Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Friday, April 27, 2012

The “Other” California Missions

I've been posting about the California Missions in Alta or Upper California and have bypassed the original ones established in Baja, or Lower California.

The first mission established in The Californias [note the plural] was the Misión Nuestra Senora de Loreto Conchó, founded on October 19, 1697 by the Jesuit priest Juan María de Salvatierra – a good seventy years before Father Serra came on the scene. The town of Loreto went on to become the religious and administrative capital of The Californias.

When we think of “Governor” Portola, we often miss the point that he was actually the Lieutenant Governor for Alta California. The “governor” was actually Matias de Armona who presided at Loreto – with no direct authority over Portola, or Fages who followed. Armona was openly hostile to the Franciscans, feeling the Jesuits who were ousted, had been unfairly treated. This bitterness caused him to be removed in 1775.

Those who have visited Baja know it to be an arid, hostile land where every plant reaches out to snag, grab, or sting you. What few animals that live there are nocturnal. Those you might see during the day will poison you with their venom. At the same time, the oceans surrounding it contain some truly amazing and beautiful creatures. Sharks as big as whales – without teeth! Giant Oceanic Manta Rays as big as some light airplanes that fly awesomely through the Sea of Cortez. Swordfish. Tuna. And massive gatherings of Hammerhead Sharks.

The mission at Loreto was the basis for the other missions in both upper and lower California and was based upon similar missions founded by the Jesuits wherever they served. The other orders, Franciscan, Dominicans, and Capuchins followed their model.

It should also be remember that, at the time of the founding of the missions in Baja, the weather was far different than in the 1800s and today. The world was in the midst of The Mini Ice Age, a time when lakes and rivers in Europe and North America froze solid for lengthy periods and winters were especially long and cold. Sub-tropical areas such as the American southwest, northern Mexico, and The Californias were cooler with more abundant water. So, the missions were able to sustain themselves then, while many have been abandoned.

These were the natives who lived in Baja. Their lives were even more primitive than other tribes to the north and east of them. They had not progressed beyond the Stone Age and lived strictly by what nature provided. They proliferated in times of plenty and died away in times of drought – just like the plants and animals they lived with.

El Camino Real Misionero

The road connecting the missions in Upper California was called El Camino Real, The King's Highway, while the one in Lower California was called The Royal Missionary Highway/Path, whichever is most commonly used. It was just that, a narrow pathway for the Jesuits to move from mission to mission, often riding mules or donkeys. It was never designed for wheeled vehicles and often crossed extremely rugged terrain.

After founding the mission at Loreto, the Jesuits went on to establish seventeen more, plus two ranchos and/or visitas [visiting stations or country chapels which a priest might show up irregularly].

Without a topographic map, it is extremely difficult to relate to just how rugged and difficult the terrain and how the priests managed to make their way from one to another.

This is only the southern part of Baja and it is easy to see how separated these missions are/were – some no longer stand.

I think all of us are familiar with Cabo San Lucas and become confused to learn the airport is actually in San José del Cabo, or where the mission is actually located. And, the name of the mission founded at the Pericú settlement of Añuití in 1730 by Jesuit Father Nicolá Tamaral, is a real mouthful - Misión Estero de las Palmas de San José del Cabo Añuití. A presidio, or military base, was also located there.

The most serious rebellion in the southern part of the Baja Peninsula took place in 1734-1737. This uprising of the Pericú and Guaycuras engulfed several missions in the southern part of the peninsula, most of which had to be abandoned. In January 1735, indigenous forces ambushed the Manila Galleon that had stopped at San José del Cabo for supplies. "The revolt and its subsequent suppression," according to Don Laylander, "hastened the disorganization and declines of the southern aboriginal groups. To suppress the revolt, the Jesuits were forced to call in outside military assistance." In 1742, King Felipe V authorized the use of royal funds to suppress the revolt. The arrival of a military force from Sinaloa helped to restore order and reestablish control of the southern Baja lands. The last scattered resistance to the Spaniards did not end until 1744. Misión San José del Cabo was re-established in 1736 as a visita of Mission Santiago, and finally closed in 1840 by the Mexicans.

