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.

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