Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another California Leader - Fernando Rivera


Captain/Lieutenant Governor Fernando Rivera y Moncada

Fernando Javier, the son of Don Cristobal de Rivera y Mendoza was born in 1725 near Compostella, Mexico. This is in the central valley of Mexico, just north of Mexico City.

Fernando’s father not only did not have a title but being born in Mexico gave Fernando  the disadvantage of being a Criollo. His father died when Fernando was 9. The estate was divided among 11 children, Fernando receiving the least. There’s nothing I can find about how he got there but, 9 years later he is serving under Lieutenant de la Riva in the Escuadre del Sur, the southern detachment of soldados de cuera at Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. Captain Lorenzo, the military commandant of Lower California died in 1750 and Rivera was promoted to captain, assuming his office at the presidio of Loreto.

This amazed his fellow soldiers. Rivera had no title and was not a graduate of any military academy. How on earth did this happen?

The Jesuits. Rivera had always sided with them and they urged Count de Revillagigedo, the viceroy, to appoint him to the position. Here’s the appointment to give you some idea of Rivera’s acumen:

"The command and administration of the presidial company require firmness, courage, prudence and other endowments for their best fulfillment conducted in the interests of both majesties. The father visitor, the rectors, and all the missionaries agree in proposing to me that Don Fernando de Rivera y Moncada be appointed to the vacancy. He is qualified in all the desired ways, principally for Christian conduct, temperance, knowledge of the land and of the habits of the Indians. He has traveled every part, from the south to the latest conquest in the north, attending to his duties as sergeant. He took part in the subjugation of the Uchiti nation which had rebelled and in that expedition confirmed and added to the many proofs of his good conduct.

As your reverence wishes, and in consideration of his merits, I agree to name him as captain, believing that this will best serve their majesties and the advancement of Christianity in these Islands of California."

But, assuming the position was not that easy. Manuel de Ocio, a self-made entrepreneur and rival to the missionaries for the peninsula's useful land, had political connections and did not appreciate the appointment. As captain at Loreto, Rivera's de facto role was to implement Jesuit plans to expand their mission system, as well as to maintain the status quo at older establishments. With the captaincy, however, Rivera also acquired the traditional auxiliary roles of governor and judge over the civilian population. Rivera's double role was suspect in the eyes of Ocio ... as Rivera was hand picked by the Jesuits.

In July 1751, a few months before his 27th birthday, Rivera received a bastón, or staff with a silver handle, as a symbol of his authority. The following accouterments were ordered by him for his new position:
A well-made musket with good quality sheath
A pair of flared-barrel pistols
A dress rapier, not too broad, with hand guard and other usual parts inlaid with silver
A cutlass decorated in silver
A riding coat of crimson velvet well provided with eyelets
A pleated coat in the military style
Two and a half yards of blue velvet
Four widths of Brittany linen
Six dozen heavy silver buttons