Spanish missions in Baja California

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Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé in Baja California Sur.

The Spanish Missions in Baja California comprise a series of religious outposts established by Catholic religious orders, the Jesuits, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, between 1683 and 1834 to spread the Christian doctrine among the local natives. The missions gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land, and introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the region. Eventually, a network of settlements was established wherein each of the installations was no more than a long day's ride by horse or boat (or three days on foot) from another.

As early as the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Kingdom of Spain sought to establish missions to convert pagans to Catholicism in Nueva España (New Spain). New Spain consisted of the Caribbean, Mexico, and portions of what is now the Southwestern United States). To facilitate colonization, the Catholic Church awarded these lands to Spain.

Background[edit]

In addition to the presidio (royal fort) and pueblo (town), the misión was one of three major agencies employed by the Spanish crown to extend its borders and consolidate its colonial territories. Asistencias ("sub-missions" or "contributing chapels") were small-scale missions that regularly conducted Catholic religious services on days of obligation, but lacked a resident priest. Smaller sites called visitas ("visiting chapels") also lacked a resident priest, and were often attended only sporadically. Since 1493, the Crown of Spain had maintained missions throughout Nueva España.

Each frontier station was forced to be self-supporting, as existing means of supply were inadequate to maintain a colony of any size. To sustain a mission, the padres needed colonists or converted Indigenous Americans, called neophytes, to cultivate crops and tend livestock in the volume needed to support a fair-sized establishment. Indigenous peoples were often violently coerced into living at the missions, and corporal punishment was used to enforce conversion to Roman Catholicism. Forcing indigenous tribes into missions was referred to as 'reducing', and was enforced by Spanish soldiers. Tribes encountered by the Spanish missionaries included the Pai Pai,[1] Kumeyaay,[2] Cochimi, Kiliwa[3] and Pericu.[4] Scarcity of imported materials and lack of skilled laborers compelled the Fathers to employ simple building materials and methods. Although the Spanish hierarchy considered the missions temporary ventures, individual settlement development was not based simply on "priestly whim." The founding of a mission followed longstanding rules and procedures. The paperwork involved required months, sometimes years of correspondence, and demanded the attention of virtually every level of the bureaucracy. Once empowered to erect a mission in a given area, the men assigned to it chose a specific site that featured a good water supply, proximity to a population of indigenous peoples, and arable land. The padres, their military escort and often converted mainland indigenous people or mestizos initially fashioned defendable shelters, from which a base was established and the mission could grow.

Construction of the iglesia (church) constituted the focus of the settlement, and created the center of the community. The majority of mission sanctuaries were oriented on a roughly east-west axis to take the best advantage of the sun's position for interior illumination. The workshops, kitchens, living quarters, storerooms, and other ancillary chambers were usually grouped in the form of a quadrangle, inside which religious celebrations and other events often took place. Indigenous peoples were housed often by gender, forcibly converted to Catholicism and acculturated to the Spanish Empire within the confines of the mission. Recalcitrant indigenous peoples often ran away or revolted, and many missions maintained a precarious existence during the colonial era. Use of firearms, corporal punishment in the form of whippings and religious ritual and psychological punishments were all methods employed by the Spanish missionaries to maintain and expand control.[5]

Missions in present day Baja California (Mexico)[edit]

Fortún Jiménez de Bertadoña discovered the Baja California Peninsula in early 1534. However, it was Hernán Cortés who recognized the peninsula as the "Island of California" in May 1535, and is therefore officially credited with the discovery. In January 1683, the Spanish government chartered an expedition consisting of three ships to transport a contingent of 200 men to the southern tip of Baja California. Under the command of the governor of Sinaloa, Isidoro de Atondo y Antillon, and accompanied by Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino, the ships made landfall in La Paz. The landing party was eventually forced to abandon its initial settlement at San Bruno due to the hostile response on the part of the natives. In 1695, the missionaries attempted to establish a settlement near Loreto but again failed. Father Kino and Atondo y Antillon returned to the Mexican mainland, where Kino went on to establish a number of missions in the Pimería Alta, now located in southern Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico. A Jesuit priest named Juan María de Salvatierra eventually managed to establish the first permanent Spanish settlement, the Misión Nuestra Senora de Loreto Conchó. Founded, on October 19, 1697, the Mission went on to become the religious and administrative capital of Baja California. From there, other Jesuits went out to establish other settlements throughout the peninsula, founding a total of 18 missions and two visitas along the initial segment of El Camino Real over the next seven decades.

Unlike the mainland settlements that were designed to be self-sustaining enterprises, the remote and harsh conditions on the peninsula made it all but impossible to build and maintain these missions without ongoing assistance from the mainland. Supply lines from across the Sea of Cortez including from the missions and ranches of Padre Eusebio Kino on the mainland to the Port of Guaymas played a crucial role in keeping the Baja California mission system intact. Along with religion, the Europeans brought with them diseases to which the indigenous peoples had never been exposed, and to which consequently they had no immunity. By 1767, epidemics of measles, plague, smallpox, typhus, and venereal diseases had decimated the native population. Out of an initial population of as many as 50,000 indigenous peoples, only some 5,000 are thought to have survived.

