Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A California With Which I am Unfamiliar

I cannot even begin to estimate the endless hours I've spent research the Californias for my Father Serra's Legacy. I've done every kind of search possible, to include trips to the local public library. And then, I come across something that completely sends me sideways!

A year or two ago, during my original search, I came across a historical tome written by a Hubert Howe Bancroft written in 1885 and published that year in San Francisco, California. It was a real channel because Bancroft added copious footnotes at the bottom of each page. So, when they digitized them for public view, a lot of the formatting did not carry over. In addition, it was hand typeset and a whole lot of characters that appear correct on the actual page did not transfer over during the digitizing. For example, the name Jose NEVER had the José at the end, often appearing as Jos6.

And then, there were two page formats! The basic text only covered about half of each page while the footnotes extended thirty or more characters. So, in order to make sense of it, I've had to extract the text and put it in one file while extracting the footnotes and putting them in another. And then, I've had to go back and reformat it line by line while trying to make corrections.

But, it's proving to be worthwhile!

Bancroft spends most of the hundreds of pages of the tome to civil and military affairs from 1825 to 1840 [In this tome and I have two others completing the history up to 1848 when the Americans take complete control of the once Mexican Territory!] And, during most of it, he proclaims the missions to be closed tyrannies run by the friars whose loyalties lie with the king of Spain.

Mexico, after giving up its attempt at being an Empire, formed itself into the United Mexican States with a constitution similar to that of its neighbor to the north. That republicanism meant free elections at all levels. Surprisingly, this was nothing new in the missions and pueblos, as from the beginning, elections were held for a variety of offices in both places. The biggest problem came with trying to implement in California what had so easily been done in Mexico itself – turn the missions over to the Indians and let them run things, the Padres only their to perform their religious duties. That was okay in Mexico as the Indians and Mestizos [half-breeds] has assimilated with European society. But, it was simply unworkable in California – something the governors seemed to understand.

It was the Californian land owners and emigrants who opposed the mission system, wanting those fertile lands for themselves.

One of these men was Pio Pico, an ambitious man who played a big role in stealing missions lands from the Indians during his term as governor.

Don Luis Argüello was elected governor when Mexico gained its independence. He was a Leatherjacket Soldier who'd served in California since 1781/ Like all his fellow Soldados de cuera, had had been born in Mexico and was therefore the first non-Spanish governor of the territory.

The first major change came in 1825 when José María de Echeandía arrived to become governor. He brought with him a large retinue, to include women and children. [We later learn he had an Indian mistress who gave him children.]

Along with him came a further democratization of California society. A Junta was formed as a sort of local congress, electing and sending a representative to the congress in Mexico. It was also a time for town councils and more local government. As Echeandía needed funds to support local government, he instituted taxes and other revenues. The result was an increase in smuggling, tanned hides and tallow being the coveted goods by ships from all nations.

Mexico also wanted California to act as its penal colony, sending convicts there under military guard. One of the convicts, Joaquin Solis had apparently been a high-ranking officer in the war for independence and, in 1828, he led a revolution in an attempt to make California separate from Mexico. He wasn't the first and throughout the first decade, this was a constant thread.

Another little side note, the president guardian of the missions, Prefect Antonio Sarria was asked to take the oath of allegiance to the Mexican republic. He refused, announcing his allegiance to the king of Spain. He stayed in California, sometimes under “arrest” until 1838 when he sailed for Cuba.

Unrest was rife and, when Mexico replaced Echeandía with Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Victoria, he met further unrest to the point of an actual rebellion in which soldiers at both sides died and were wounded.

At the same time, things aren't exactly calm in Mexico and California isn't really receiving must support. The soldiers are destitute and would starve if not for the foods and other goods provided by the missions.

It was in the atmosphere, that Mexico continued to demand the freedom of the Indians and the secularization of the missions.

Spaniards are supposed to leave Mexican territories. But, how can the missions survive without them. In 1834, ten Padres arrive from Zacatecas, all Mexican-born and none of them qualified to take over as missionaries. But, not wishing further problems, Father President Durán works up a compromise where the Zacatecans take over the northern missions while the Fernandos [the original friars] go to those in the south. And, when at last, the governor gives the Indians of leaving the missions to set up their own ranchos, the overwhelming majority refuse!

And this is all from only the first ELEVEN chapters of the first book!

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