In 1990, I loaded my wife and her five kids into my 1964 Dodge 400 station wagon. We took the car ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz. We were in a hurry to get to Tijuana so we only drove past la Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz Airapí, established by the the Jesuit missionaries Juan de Ugarte and Jaime Bravo in 1720. It was also involved in the Pericú and Guaycura revolt. All of its Indian neophytes and disciples were relocated to Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas in Todos Santo.

Franciscans establish their only mission

[The only pictures are of some adobe brick piles]

In 1769, on orders of Visitador Galvez, Father Serra led an expedition north to establish Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá, the only Franciscan mission in Baja. In the 1770s, under the Franciscans and then after 1773 under their Dominican successors, the mission quickly reached its peak and went into decline as epidemics decimated the native population. A missionary was no longer permanently resident at the site after about 1818. A few ruined walls and stone foundations survive at the site as well as petroglyphs and some remains of pictograms.

Representatives of the Dominican order arrived in 1772

To Loreto came more and more fathers from many countries of Europe, as the work
expanded west over the steep ridges of La Giganta. The usual procedure in founding a
mission was to find a suitable site with water and pasturage. Trails had to be hacked out
for mule trains bringing supplies from the mother mission. Then Indians were gathered
and with their help buildings erected and crops sown. Ingenious systems of irrigation
were devised. But on Baja California there was always a struggle with the elements.

Drought caused springs to dry up and crops to wither; because of it many a mission had to move its site. Torrential rains brought floods to wash away the hard-won fields; winds of hurricane force knocked down the first crude buildings. If the weather proved kind, along came swarms of locusts to strip the green leaves from every growing thing. After years of struggle, however, the fathers could point proudly to orchards, patches of vegetables and melons, date palms - some of which still survive - fields of grain, sugar-cane and cotton, flocks of cattle, sheep, horses and mules. Over the rough trails the fathers went forth to found new missions north and south.

The Dominican mission closest to the Mexican/Californian border is Misión El Descanso or Misión San Miguel la Nueva founded in 1817 at a site about 22 kilometers south of present-day Rosarito. It was the last founded by the Dominicans and the furthest north.

This is an artist's depictions of what the mission garden once looked like.

Sadly, wind, weather and political considerations have laid waste of many of those missions in the arid deserts of Baja. Those in the best condition are still places of worship for the heavily Roman Catholic population. Here are some pictures of those currently in service as churches:

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Norte

Misión San Francisco Borja

Misión Santa Gertrudis

Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán

Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó

Misión San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui

If you really want a taste of history, these are well worthwhile visiting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mission Life

The first thing to consider is the frugal life of the friars.

The image of the short, plump balding friar, which many people hold, was far from the case. Friars came in all sizes and shapes. Each wore a gray colored robe (habit) made of wool with a hood, the dress of a medieval beggar. Around his waist was tied a rope known as a Cincture. The Cincture had three knots tied in it to remind the friar of his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Hanging from the Cincture was a rosary and cross so he could pray and reflect upon the Mysteries of Christ's Life. He also had a pouch to carry a few personal things, such as a prayer book or journal; a large brimmed hat and a walking staff. A friar did not carry or handle money nor did he ride a horse when traveling. Friars traveled most of the time by foot, using a horse or donkey only for long trips or those journeys with time constrictions. (A Day in the Life of a Friar
by Tom Davis)
So what was the daily life of a friar like during the Mission period of California? One thing for sure, it was not one of Sangrias and Fandangos. Nor was it one of slave masters or sadistic over-lords who saw the Native Californian as chattel. It was a life of hard work and sacrifice, of cooperation and faith by all. The Franciscans of California began and ended each day with prayer. As priests, they made a promise to pray for the needs of the universal church as well as for their own individual needs. Thus, seven times during the day were set aside in which they prayed their prayers and the Divine Office, starting as early as 2:00 am. They rose at sunrise and began the day with Morning Prayer and meditation, then celebrated mass around 7:00 am, followed by the Doctrina in the Church. After church a simple breakfast. The friars ate bread, fresh fruit, milk, eggs, vegetables, soup and, on special occasions, cheese, fish and red meat.
Here is their daily schedule”
9:00 am – Work with the children, teaching them religion, music, language, etc.
10:00 am – Visit the sick and elderly.
11:00 am – Have their midday meal of fruit, soup, milk, and bread. Usually gruel called atole.
12:00 noon – To pray the Angelus and other midday prayers. Followed by a siesta of several hours – usually two.
2:00 pm – Friars continued to visit, counsel or write letters and reports.
3:00 pm – Say the Rosary or other prayers and devotions.
4:00 pm – Worked with children, especially instructing them in music or games.
5:00 pm – More prayers and the Doctrina in the Chapel
6:00 pm – recite Vespers or evening prayer
7:00 pm - Light evening meal of soup, bread, or fruit. They would then relax, read, play cards of socialize until night prayer and bed, usually not much later than 9:00 pm. They would then awaken at 2:00 am to start all over again.
In many cases, the socializing might be enjoying the evening entertainment by local musicians in the mission plaza.
The friars shared their own personal talents and hobbies with the Native Californians, showing the Indians, for example, how to paint, sing, and play musical instruments. The friars shared their lives with those they came to serve and learned to love.

