Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó

Last updated
Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho. Construction of the church was completed in 1744. Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto.jpg
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó. Construction of the church was completed in 1744.
Loreto map.png

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, or Mission Loreto, was founded on October 25, 1697 at the Monqui Native American (Indian) settlement of Conchó in the present city of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Established by the Catholic Church's Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra, Loreto was the first successful mission and Spanish town in Baja California. The mission is located at 26°00′37″N111°20′36″W / 26.01028°N 111.34333°W / 26.01028; -111.34333 .


The mission closed in 1829. The Mission Church survives and is located in downtown Loreto.



After Hernán Cortés' initial failed 1535 attempt to found a colony in the Bay of Santa Cruz (today's La Paz, Baja California Sur), the next 150 years were marked with further unsuccessful efforts to colonize Baja California. The most nearly successful of these attempts was the 1683–1685 outpost at San Bruno, only about 20 kilometers north of Loreto, among the Cochimí. This failure by Admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón and the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino led directly to the success at Loreto 12 years later.

After many unsuccessful ventures in Baja California, the government of New Spain and the Spanish crown were reluctant to finance any further attempts. However, Kino's enthusiasm for this potential mission field was persistent. He ultimately persuaded some of his colleagues, including Salvatierra, and the authorities in New Spain to allow the Jesuits to return to the peninsula, but this time on their own responsibility and largely at their own expense.

By the start of 1697 everything was ready for the journey's start at the mouth of the Río Yaqui River in Sonora. Kino was unable to participate, because an Indian rebellion in Sonora required his presence on the mainland. Salvatierra would soon be joined at Loreto by Francisco María Piccolo, and they were supported from the mainland by the procurador for the mission, Juan de Ugarte.

Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho in the 18th century. Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto. Siglo XVIII.jpg
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó in the 18th century.


On October 19, 1697, Salvatierra, with nine armed men, disembarked from the galley Santa Elvira at the place the Indians called Conchó (probably meaning waterhole). The site was distinguished by "a small patch of stunted shrubbery and a spring of fresh water, both rare luxuries in that inhospitable country." In the first days after their arrival, the missionary erected a modest structure that served as a chapel, to the front of which they affixed a wooden cross. On October 25 they carried the image of the Virgin of Our Lady of Loreto in a solemn procession, a ritual of faith that claimed the area as Spanish territory. Thus began the Mission Loreto. [2]

A Monqui rancheria -- a settlement whose population was usually 50 to 80 persons -- was only a few hundred feet from where the Spanish decided to build the mission -- with the only waterholes in the area between the two. The Spanish presence attracted more Indians; some were offered food in exchange for working and attending religious services, but the majority became hostile. On November 13, about 200 Indian men attacked the rudimentary fortress of the Spanish, shooting arrows and throwing rocks. The Spaniards fended them off with a mortar and two harquebusses. After about two hours, the attack ceased. Two Spaniards were slightly wounded and Salvatierra reported that they had killed and wounded several Indians. [3]

Two days later a Spanish ship with supplies and reinforcements, including a second Jesuit priest, Francisco María Piccolo. arrived and, with the help of native workers paid with food, the Spaniards quickly erected a walled fortress called the Real Presidio de Loreto (Royal Fort of Loreto) that became the mission headquarters. Sporadic resistance by the Monqui to the mission continued but after a confrontation on Easter Sunday 1698 in which several Indians were killed or wounded, the Monqui accepted the presence of the mission. By late 1698, a total of 27 men -- priests, religious helpers, and soldiers, staffed the mission. [4]

Later history

The Loreto Mission would prove "worthless as a breadbasket" because of insufficient water to irrigate crops, but valuable as a base for expansion of the missionary enterprise and Spanish control of Baja California. The Spanish recognized that providing food to the Indians would draw them to the mission, but food had to be brought from the mainland of Mexico across the often stormy Gulf of California. Periodic shortages of food impacted the mission for decades. In 1699, the mission's need to find land suitable for agriculture led it to establish a new mission in a promising valley about 25 kilometres (16 mi) inland from Loreto at a place called Biaundó by the Cochimí Indian residents. [5] In succeeding years, with Loreto as the base, the Jesuits created several new missions in south-central Baja California and then in more remote portions of the peninsula both to the north and to the south.