During the sixty years that the Jesuits were permitted to serve among the natives of California, 56 members of the Society of Jesus came to the Baja California peninsula, of whom 16 died at their posts (two as martyrs). Fifteen priests and one lay brother survived the hardships, only to be subjected to enforcement of the decree launched against the Society by King Carlos III of Spain. It was rumored that the Jesuit priests had amassed a fortune on the peninsula and were becoming very powerful. On February 3, 1768 the King ordered the Jesuits forcibly expelled from the Americas and returned to the home country. The Franciscans, under the leadership of Fray Junípero Serra, took charge of the missions and closed or consolidated several of the existing installations. The order also founded Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá (the only Franciscan mission in all of Baja California) and the nearby Visita de la Presentación in 1769. A total of 39 Friars Minor toiled on the peninsula during the five years and five months of Franciscan rule. Four of them died, 10 were transferred to Alta California, and the remainder returned to Europe. Along with Governor Gaspar de Portolà, Father Serra was ordered by the Spanish government to travel north and establish a series of mission sites in Alta (Upper) California.[6]

Representatives of the Dominican order arrived in 1772, and by 1800, had established nine more missions in northern Baja, all the while continuing with the administration of the former Jesuit missions. The peninsula was divided into two separate entities in 1804, with the southern one having the seat of government established in the Port of Loreto. In 1810, Mexico sought to end Spanish colonial rule, gaining her independence in 1821, after which Mexican President Guadalupe Victoria named Lt. Col. José María Echeandía governor of Baja California Sur and divided it into four separate municipios (municipalities). The capital was moved to La Paz in 1830, after Loreto was partially destroyed by heavy rains. In 1833, after Baja California was designated as a federal territory, the governor formally put an end to the mission system by converting the missions into parish churches.

In geographical order, north to south[edit]

An early map traces the mission trail in Baja California as it existed in 1769.

Baja California (state)[edit]

Baja California Sur[edit]

In chronological order[edit]

Jesuit Establishments (1683–1767)[edit]

Franciscan Establishments (1768–1773)[edit]

Dominican Establishments (1774–1834)[edit]

Father-Presidents of the Baja California Mission System[edit]

The "Father-Presidente" was the head of the Catholic missions in Alta and Baja California. He was appointed by the apostolic college in Mexico City until 1812, when the position became known as the "Commissary Prefect" who was appointed by the Commissary General of the Indies (a Franciscan residing in Spain). Beginning in 1831, separate individuals were elected to oversee Upper and Lower California.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Winter, Werner. 1967. "The Identity of the Paipai (Akwa'ala)." In Studies in Southwestern Ethnolinguistics: Meaning and History in the Language of the American Southwest, edited by Dell H. Hymes and William E. Bittle, pp. 371–378. Mouton, The Hague.
  2. ^ Meigs, Peveril, III. 1939. The Kiliwa Indians of Lower California. Iberoamerica No. 15. University of California, Berkeley.
  3. ^ Peveril Meigs, The Kiliwa Indians of Lower California, Ibero-Americana, 15 (Berkeley, California: University of California, 1939).
  4. ^ Schmal, John P., Indigenous Baja, http://www.houstonculture.org/mexico/baja.html
  5. ^ Jackson, Robert H., 1981, Epidemic Disease and Population Decline in the Baja California Missions, 1697-1834. Southern California Quarterly 63:308-346
  6. ^ Engelhardt, pp. 3-18
  7. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/san_ingnacio_kadakaaman_eng.htm
  8. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/ntra_sra_guadalupe_guasinapi_eng.htm
  9. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/sta_rosalia_mulege_eng.htm
  10. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/la_purisima_concepcion_eng.htm
  11. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/san_jose_comondu_eng.htm
  12. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/ntra_sra_loreto_eng.htm
  13. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/san_fco_javier_viggebiaundo_eng.htm
  14. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/san_juan_bautista_ligui_eng.htm
  15. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/ntra_sra_los_dolores_eng.htm
  16. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/san_luis_gongaza_eng.htm
  17. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/ntra_sra_pilar_lapaz_eng.htm
  18. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/sta_rosa_laspalmas_todossantos_eng.htm
  19. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/santiago_eng.htm
  20. ^ http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/misiones/misiones/san_jose_cabo_eng.htm

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin, O.F.M. (1908). Missions and Missionaries, Volume One. The James H. Barry Co., San Francisco, CA. 
  • Jackson, Robert H. (1981). "Epidemic Disease and Population Decline in the Baja California Missions, 1697-1834". Southern California Quarterly 63:308-346. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bolton, Herbert Eugene. 1936. Rim of Christendom. Macmillian, New York.
  • Burrus, Ernest J. 1954. Kino Reports to Headquarters: Correspondence of Eusebio F. Kino, S.J., from New Spain with Rome. Instituto Hostoricum S.J., Rome.
  • Burrus, Ernest J. 1965. Kino Writes to the Duchess. Jesuit Historical Institute, Rome.
  • Mathes, W. Michael. 1969. First from the Gulf to the Pacific: The Diary of the Kino-Atondo Peninsular Expedition, December 14, 1684-January 13, 1685. Dawson's Book Shop, Los Angeles.
  • Mathes, W. Michael. 1974. Californiana III: documentos para la historia de la transformación colonizadora de California, 1679-1686. José Porrúa Turanzas, Madrid.
  • Vernon, Edward W. 2002. Las Misiones Antiguas: The Spanish Missions of Baja California, 1683-1855. Viejo Press, Santa Barbara, California.

External links[edit]