General José de Gálvez himself, disembarking at the surgidero de Cerralvo after 5 weeks of trying to cross from San Blas. He had no idea just how far he was from Loreto and what land confronted him.

Portolá was a soldier. Gálvez was, well to put it mildly, a glorified clerk. He planned – in great detail. He made his way from the landing site up to Santa Ana, the mining community. Without hesitation, he took for himself the most substantial building in the community, Don Manuel de Ocio's personal residence. Even after seeing the absolute poverty and lack of the place, he set out to make detailed and grandiose plans to turn it into a thriving Spanish community. He met with Father Serra and was convinced that the Jesuits had either mismanaged the missions or had used them and their people as bases and tools for the secret development of great resources.

So now, here comes the crux of the matter. Gálvez either was startled and discouraged by what he saw or simply refused to accept the truth. He realized the only missions with any chance of success lay in the south and, without consulting the old hands, ordered the Guaycura be removed from Misiones los Dolores y San Luis Gonzaga to be sent to the mission at Todos Santos – a distance of 250 miserable, discouraging miles of grueling travel.

And then, under the direction of Galvez, approved by Father Serra, livestock and supplies were removed from the former Jesuits missions for the purpose of sustaining the expedition north to New California. Already having suffered great droughts, the missions barely had food for their converts. Fortunately, once the crowds departed, the natives reverted to what they had done for years beyond memory, hunt and forage in the wilderness for their traditional foods – exactly what the Jesuits had spent 70 years trying to stop them from doing.

At last, Rivera lead 25 of his own soldiers and drovers, helped by 40 converts recruited from the northern missions, the expedition to blaze the trail north. He established a base at the Cochimi village of Velicatá and waited for Governor Portolá and Father Serra. Realizing the limited amount of supplies, Rivera let the Cochimi converts fend for themselves. Most simply faded away in the night, leaving just barely enough to help clear a road as they made their way north to Bahia San Miguel, the future site of the presidio and mission of San Diego de Alcalá.

That the southern missions survived is itself almost a miracle. On the other hand, the missions in New California had plenty of water, good soil, and many, many hundreds of natives more than willing to gather at the missions and convert in order to gain the benefits of shelter, food, and clothing. In time, these missions produced huge herds of livestock, fields of grain, and fruit trees to go along with extensive vineyards.

Portolá departed New California as soon as the capitol was established at Money Rey, turning it over to his senior lieutenant of the Catalonian Dragoons, Pedro Fages. Poor Captain Rivera was sent back to Loreto, passed over because he was a Creole and not born in Spain. His mission? To raid even more livestock and supplies for the fledgling Misión San Diego de Alcalá.

The vast majority of California Hispanics trace their heritage to Portolá's expedition, coming from Old California or nearby Sonora.

Today, little remains of the fields, gardens, and livestock of the missions of Antigua California. All sacrificed to create the 21 Franciscan missions of Nueva California.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Antigua California Raped to Create Nueva California

After reading Antigua California, I've decided it is time to give poor Father Mayorga a break before he finds himself faced with the tortuous trek from Loreto to Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé or Biaundó.


Some background is needed. For many years, rumors had circled of vast wealth held by the Society of Jesus in their properties around the world. It did not help that these Soldiers of Christ bowed to no ruler other than their own Father General and the Pope in Rome. Jesuit confessors in the House of Bourbon managed to make a few more enemies. Carlos III of Spain had recently taken the throne of the massive Spanish empire and, following the example of Portugal and France, decided to confiscate all Jesuit holdings and expel them from his realm. The highly-secret decree he sent out was to have all Jesuits arrested on June 25, 1767 and immediately removed from whatever lands they were in.

But, before that, Carlos III also did not like how things were going in New Spain. It took 6 years, but he finally decided to send someone answerable only to him to straighten things out, also putting more coins in his treasury. His 1st choice managed to find a way out of it and his second avoided it - by dying before making landfall. Carlos III finally chose José de Gálvez, an Andalucian petty nobleman who had recently been appointed to a municipal judgeship in Madrid. Gálvez accepted and set sail, arriving in New Spain in mid-1765. He ended up taking into his retinue the brother of the recently deceased selectee, Matias de Armona, this man to become deeply involved in California.

Gálvez had ultimate powers and the viceroy deeply resented him, doing everything possible to thwart his desires. Gálvez solved that by asking the king to replace him, which Carlos III did.

Gálvez read the king's decree concerning the Jesuits and understood just how difficult and unpopular it would be. In their manner, the Society were an important part of New Spain's society – social and economic. They dominated most of the available labor force – Indians converted under their guidance – always managing to get the best of local civil or military leaders.

Gálvez personally took 600 Spanish troops into troubled areas of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, and Michoacán. He rounded up hordes of the disaffected, set up criminal courts, and meted out the harshest punishments seen there in generations. 85 men were manacled and their bodies mutilated, 70 more received enough lashes to maim or cripple, over 600 were sent to prison, and 100 others banished. All were Indians or castas. The visitor accompanied these affairs with a harangue. “Vassals of the throne of Spain were born to be silent and obey – not to debate or discuss the affairs of government.”

