Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Phew! It's Almost Done.

The Missions Wither, Book Four of Father Serra's Legacy has been, by far, the most difficult novel I have ever written. It's not the hours and hours of research and more research I've put into it. It's not the characters telling the story. In fact, I purposely moved from Timothy and Jaime as the main characters in the first three novels to James and Teresa Marta, Timothy's son and Jaime's daughter. I think the difficulty lies in my hesitation to present the absolute disaster of taking the missions away from the friars. From this to this By the tine Mexicans were fighting for independence, the missions in far away California had tens of thousands of Indians living and depending upon them. The 30 in Baja California were limited by the available of water for irrigation as the entire peninsula is desert. However, most of those that remained open in 1822 were self-sufficient and supported a reasonable population. However, the 21 in Alta [or Upper] California had become self-sufficient, not only supporting themselves but the soldiers and civilians living in the area. Huge herds of cattle, horses and mules. Fields ripe with grains, gardens filled with vegetables, orchards growing an amazing variety of fruits from apples to bananas and figs, and vineyards covering hillsides. Flocks of sheep provided wool for looms that produced beautiful cloth for all sorts of purposes. Fields of cotton turned into thread for making clothes. Suet from slaughtered cattle providing tallow for immense number of candles and hides tanned into exceptional leather. The disciples made sun-dried bricks for construction, tiles for roofs, and hewed stones for construction. They cut down trees to produce excellent lumber. And then comes the part of the story that hurt me to the quick – secularization. Tens of thousands of los Indios fought in the war for independence under their white officers, being promised freedom and lands if they won. And the Mexican government held true to its promise. What was left over from granting lands to the officers was turned over to los Indios who were able to successfully turn mission industries and lands to their own use without needed guidance of a friar or priest. That was because they had a proven agrarian society before the arrival of Europeans. They were Stone Age peoples, but with records of amazing construction and intellectual advancement. But, Mexico tried to do the same for the Californian Indians. It just couldn't work – and it didn't. California Indians lived in a somewhat paradise and never needed to travel more than one day from where they were born. They had little or no clothing, wearing mostly paint and tattoos. They lived off the wild, foraging for roots and eating what meat they could gather with their wooden spears and crude nets. Rats, mice, gophers, moles, snakes, rabbits, insects, an occasional antelope or deer or whatever carcass they might find. They lived in crude huts of brush and mud. When there came disease – many natural to California and North America – or drought, or floods, or earthquakes, they buried their dead and went on with their life. The most advanced were the Coastal Chumash who built beautiful canoes and fished with crude spears and nets. They routinely sailed out to the Channel Islands. Even then, never having needed it, they lacked the discipline necessary for a successful agrarian society, which the friars had brought them. With the fathers no longer in charge, this is what they reverted to. I could write a dozen chapters about the variety of Mexican governors assigned to the Territory of California, each one either inept, corrupt, or egotistical. The soldiers who had retired and received land grants along with settlers who made special friends with particular governors were given land on which they established Ranchos. With little education, they concerned themselves only with their own life as lords of the lands and los Indios suffered under their tyranny. Petty spats became common as those Californios of the north feuded with those of the south. “Los Angeles should be the capitol.” “No! Monterey should.” In any case, I had to make a decision. Having reached about 130,000 words, there had to be a place to stop. It had reached 80 years from the date of the Portolá Expedition when James and Teresa Marta were born. Would they still be alive in 1840? We know of a few rare cases where uno Indio was still alive from the time and even into the 1860s. But, would James and Teresa Marta survive that long? I decided no and turned to George – or Jorge – Timothy's son and Santiago Mateo to tell the final chapter. An Afterword such as this is what I have yet to write and will certainly use some of this post to do so. With pictures like this in my mind, I will struggle to finish the tale. I hope it does what I have desired from the very beginning – personalize and bring to life events in the dust of history, hidden on bookshelves nobody visits. To bring to life the men in their gray robes who left all they knew behind to live a frugal life with one goal; to bring The Word of God to the Indians they looked upon as their children. And to erase the lies of men like Howard Howe Bancroft who painted them as cruel slave masters who cared little about the welfare of the Indians forced to live at the missions. This is the picture I want to engrave in my mind. Keep you posted when it's edited, reviewed, edited, revised, and edited to be sent off to the publisher. :) [And will then happily start working again on El Soldado de Cuera, The Life and Times of Don Fernando Rivera.]

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