Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Following in the footsteps of Fray Junipero Serra: Missions in Alta California

As early as the 16th Century, Fortún Jiménez, a pilot under orders of Hernán Cortes, claimed California in 1533, but for the next 160 years, no serious attempt was made by Spain or any European power to settle the area. Between 1697 and 1767, the Jesuits established 17 missions in what we now call Baja California (which belongs today to Mexico), starting from south to north, the Mission of San Jose del Cabo up to the Mission of San Francisco Borja.
18th Century map showing the first
 Jesuit Mission on the southern part
of the peninsula of Baja California
and the later Franciscan Missions
founded by Fray Junipero Serrra. 
(map belongs to the Mission of San
Carlos Borromeo, Carmel, California)
Fray Junípero Serra (1713-1784), a Franciscan Missionary priest born in Mallorca, is considered by the majority of residents of the State of California as the most important person in the discovery and early settlement of their territory, while the Catholic Church honors his efforts in setting up a network of 21 Missions and Presidios in the Alta California (as it was known at that time), starting south at the Mission of San Diego, and working northward, as far as the Mission of San Francisco Solano, at Sonoma, in the Napa Valley, some 50 miles north of San Francisco.
Statue of Fray Junipero Serra
in front of the façade of the
Mission Church of San Carlos
Borromeo, Carmel, California
Some of the followers of this blog might remember that two years ago, on July 19th, 2014, that we wrote the first of two articles (in Spanish) on the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. (If you are viewing this blog now from your desktop or laptop computer, you will see a new feature in the right hand column, entitled "Featured Post", a new development by "Blogger", and permits you to easily refer to a previous article or "post".)
Resting at a fountain with the Mission Bells in
 the background at San Juan Capistrano,
That experience two years ago of visiting a Franciscan Mission in California left an indelible mark in our hearts and souls, and left us longing to organize a much larger pilgrimage last month (July, 2016), visiting 6 Missions and 2 Presidios, traveling over 900 miles by car over 8 days. Our itinerary included:
  • San Luis Rey Mission
  • San Juan Capistrano Mission
  • Santa Barbara Mission
  • Santa Bárbara Presidio
  • Santa Iñes Mission
  • La Purísima Presidio
  • San Luis Obispo Mission
  • San Carlos Borromeo Mission at Carmel
A Mission was under Franciscan authority and it was a religious, cultural, crafts-training and education center, in which Fray Junípero encouraged the natives to adopt a more European and urban style of life, a goal shared by the Spanish Crown.
Spartan bunk in a Franciscan
Friar's cell at San Carlos
 Borromeo Mission, Carmel.
This is the other half of the friar's cell of the
above picture. Besides the bunk and the only
 one habit, a friar would have reading table,
 a chair and a chest for "valuables", which
might include his vestments and possibly his
 chalice. Typically, friars did not uses
mattresses on their beds, and a very scanty
supply of blankets.
A Presidio was more like a fort, a military construction, aimed at protecting early settlers and friendly natives from attacks. However, as time went on, the Presidios buildings contained not only the soldiers barracks, but many of the constructions which we associate with the Missions, such as chapels, meeting halls, school rooms and crafts rooms.
This wall drawling gives us a view of the Presidio
of Santa Barbara, with its large protected central
courtyard, surrounded on four sides by barracks,
a central kitchen, warehouse, ammunition and
arms quarters, commander-in-chief's quarters,
blacksmith shop, tool shop, carpenters shop,
and weaving room. On the outer side of
individual living quarters were small back
yards, used for raising chickens and growing
fruit and vegetables.
During one of the visits to the Missions, we found something very practical for a pilgrim: "El Camino Real de California: The Pilgrim Credential",  copyright 2014 by Martha López. Inside the "Credential" are spaces for the stamps and seals of each mission, usually available at the gift shops.
A Pilgrim's Credential for visiting
Missions in California (courtesy of
Martha Lopez, all rights reserved).
Those pilgrims who have been on the Camino de Santiago in Spain are more familiar with these types of credentials, which certify how far a pilgrim has journeyed the trail.

In my Pilgrim's Credential, you can see that I
started receiving stamps and seals from
different missions we visited. ("Camino Real
de California, Pilgrim Credential",
copyright 2014, Martha López)

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