Now, what to do with the pesky Jesuits of California, believed to possess a vast treasure of silver, pearls, and other products?

Of the many mistakes Gálvez was to make, his selection of a new governor was not one of them. While authorities in New Spain prepared to seize the Jesuits in their regions, a body of Catalan officers and enlisted men traveled to Sonora to take part in a campaign to pacify rebellious Seris, Pimas, and their allies. At Tepic, it was overtaken by an order from Viceroy Croix. 50 year old Captain Gaspar de Portolá was thereby appointed governor of California and deputized to carry out the removal of its Jesuits. He and a body of troops were ordered to the port of San Blas to await the ships to carry them to Loreto. Meanwhile, all other ships, whether serving pearlers or carrying routine supplies, were banned from California's shores. At about the same time, Franciscan missionaries from the College of San Fernando near Mexico City were directed to replace the Jesuits in California's missions. They too were put on the road toward San Blas and a major role in California history.

Portolá came to his new calling as a career army officer, a militar, not a bureaucrat. A native of Catalonia with 30 years of service, campaigns in Italy and Portugal, having both honors and wounds. He came to New Spain as a captain in the Regiment of Dragoons of Spain in late 1764; his recently acquired governorship probably resulted from favorable reports by his superiors to Croix and Gálvez As he waited at San Blas, he must have sensed that the campaign ahead of him was to be a very difficult challenge, both in human relations and environment, than anything he had yet encountered.

After 40 days at sea in a creaking, patched-together vessel owned by the California entrepreneur Manuel de Ocio that tacked back and forth fighting adverse winds and tides., a tip of land appeared. The other two craft, one carrying Father Junipero Serra and his 15 friars were not to be seen, and the other with the additional troops and supplies he felt he needed.

What he encountered was nothing he had been led to believe. He spent a great deal of time quizzing the captain and crew, storing away the tales of hardship, wondering if they were an effort to divert him from his cause. The Bay of Bernabé at the mouth of the San José river was little more than an area facing a broad, sandy beach. And the pueblo most disappointing, peopled by a few gente de razón – acting like Spaniards - and Indians, the huts were crude and there was but a garrison of three soldiers guarding nothing.

After landing, they made their way upstream to the ruins of the mission and prepared to encamp. One of the California presidials was sent off to notify the nearest padre of the governor's arrival, ordering him to come at once to San José del Cabo.

The arrival of a new governor was not exactly a secret. A boat carrying strange soldiers had landed at an inlet further north to take on water and one of them told the natives that a new governor had been assigned and was on his way to Loreto. So, as soon as Padre Tirsch at Misión Santiago el Apóstol Aiñiní received the news, he gathered what few riding animals he had, along with what meager supplies he could spare, and proceeded to del Cabo. He also knew that Captain Don Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, was in the area and sent a messenger to find him, informing him of the governor's arrival and telling to ride to del Cabo at once

What did Padre Tirsch mean, a new governor? He, Don Fernando, was the governor. But, he did not hesitate and quickly led his escort south.

Portolá had to wonder of the local reaction. He heard many stories and, looking around, had a difficult time reconciling that with what he had been told. One story was that neophytes had 10,000 muskets and a vast amount of powder in order to resist any invasion attempt. Much to his relief, Padre Tirsch arrived with a small escort and welcomed him warmly, putting himself at the governor's disposal. The two stepped apart and Portolá informed the Jesuit of his orders and what was to happen to he and his fellow Jesuits.

One can only guess as Portolá's reaction when the padre calmly took the news, perhaps even showing a sense of relief. He had no idea of the terrible travails the Bohemian had encountered in his time as a missionary in California.

Portolá's meeting with Rivera may have been strained – at first. Rivera's position was unique among New Spain's presidial captains because his rank – indeed, his entire career – was owed to Jesuit favor. Furthermore, only a few months had passed since the viceroy had received spirited defenses of California Jesuits authored by Rivera and his lieutenant, Pedro de Riva.

Rivera, for his part, also had mixed feelings. He was being demoted from his position as California's premier civil and military official, but his job had already been in jeopardy and Portolá brought news of activities in which he might well find a role.

Portolá seems to have found the young captain an earnest officer, loyal to the crown, who would carry out his – the governor's – orders with fervor. Indeed, from then until early in 1769, Portolá kept Rivera close to his side, heeding the California veteran's every word.

When he reached Santiago, Portolá was introduced to his first California mission, While others made ready for the long journey ahead, he surveyed what had been the core of California life for 70 years. He saw how poor the mission was in food and supplies and how dependent on the direction and authority of its missionary. Since the replacement Franciscans were delayed for an indefinite period, Portolá would have to delegate some authority to supervise the mission after he removed the Jesuits.

How was he going to carry out his assignment? Not only to expel the Jesuits from California to explore to the north and establish military outposts at the Bay of San
Miguel and the fabled Monte Rey?

More next week. The story is but starting. And I haven't forgotten about poor Father Mayorga.