Mission San Diego in background

Daily Life of Missionaries
Each mission had two friars with an escort of five presidials [the soldados de cuera] led by a corporal. As much as possible, an effort was made to assign soldiers with wives and children. The single ones served at the presidios.
Life at the California missions varied slightly throughout the entire system. Once a "gentile" was baptized, he or she became a neophyte, or new believer. This happened only after a brief period during which the initiates were instructed in the most basic aspects of the Catholic faith. However, while many natives were lured to join the missions out of curiosity and sincere desire to participate and engage in trade, many found themselves trapped once they received the sacrament of baptism. To the padres, a baptized Indian was no longer free to move about the country, but had to labor and worship at the mission under the strict observance of the fathers and overseers, who herded them to daily masses and labors. If an Indian did not report for their duties for a period of a few days, they were searched for, and if it was discovered that they left without permission, they were considered runaways. Some were allowed to return to their home villages for certain important events such as planting or harvest – and some religious events.

Any of those who left without permission were hunted down by the presidials and returned to the mission for punishment. NO, they were NOT whipped! Most punishment, as indicated in earlier posts, was public humiliation and possibly being placed in solitude for a period. In certain cases, they would be publicly “spanked”, another form of humiliation. In all cases, the friars spent considerable time explaining what the failure was to the miscreant and the congregation. The friars punished neophytes for other offenses too, such as lack of attention in worship services. They used whipping, confinement in stocks and other punishments they thought necessary to Christianize the Native Americans.

Sadly, unmarried women were locked in women’s quarters each night at the mission to prevent what the priests called promiscuity. This is because most California Indians did not believe in marriage in the European sense. Indian women selected their mates for survival traits and, when the mate did not perform, simply walked away and found another. This is one of the reasons they suffered from forms of venereal disease long before the arrival of the Spanish.

Why did the friars keep their baptized Indians close to the mission?

First, it was The Law of the Indies

Secondly, the missionaries had the gravest obligation to give them religious instruction.

Thirdly, they were burdened, not only with the duty of pastors, but also the responsibility of parents.

The friars allowed their neophytes to go home for 5 or 6 weeks per year but did not want them to have prolonged contact with un-Christianized Indians. They came under the Fourth Commandment of Honor thy father and mother, which the friars could not refuse.

First and foremost, the friars had parental responsibility for the Indians and failing to act to correct their sins placed those sins, in The Eye of God, strictly upon their backs!

For their part, the Indians were accustomed to have no set hours for anything to include breakfast, lunch or dinner but to spend the greater part of each day simply searching for food. They did not have a regular, reliable source of sustenance and were subject to the whims of nature. The faults that needed correction included theft of property from those who lived outside the tribal unit, divorce and remarriage for little or no reason, indulgence in promiscuity and, in some tribelets, in homosexuality, the practice of abortion, and in the tradition of taking human life as punishment for personal injuries.

Bells were vitally important to daily life at any mission.

