Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Monday, May 26, 2014

Antigua California Raped to Create Nueva California - Part II

How does one manage to do everything and still find time to post on a blog. In my daily news scan, I go through more than 400 feeds, many of them blogs with multiple posts. How on earth do they do it? Well, here's resuming our story.

If you remember, Governor Portolá has endured 40 days at sea in a creaky boat and finally landed at the tip of California. He finds a nearly abandoned mission with a soldier supervising the few listless converts who have survived rebellion, disease, and hunger. He has no idea where the other 2 ships are and has no idea what to do next.

So, he sends one of the local soldiers to the nearest mission and waits for someone to come who can explain the situation.

Padre Tirsch rode to del Cabo after sending a rider to find Captain Rivera. Tirsch arrived first with Rivera not far behind. The two managed to gather enough horses and mules to carry the new arrival to Misión de Santiago. Once there, he had seen the better part of Baja California without really understanding just what he had seen.

Portol, of course, sent one of Rivera's presidials the long grueling way north to Loreto to tell the Jesuit procurador to gather as much riding animals as possible. He then had time to view his first California mission, seeing how poor it was in food and supplies and how dependent the converts were on the missionary. He had already told the Jesuit he had been relieved of duty at the mission and ended up appointing one of the mission soldiers to oversee it until the Franciscan arrived.
Not a bad idea – except that the appointed soldier was semi-literate and had no idea of the record-keeping the padre went through daily.
Portolá then asked to be shown the mines providing the fabulous bonanza in silver. His disappointment can only be imagined. Brush and mud huts to house miners and their families – and the number of prostitutes and alcohol vendors who preyed upon them. A single store owned by the man claiming authority over the mines where the miners were gouged just to survive on beef run by the same man and with little or no fruits and vegetables beyond prickly pear leaves to ease their hunger. Hillsides denuded of vegetation to feed the smelting facilities and little or no drinkable water.

Finally, with enough animals and Captain Rivera to lead the way, Portolá and 40 men in his party, depart Santiago for the long march north to Loreto through country unlike any he had ever before encountered. Spiny cacti and bushes at every turn and he quickly admired the leather protective gear worn by Rivera and his escort. Beside himself, he had Ensign José Lasso, Chaplain Fernandez, and 25 Catalonian Dragoons. None had ever experienced the hardships of traveling through such a desert. All must have admired Captain Rivera, his escort of three soldiers and the 9 arrieros driving cattle, for their abilities to pass through as they did.

Portolá was a good commander, recognizing skill and ability, keeping Rivera close by his side for the entire trek. Arriving at Loreto after 10 grueling days, he found that Padre Visitor Ducrue was 60 leagues away at Misión Guadalupe. He did present himself to Padre Procurado Ventura and accepted accommodations for himself in the living quarters of the padres. During this time, he had notified the Jesuits he met along the way and ordering them to Loreto – still not having read the actual proclamation of expulsion.

At last, on the 20th of December, 1767, Portolá read the decree to the leading Jesuit authority and ordered word be sent out so that, one by one, they would gather and come to Loreto as quickly as possible. He still didn't let the word be spread beyond those he had already personally contacted.

While awaiting the arrival of the missionaries, Portolá sent Captain Rivera with an escort to tally the contents of the northern missions. At the same time, he sent Rivera's second-in-command, Lieutenant Fernández to do the same in the south.

The Franciscan had not yet arrived, as well as the remaining soldiers.

At last, Padre Visitador Ducrue arrived – on December 25. In deference to the holy festival of Christ's birth, Portolá withheld the expulsion part of the decree. However, the Jesuits knew their fate as Padre Tirsch had already notified Ducrue, who spread the word to the others. Finally, 6 months after the decree was to have been carried out, Portolá, accompanied by his ensign, secretary, and a sergeant of dragoons, read the entire decree. This included the fact that the Jesuits were, in effect, under arrest and would be removed from New Spain as quickly as possible.

