Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Friday, September 27, 2013


It's almost impossible to describe.

Extensive reviews of grammar and sentence structure.

Plot structures.

Creating believable characters the reader empathizes with.



Revising and reviewing.

Going through comments and changed from an editor you don't know.

Going through it all again with another editor you don't know.

Finally getting a proof copy to go over word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence. Putting it all down on an errata list.

Receiving the proof copy of the book, ensuring that each change has been made, to discover it's ready for publication.

The sun rises a bit brighter. The birds chirp sweeter. Food has a sharper taste. A deep sigh of relief and a determination that the next is going to be even better!

So, here comes this:

Book Two of Father Serra's Legacy to be released October 8, 2013 by Bluewood Publishing

Timothy and Jaime follow Father Serra in his efforts to found nine missions in California between San Diego and San Francisco. The determined friar struggles to overcome interference by the Spanish governor and lack of support from the viceroy. The California natives flock to the missions, not only by the better life they provide but due to the loving care they receive from the friars. The two join the hundreds of mourners when, at last, the frail priest succumbs. But, all know that Father Serra's quest will continue.

The novel will be available at Bluewoodpublishing.com, Amazon.com, and other online publishers in both paperback and e-book format.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Guest Post by David Kier; The Spanish Missions on the California Peninsula 

One of history’s greatest endeavors was the establishment of the mission system in Baja California. When it began in 1697, California was believed by many to be an island and as remote from Spain as Mars is today from Earth. The goal was to occupy the land for the king and convert the native population to Christianity and the European style of living.

The Jesuit Order was given the task to establish these missions as they had been successful on the mainland of Mexico. Because all previous attempts at colonizing the peninsula had failed, the Jesuits made special demands to have complete autonomy in the project. The king agreed, but the Jesuits would have to finance the operation with private money. Benefactors came forward and donated to a ‘Pious Fund’ from which the system could build the missions.

The following 70 years, 17 missions were founded by the Jesuits on the peninsula. They also had built a ’Royal Highway’ called El Camino Real to connect the missions and their satellite sub-missions, called ’visitas’ which supported the head mission, called a ‘cabecera‘.

With political changes going on in Europe, the Jesuit success in the New World became suspect. Rumors of wealth acquired in the new lands that were never proven, had caused their expulsion to be ordered in 1767. All the Jesuits in California were marched to Loreto, and in February, 1768 sailed to the mainland where they would walk across Mexico and join the other Jesuits in sailing back to Europe.

The Franciscan Order would be next on the peninsula, but without the autonomy and would be following Royal directives. One of these was to push the mission system into the lands north of the peninsula and quickly establish missions at the harbors of San Diego and Monterey (the bay of San Francisco was not yet discovered). This new land was first called Nueva (New) California and the peninsula was known as Antigua (Old) California. Before long, the names would change to Alta (Upper) California and Baja (Lower) California.

Just 5 years after the Franciscan arrived, they requested to be relieved of the Baja California missions, including the first one they had founded at Velicatá named San Fernando. The Dominicans would take over operation of the Baja California missions and establish nine more between San Fernando de Velicatá and San Diego from 1774 to 1834.

Mexico had won its independence from Spain in 1821, but California was so remote, the Dominicans and Franciscans were allowed to continue their efforts for many years following Mexico’s independence. Sadly, the diseases and new life styles introduced by the Europeans had devastating results on the native people, on the peninsula. By 1800, the mission system in Baja California was in decline and missions began closing for lack of purpose. By 1841, all but one mission had closed or became a parish church serving the new residents of Baja California, arriving from across the gulf. In 1849, the last mission serving the native people closed at Santo Tomás. In 1854, Fr. Gabriel Gonzalez resigned as the last Dominican president in Baja California.

The Franciscans who learned well of the mistakes made by their predecessors had greater success in Alta California. This success lasted until Mexico’s secularization act (issued in 1832) ended the mission system before the natives were fully converted to European ways. Most of the natives returned to the mountains, and the missions fell into ruin. In 1848, Alta California became American territory and the Gold Rush filled the region with new people from the East Coast. Baja California also had some short-lived gold rushes in the following years, but the population impact was not as great.