The bells were rung at mealtimes, to call the Mission residents to work and to religious services, during births and funerals, to signal the approach of a ship or returning missionary, and at other times; novices were instructed in the intricate rituals associated with the ringing the mission bells. The daily routine began with sunrise Mass and morning prayers, followed by instruction of the natives in the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith. After a generous (by era standards) breakfast of atole, [cornmeal] the able-bodied men and women were assigned their tasks for the day. The women were committed to dressmaking, knitting, weaving, embroidering, laundering, and cooking, while some of the stronger girls would grind flour or carry adobe bricks (weighing 55 lb, or 25 kg each) to the men engaged in building. The men were tasked with a variety of jobs, having learned from the missionaries how to plow, sow, irrigate, cultivate, reap, thresh, and glean. In addition, they were taught to build adobe houses, tan leather hides, shear sheep, weave rugs and clothing from wool, make ropes, soap, paint, and other useful duties.

The goal of the missions was, above all, to become self-sufficient in relatively short order. Farming, therefore, was the most important industry of any mission. {That was good as most of the Franciscans came from farms or farming villages] Barley, maize, and wheat were among the most common crops grown. Cereal grains were dried and ground by stone into flour. Even today, California is well known for the abundance and many varieties of fruit trees that are cultivated throughout the state. The only fruits indigenous to the region, however, consisted of wild berries or grew on small bushes. Spanish missionaries brought fruit seeds over from Europe, many of which had been introduced to the Old World from Asia following earlier expeditions to the continent; orange, grape, apple, peach, pear, and fig seeds were among the most prolific of the imports. Grapes were also grown and fermented into wine for sacramental use and again, for trading. The specific variety, called the Criolla or "Mission grape," was first planted at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1779; in 1783, the first wine produced in Alta California emerged from the mission's winery.
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel would unknowingly witness the origin of the California citrus industry with the planting of the region’s first significant orchard in 1804, though the commercial potential of citrus would not be realized until 1841. Olives (first cultivated at Mission San Diego de Alcalá) were grown, cured, and pressed under large stone wheels to extract their oil, both for use at the mission and to trade for other goods. Father Serra set aside a portion of the Mission Carmel gardens in 1774 for tobacco plants, a practice which soon spread throughout the mission system.
It was also the missions' responsibility to provide the Spanish forts, or "presidios", with the necessary foodstuffs, and manufactured goods to sustain operations. It was a constant point of contention between missionaries and the soldiers as to how many fanegas of barley, or how many shirts or blankets the mission had to provide the garrisons on any given year. At times, these requirements were hard to meet, especially during years of drought, or when the much-anticipated shipments from the port of San Blas failed to arrive. The Spaniards kept meticulous records of mission activities, and each year reports submitted to the Father-President summarizing both the material and spiritual status at each of the settlements.

Livestock was raised, not only for the purpose of obtaining meat, but also for wool, leather, and tallow, and for cultivating the land. In 1832, at the height of their prosperity, the missions collectively owned:
151,180 head of cattle;
137,969 sheep;
14,522 horses;
1,575 mules or burros;
1,711 goats; and
1,164 swine.
All of these animals were originally brought up from Mexico. A great many Indians were required to guard the herds and flocks, which created the need for "...a class of horsemen scarcely surpassed anywhere." These animals multiplied beyond the settler's expectations, often overrunning pastures and extending well-beyond the domains of the missions. The giant herds of horses and cows took well to the climate and the extensive pastures of the Coastal California region, but at a heavy price for the Native inhabitants. The uncontrolled spread of these new species quickly exhausted the grasslands and hillsides the Indians depended on for their seed harvests. This problem was also recognized by the Spaniards themselves, who at times sent out extermination parties to kill thousands of excess livestock, when the populations grew beyond their control. Mission kitchens and bakeries prepared and served thousands of meals each day.
Candles, soap, grease, and ointments were all made from tallow (rendered animal fat) in large vats located just outside the west wing. Also situated in this general area were vats for dyeing wool and tanning leather, and primitive looms for weaving. Large bodegas (warehouses) provided long-term storage for preserved foodstuffs and other treated materials.
Each mission had to fabricate virtually all of its construction materials from local materials. Workers in the carpintería (carpentry shop) used crude methods to shape beams, lintels, and other structural elements; more skilled artisans carved doors, furniture, and wooden implements. For certain applications bricks (ladrillos) were fired in ovens (kilns) to strengthen them and make them more resistant to the elements; when tejas (roof tiles) eventually replaced the conventional jacal roofing (densely packed reeds) they were placed in the kilns to harden them as well. Glazed ceramic pots, dishes, and canisters were also made in mission kilns.