With no place to actually lock them up, he restricted them to quarters. He then took the keys to the storehouse and all records of its contents. There is no direct evidence of his feelings. but it is clear the Jesuit's willingness – even relief – to depart as soon as possible was unexpected. Even then, it still took 5 more weeks to gather all the Jesuits. Father Linck at San Borja was delayed as an epidemic was ravaging his converts. Padre Retz at Santa Gertrudis was so obese that he could neither walk nor ride through the rugged hills and mountains. Teams of his converts took turns carrying the padre the 200 miles to Loreto.

La Nuestra Señora de la Concepción lay anchored offshore. Portolá ordered the padres be taken aboard well after dark so as to not arouse the converts and others. However, as they walked down to the beach, the locals surrounded them, falling to their knees and kissing the hands of each Jesuit. This included all the soldiers, workers, servants, naval types, and their families. Portolá then assigned California Presidial Ensign Jose Lasso and six soldiers to deliver them safely to Mexico with his first-hand account.

None of the newly arrived Spaniards could possibly understand the impact of a group of men who had, for 70 years, held absolute control of California and all of its inhabitants.

Thanks in part to the delay and their escort, the Jesuits avoided the brutal treatment suffered by their mainland brothers and all 16 of them reached Spain. Some returned to their homes in northern Europe while others went to the Papal states in Italy.

It took another 3 weeks until the Franciscan, under Father Serra, arrived to take up the task of supervising the missions.

With that out of the way, our brave governor had just begun his assignment. He still had to ensure ALL of California was secure for the crown. Then, on the 5th of July, 1768, five months after the Jesuits departed, the “big guy” arrived, Visitador General José de Gálvez himself, disembarking at the surgidero de Cerralvo after 5 weeks of trying to cross from San Blas. He had no idea just how far he was from Loreto and what land confronted him.

Portolá was a soldier. Gálvez was, well to put it mildly, a glorified clerk. He planned – in great detail. He made his way from the landing site up to Santa Ana, the mining community. Without hesitation, he took for himself the most substantial building in the community, Don Manuel de Ocio's personal residence. Even after seeing the absolute poverty and lack of the place, he set out to make detailed and grandiose plans to turn it into a thriving Spanish community. He met with Father Serra and was convinced that the Jesuits had either mismanaged the missions or had used them and their people as bases and tools for the secret development of great resources.

So now, here comes the crux of the matter. Gálvez either was startled and discouraged by what he saw or simply refused to accept the truth. He realized the only missions with any chance of success lay in the south and, without consulting the old hands, ordered the Guaycura be removed from Misiones los Dolores y San Luis Gonzaga to be sent to the mission at Todos Santos – a distance of 250 miserable, discouraging miles of grueling travel.

And then, under the direction of Galvez, approved by Father Serra, livestock and supplies were removed from the former Jesuits missions for the purpose of sustaining the expedition north to New California. Already having suffered great droughts, the missions barely had food for their converts. Fortunately, once the crowds departed, the natives reverted to what they had done for years beyond memory, hunt and forage in the wilderness for their traditional foods – exactly what the Jesuits had spent 70 years trying to stop them from doing.

At last, Rivera lead 25 of his own soldiers and drovers, helped by 40 converts recruited from the northern missions, the expedition to blaze the trail north. He established a base at the Cochimi village of Velicatá and waited for Governor Portolá and Father Serra. Realizing the limited amount of supplies, Rivera let the Cochimi converts fend for themselves. Most simply faded away in the night, leaving just barely enough to help clear a road as they made their way north to Bahia San Miguel, the future site of the presidio and mission of San Diego de Alcalá.

That the southern missions survived is itself almost a miracle. On the other hand, the missions in New California had plenty of water, good soil, and many, many hundreds of natives more than willing to gather at the missions and convert in order to gain the benefits of shelter, food, and clothing. In time, these missions produced huge herds of livestock, fields of grain, and fruit trees to go along with extensive vineyards.