The history of Old California (Baja) is fascinating, and the missions are but one part of the story. Each of the 27 missions in Baja California has a story to tell and many books from grand intellectual masterpieces to small paperback guides have been written on the subject. Changes in information on the missions have been made as old texts from the padres are discovered. Information that fills in missing links to some of the stories on the missions help modern writers to tell a more complete story or correct past errors.

__________________David Kier has spent many years visiting, photographing, and researching the missions of Baja and Alta California. He has a fascinating and informative web site: David K's BAJA Adventures @ http://vivabaja.com/
David has also published, 'The Old Missions of Baja & Alta California' available at 
http://oldmissions.com/ which provides extensive and very factual information that is not always available at other sites.

We thank David for presenting this information.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

California, Arizona, New Mexico Should Belong to Mexico

A chant used to justify illegal immigration from south of our borders.

All well and good. But, let's examine the truth of this statement.

When did Spain or later Mexico ever truly “control” land in these states? From the very beginning, Spain never had complete military control of Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico. For this entire area, there were never more than two or three hundred poorly armed and ill-equipped soldiers in scattered garrisons or presidios. And, those few garrisons relied heavily on support from missions established by Catholic missionaries.

Let's take California as an example. Up to 1769, all Spanish efforts were guided by the Jesuits in Lower California, their widely scattered missions manned by groups of no more than five soldiers at each. There was a “presidio” - a poorly manned garrison – at San José del Cabo put there as it was the main shipping point in to and out of Lower California.

When Father Serra and Governor Gaspar Portolá reached the future site of San Diego, it was with a military compliment of less than 100 soldiers fit for duty. Of the 30 Catalonian Volunteers, only six or seven did not suffer from dysentery and diarrhea. Even the hardy Leatherjacket Soldiers faced physical problems. 100 hundred soldiers to cower 60,000 Iron Age savages!

It took Spain from 1769 to 1820 to establish 19 missions from San Diego to San Francisco. Each mission had a minimum of one Franciscan friar, often two when there were enough to do so. And, each mission had an “escolta” of 5 soldiers, 1 corporal and four privates. That amounted to a total of 95 soldiers to control an estimated 30,000 Mission Indians. In addition, there were four poorly made and maintained presidios at San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco. The total of soldiers at these four forts never exceeded 80, most of those involved in courier or sentry duty. In addition, they went for years without pay or supplies. The military relied heavily on the missions for food.

So, how about Mexican control of the area? When Mexico gained its independence from Spain, one of the first things it did was to secularize the missions – taking them away from church control and turning them over to the Indians under the control of government agents. Disaster. From 1823 to 1840, thriving, industrious missions became ruins and the Indians dependent upon them became slaves to the Rancheros, retired soldiers and civilians with political clout. The only “army” was a understaffed company of ex-convicts brought from Mexico by Governor Echeandía. The presidio at San Diego had been sold for $40 dollars, the one at Monterey in total disrepair, and the one at San Francisco abandoned, the soldiers sent to Sonoma to protect against Russian invasion and Indian incursions.

Mexico “owning” California? When the various groups fell into internecine fighting, each side formed companias estranjeros, made up of English and American settlers who had come to California for the great weather and good prospects – all before the Gold Rush. They were the ones that turned the various pueblos from mere groups of mud huts into substantial towns.

And, the California Indians no longer owned anything as they had been all but wiped out when the missions fell into ruins. Those few surviving peones struggled, poorly clad and barely fed.

So, let me ask this question – if Mexico didn't bother to man its outposts or seriously control the vast territory of California [which included Arizona and New Mexico] knowing it was so sparsely settled that it did not merit the status of being a state, why should the belief continue that those areas still “belong” to Mexico? And thereby justifying to incursion of Mexican citizens without legal documents?