I'll leave it to the reader to determine the pluses and minuses of this era. Did the loss of their native ways somehow destroy an important stage of society? Or did brining Europeans ways improve their lives? Were the restrictions fair or a form of slavery as some modern apologists call it?

In any cases, what are your views of this? Love to hear them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

More California Indians

The Cahuilla

Iviatim in their own language, are Indians (Native Americans) with a common culture whose ancestors inhabited inland areas of southern California 2,000 years ago. Their original territory included an area of about 2,400 square miles (6,200 km²). The traditional Cahuilla territory was near the geographic center of Southern California. It was bounded to the north by the San Bernardino Mountains, to the south by Borrego Springs and the Chocolate Mountains, to the east by the Colorado Desert, and to the west by the San Jacinto Plain and the eastern slopes of the Palomar Mountains.

(Baskets typical of Cahuilla palm fiber construction earlier in this century.) 

The Cahuilla lived from the land by using native plants. A notable tree whose fruits they harvested is the California fan palm. The Cahuilla people also used palm leaves for basketry of many shapes, sizes and purposes; sandals, and roofing thatch for dwellings. The Cahuilla lived in smaller groups than some other tribes.


The Cahuilla did not encounter Anglo-Americans until the 1840s. Chief Juan Antonio, leader of the Cahuilla Mountain Band, gave traveler Daniel Sexton access to areas near the San Gorgonio Pass in 1842. The Mountain Band also lent support to a U.S. Army expedition led by Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale, defending the party against attacks by Wakara and his band of Ute warriors.

During the Mexican-American War, Chief Juan Antonio led his warriors to join Californios led by Jose Carmen del Lugo in attacking their traditional enemy, the Luiseño. Lugo led this action in retaliation for the Pauma Massacre, in which the Luiseño had killed 11 Californios. The combined forces staged an ambush and killed 33-40 of the Luiseño warriors, an event that became known as the Temecula Massacre of 1847. (Academic historians disagree on the exact number of deaths; Luiseño oral tradition holds that more than 100 warriors were killed.) In the treaty ending the war with Mexico, the US promised to honor Mexican land grants and policies. These included recognition of Native American rights to inhabit certain lands, but European-American encroachment on Indian lands became an increasing problem after the US annexed California.

During the 1850s, the Cahuilla came under increasing pressure from waves of European-American migrants because of the California Gold Rush. In addition to the influx of Anglo-American miners, ranchers and outlaws, and groups of Mormon colonists, the Cahuilla came into conflict with the neighboring Cupeño tribe to the west. When the California Senate refused to ratify an 1852 treaty granting the Cahuilla control of their lands, tribal leaders, including Juan Antonio, resorted to attacks on approaching settlers and soldiers.

The  Cupeño

Several different groups combined to form Cupeño culture around 1000 to 1200 CE. They were closely related to Cahuilla culture. The Cupeño people traditionally lived in the mountains in the San Jose Valley at the headwaters of the San Luis Rey River. They lived in two autonomous villages, Wilákalpa and Kúpa, also spelled Cupa, which north of Warner Springs, California. They also lived at Agua Caliente, located east of Lake Henshaw on State Highway 79 near Warner Springs, California. The 200-acre (0.81 km2) Cupeño Indian village site is now abandoned but evidence of its historical importance remains.

At first, the Cupeño had little direct contact with the coastal missions; it was not until 1795 that first recorded missionary entered their valley, and he did not even visit the hot springs. In 1798, the Mission San Luis Rey was established in what is now Oceanside. To support the mission on the coast, a string of inland ranchos were established for stock raising and farming. Around 1830, the missionaries established an outpost near the hot springs, which they called Agua Caliente. Grapes and other crops were planted, and cattle and sheep grazed in the valley. Unlike many other Indians, most of the Cupeño who agreed to be baptized and work for the support of the mission were allowed to remain in their village, and did not go to live at San Luis Rey.

