Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

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?

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