Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mexican California

I've reached that point in California history when the new governor arrived to represent the United Mexican States, of which California is NOT one. California is divided into Upper and Lower, both but territories of the new nation. And yes, Upper California encompasses present day Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.


How on earth does Mexico deem it may control all that territory with less than 4 or 5 hundred soldiers, only about 140 in all of present day California?

One of the aims of the new government is to secularize the missions, turn them over to the Indians as was done in the states of Mexico. There, the Indians had more of an advanced culture and adapted to the organization needed to run an industry.

Unfortunately, that was not the case in the Californias. As hard as the friars tried, they could not overcome centuries of living off the land. It had only been 55 years since the arrival of Father Serra and the friars. Visitors frequently commented how the Indians were “ignorant, Lazy savages little removed from their stone-tipped arrows and spears.” They frequently praised the friars for their patience and devotion to “their children” whom they knew could not operate the missions on their own.

The new governor, Don Luis Antonio Echeandía issued a proclamation tell all those Indians who desired to leave the missions might do so. He included the provisions that they had been Christians from childhood or for 15 years, were married and not “minors” [I can't find what the definition of a minor was but marrying at 13 or 14 was not uncommon], and some means of gaining a livelihood.

The Indians wishing to leave must apply to the commandant of the nearest presidio with a report from the padre who would issue a written permit entitling the Indian [called neophyte] to go where they chose, their names to be erased from the mission roles.

Few of the Indians could take advantage of the proclamation – and wanted to do so – the few who did having no choice but to seek employment with one of the rancheros. Their lives were far from that at the missions and most fell into a state of semi-slavery.

Echeandía was not finished. Having moved the government from Monterey to San Diego, he called together all the commandants, alcaldes [mayors], and landed men as the territory diputacion. They came up with a plan to turn those missions closest to the four presidios into pueblos and the land belonging to the missions given to the Indians in equal shares. It was agreed to and the plan was forwarded to the general government in Mexico.

The friars knew what a disaster it would be and did their utmost to instill in the neophytes the skills and discipline they would need if such a plan was ever put into effect. This was in spite of the face the friars knew for certainty that their “children” would never be able to survive on their own.

This took place in the summer of 1826. How long until the unsettled government in Mexico could deal with it?


Hope to be back in a week or so with more.

Were the friars right? Or was the governor?

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