Shortly thereafter, the missions were stripped of their lands by the Mexican Government, and the Indians were left to fend for themselves. Some stayed at the declining missions. Some found work on the cattle ranches, or in towns. Others returned to their villages, but they took with the new skills they had learned at the missions.

Change was happening all around the Cupeño. California became a part of the United States in 1848. Under Spain and Mexico, the California Indians had been counted as citizens, and their lands protected (at least in theory). But to the new American rulers of California, the Indians were a stumbling block, to be pushed aside, even killed, in the name of progress.


The Kawaiisu (also Nuwa or Nuooah) are a Native American group who lived in the southern California Tehachapi Valley and across the Tehachapi Pass in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to the north, toward Lake Isabella and Walker Pass. They also traveled eastward on food-gathering trips to areas in the northern Mojave Desert, to the north and northeast of the Antelope Valley, as far east as the Panamint Valley, the Panamint Mountains, and the western edge of Death Valley. [north and east of the Los Angeles Basin]

The Kawaiisu lived in permanent winter villages of 60 to 100 people. They often divided into smaller groups during the warmer months of the year and harvested California native plants in the mountains and deserts, and animals, for food and raw materials.

The Kawaiisu were related by language and culture to the Southern Paiute of southwestern Nevada and the Chemehuevi of the eastern Mojave Desert of California. They may have originally lived in the desert before coming to the Tehachapi Mountains region, perhaps as early as 2000 years ago or before.

The Kawaiisu have been known by several other names, including the Caliente, Paiute, and Tehachapi Indians, but they called themselves Nuwu or "people." The Kawaiisu maintained friendly relations with the neighboring Kitanemuk and also participated in cooperative antelope drives (driving herds of antelope into traps so they could be more easily slaughtered) with the Yokuts, another group living in the San Joaquin Valley.

Another related tribe was the Kitanemuk.

The Kumeyaay

These were the first California native encountered by the Spanish in 1769 when two ships anchored in San Miguel Bay. The crews were wracked by scurvy and diarrhea, totally unprepared to deal with this warlike branch of the natives known to them as Ipai and Tipai.

They almost immediately fell into conflict with the Spanish as they would wander through the camps, picking up and taking anything lying around loose. They had no sense of ownership. On the night of November 4, 1775, two Kumeyaay disciples fearing public punishment for stealing, led a band of between 600 and 800 warriors against the Mission San Diego. After plundering the chapel, they set the other buildings ablaze. Father Jayme left the mission and approached the attackers with open arms and his usual greeting, “Love God, my children.” The Kumeyaay stripped him of his clothing, beat him and riddled his body with arrows. This, Father Jayme became the only friar to die in an Indian attack at all of the 21 missions.

Under the Spanish Mission system, bands living near Mission San Diego de Alcalá, established in 1769, were called Diegueños. After Mexico took over the lands from Spain, they secularized the missions in 1834, and Ipai and Tipais lost their lands and essentially became serfs.

 When California became a state in 1850, it was the worst period yet for the Kumeyaay Indians. Technically wards of the federal government, caught in a battle between states' rights and the federal government, the Kumeyaays found themselves with no protection.
    California passed the act for the Government and Protection of Indians in 1850. This act assumed state authority over the Indians and empowered county sheriffs to mark boundaries and protect Indians and Indian lands "as needed." The act also legalized the indenturing of Indian children, granting custody for males until age 18 and females until 15 years old.

    Children often were seen being driven to market, where Indian boys were sold for $50, and girls for $100. Thousands of Native Americans were made legal wards of Anglos who sought a cheap and steady labor supply. An advertisement inviting new settlers to California boasted free land and free Indian labor.

Not even the Mexican had treated them so poorly.

The Miwok

There were two basic groups, those living in the Sierras and those living along the coast. The coastal Miwoks were those who came in contact with the Spanish. The Coast Miwok Indians' territory stretched as far north as Bodega Bay, as far east as the town of Sonoma and included all of present day Marin County. Over 600 village sites have been uncovered and identified in the Miwok territory and, of those, more than 100 have been discovered on the Peninsula.