Portolá departed New California as soon as the capitol was established at Money Rey, turning it over to his senior lieutenant of the Catalonian Dragoons, Pedro Fages. Poor Captain Rivera was sent back to Loreto, passed over because he was a Creole and not born in Spain. His mission? To raid even more livestock and supplies for the fledgling Misión San Diego de Alcalá.

The vast majority of California Hispanics trace their heritage to Portolá's expedition, coming from Old California or nearby Sonora.

Today, little remains of the fields, gardens, and livestock of the missions of Antigua California. All sacrificed to create the 21 Franciscan missions of Nueva California.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Antigua California Raped to Create Nueva California

After reading Antigua California, I've decided it is time to give poor Father Mayorga a break before he finds himself faced with the tortuous trek from Loreto to Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé or Biaundó.


Some background is needed. For many years, rumors had circled of vast wealth held by the Society of Jesus in their properties around the world. It did not help that these Soldiers of Christ bowed to no ruler other than their own Father General and the Pope in Rome. Jesuit confessors in the House of Bourbon managed to make a few more enemies. Carlos III of Spain had recently taken the throne of the massive Spanish empire and, following the example of Portugal and France, decided to confiscate all Jesuit holdings and expel them from his realm. The highly-secret decree he sent out was to have all Jesuits arrested on June 25, 1767 and immediately removed from whatever lands they were in.

But, before that, Carlos III also did not like how things were going in New Spain. It took 6 years, but he finally decided to send someone answerable only to him to straighten things out, also putting more coins in his treasury. His 1st choice managed to find a way out of it and his second avoided it - by dying before making landfall. Carlos III finally chose José de Gálvez, an Andalucian petty nobleman who had recently been appointed to a municipal judgeship in Madrid. Gálvez accepted and set sail, arriving in New Spain in mid-1765. He ended up taking into his retinue the brother of the recently deceased selectee, Matias de Armona, this man to become deeply involved in California.

Gálvez had ultimate powers and the viceroy deeply resented him, doing everything possible to thwart his desires. Gálvez solved that by asking the king to replace him, which Carlos III did.

Gálvez read the king's decree concerning the Jesuits and understood just how difficult and unpopular it would be. In their manner, the Society were an important part of New Spain's society – social and economic. They dominated most of the available labor force – Indians converted under their guidance – always managing to get the best of local civil or military leaders.

Gálvez personally took 600 Spanish troops into troubled areas of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, and Michoacán. He rounded up hordes of the disaffected, set up criminal courts, and meted out the harshest punishments seen there in generations. 85 men were manacled and their bodies mutilated, 70 more received enough lashes to maim or cripple, over 600 were sent to prison, and 100 others banished. All were Indians or castas. The visitor accompanied these affairs with a harangue. “Vassals of the throne of Spain were born to be silent and obey – not to debate or discuss the affairs of government.”

Now, what to do with the pesky Jesuits of California, believed to possess a vast treasure of silver, pearls, and other products?

Of the many mistakes Gálvez was to make, his selection of a new governor was not one of them. While authorities in New Spain prepared to seize the Jesuits in their regions, a body of Catalan officers and enlisted men traveled to Sonora to take part in a campaign to pacify rebellious Seris, Pimas, and their allies. At Tepic, it was overtaken by an order from Viceroy Croix. 50 year old Captain Gaspar de Portolá was thereby appointed governor of California and deputized to carry out the removal of its Jesuits. He and a body of troops were ordered to the port of San Blas to await the ships to carry them to Loreto. Meanwhile, all other ships, whether serving pearlers or carrying routine supplies, were banned from California's shores. At about the same time, Franciscan missionaries from the College of San Fernando near Mexico City were directed to replace the Jesuits in California's missions. They too were put on the road toward San Blas and a major role in California history.

