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.