Portolá came to his new calling as a career army officer, a militar, not a bureaucrat. A native of Catalonia with 30 years of service, campaigns in Italy and Portugal, having both honors and wounds. He came to New Spain as a captain in the Regiment of Dragoons of Spain in late 1764; his recently acquired governorship probably resulted from favorable reports by his superiors to Croix and Gálvez As he waited at San Blas, he must have sensed that the campaign ahead of him was to be a very difficult challenge, both in human relations and environment, than anything he had yet encountered.

After 40 days at sea in a creaking, patched-together vessel owned by the California entrepreneur Manuel de Ocio that tacked back and forth fighting adverse winds and tides., a tip of land appeared. The other two craft, one carrying Father Junipero Serra and his 15 friars were not to be seen, and the other with the additional troops and supplies he felt he needed.

What he encountered was nothing he had been led to believe. He spent a great deal of time quizzing the captain and crew, storing away the tales of hardship, wondering if they were an effort to divert him from his cause. The Bay of Bernabé at the mouth of the San José river was little more than an area facing a broad, sandy beach. And the pueblo most disappointing, peopled by a few gente de razón – acting like Spaniards - and Indians, the huts were crude and there was but a garrison of three soldiers guarding nothing.

After landing, they made their way upstream to the ruins of the mission and prepared to encamp. One of the California presidials was sent off to notify the nearest padre of the governor's arrival, ordering him to come at once to San José del Cabo.

The arrival of a new governor was not exactly a secret. A boat carrying strange soldiers had landed at an inlet further north to take on water and one of them told the natives that a new governor had been assigned and was on his way to Loreto. So, as soon as Padre Tirsch at Misión Santiago el Apóstol Aiñiní received the news, he gathered what few riding animals he had, along with what meager supplies he could spare, and proceeded to del Cabo. He also knew that Captain Don Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, was in the area and sent a messenger to find him, informing him of the governor's arrival and telling to ride to del Cabo at once

What did Padre Tirsch mean, a new governor? He, Don Fernando, was the governor. But, he did not hesitate and quickly led his escort south.

Portolá had to wonder of the local reaction. He heard many stories and, looking around, had a difficult time reconciling that with what he had been told. One story was that neophytes had 10,000 muskets and a vast amount of powder in order to resist any invasion attempt. Much to his relief, Padre Tirsch arrived with a small escort and welcomed him warmly, putting himself at the governor's disposal. The two stepped apart and Portolá informed the Jesuit of his orders and what was to happen to he and his fellow Jesuits.

One can only guess as Portolá's reaction when the padre calmly took the news, perhaps even showing a sense of relief. He had no idea of the terrible travails the Bohemian had encountered in his time as a missionary in California.

Portolá's meeting with Rivera may have been strained – at first. Rivera's position was unique among New Spain's presidial captains because his rank – indeed, his entire career – was owed to Jesuit favor. Furthermore, only a few months had passed since the viceroy had received spirited defenses of California Jesuits authored by Rivera and his lieutenant, Pedro de Riva.

Rivera, for his part, also had mixed feelings. He was being demoted from his position as California's premier civil and military official, but his job had already been in jeopardy and Portolá brought news of activities in which he might well find a role.

Portolá seems to have found the young captain an earnest officer, loyal to the crown, who would carry out his – the governor's – orders with fervor. Indeed, from then until early in 1769, Portolá kept Rivera close to his side, heeding the California veteran's every word.

When he reached Santiago, Portolá was introduced to his first California mission, While others made ready for the long journey ahead, he surveyed what had been the core of California life for 70 years. He saw how poor the mission was in food and supplies and how dependent on the direction and authority of its missionary. Since the replacement Franciscans were delayed for an indefinite period, Portolá would have to delegate some authority to supervise the mission after he removed the Jesuits.

How was he going to carry out his assignment? Not only to expel the Jesuits from California to explore to the north and establish military outposts at the Bay of San
Miguel and the fabled Monte Rey?

More next week. The story is but starting. And I haven't forgotten about poor Father Mayorga.