Loreto mission's stone church, which still stands, was begun in 1740 and completed in 1744. Loreto continued to be the headquarters for missionaries. even after the Jesuits were expelled from Baja California and replaced, first by the Franciscans in 1768 and then by the Dominicans in 1773. In 1769, the Loreto mission (now led by Franciscans under Junípero Serra) was the departure point for the land portion of the land/sea exploratory expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá. The joint military/missionary expedition traveled into today's U.S. state of California as far north as San Francisco Bay, establishing new Franciscan missions at Velicatá (Baja), San Diego and Monterey.

Mission Loreto came to an end in 1829, by which time the native population throughout Baja California had declined "to the point of near extinction." [6]

Population decline

By the end of 1698, one year after its founding, the Loreto mission had a population of about 100 Monqui families who had been converted to Christianity, nearly all of the Monqui who had lived along a 65 kilometres (40 mi) stretch of coast. This population of around 400 steadily decreased thereafter because of the toll from imported European diseases. By 1733, the Monqui population of Loreto was only 134 and it was maintained thereafter at about that level only by importing Christian Indians from other parts of Baja California. In 1762, a Jesuit report recorded only 38 baptisms in the previous 18 years -- but 309 deaths. [7]

At the same time as the Monqui population declined, the imported Spanish, mestizo, and Indian population of Loreto increased. In 1730, the Jesuits recorded the non-Monqui population of Loreto at 175, which included 99 men and their wives and children. The men were employed as soldiers, sailors, artisans, teamsters, and cowboys. By 1770 the total population of Loreto was more than 400 of whom only about 120 were Indians indigenous to Baja California. The Monqui as a people and distinct culture were virtually extinct. [8]

See also


  1. Burckhalter, David, Sedgwick, Mina, and Fontana, Bernard I. (2013), Baja California Missions, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, p. 28. Downloaded from Project Muse.
  2. Weber, Francis J. (April 1967), "Jesuit Missions in Baja California", The Americas, Vol. 23, No. 4., pp. 412. Downloaded from JSTOR; Burckhalter, et al 19-20.
  3. Crosby, Harry W. (1994), Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, pp. 29-33
  4. Crosby, pp. 34-36, 38-39; Burkckhalter et al, p. 20
  5. Crosby, 34-45
  6. Jackson, Robert H. (1981), "Epidemic Disease and Population Decline in the Baja California Missions", Southern California Quarterly, Vol 63, No. 4, p. 308. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  7. Crosby, pp. 266-277
  8. Crosby, pp. 276-277

Related Research Articles

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó was a Spanish mission on the Baja California peninsula in colonial Mexico, the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The site is in present-day Loreto Municipality of Baja California Sur state. The mission was located at 25°51′38″N111°32′37″W. San Francisco Javier mission was founded by Jesuits of the Roman Catholic church in 1699 and closed in 1817. The missionary's objective was to convert the local Cochimí Native Americans (Indians) to Christianity. A mission church survives and is in use.

Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mission Santa Rosalía de Mulegé is located in the oasis of Mulegé, in Mulegé Municipality, northeastern Baja California Sur state, México. It is an Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia listed Cultural Heritage Monument.

Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá Spanish mission in Baja California, Mexico

Located in Baja California, Mexico about 35 miles southeast of El Rosario, Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá (1769–1817) was the only mission founded by Franciscans in Baja California.

Sigismundo Taraval (1700–1763) was a pioneering Jesuit missionary in Baja California who wrote important historical accounts of the peninsula.

Juan María de Salvatierra Italian Jesuit priest and missionary

Juan María de Salvatierra, S.J., was a Catholic missionary to the Americas.

Spanish missions in Baja California historic religious outposts in the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico

The Spanish missions in Baja California were a large number 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 Native Americans or Indians living on the Baja California peninsula. The missions gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land, and introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the region. The Indians were severely impacted by the introduction of European diseases such as smallpox and measles and by 1800 their numbers were a fraction of what they had been before the arrival of the Spanish.


The Guaycura were a native people of Baja California Sur, Mexico, occupying an area extending south from near Loreto to Todos Santos They contested the area around La Paz with the Pericú. The Guaycura were nomadic hunter-gatherers. They are distinguished by a language unrelated to any other Native American language, indicating in the opinion of some linguists that their ancestry in Baja California dates back thousands of years.


The Monqui were indigenous peoples of Mexico, who lived in the vicinity of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, at the time of Spanish contact. Monqui territory included about 65 kilometres (40 mi) of coast along the Gulf of California and extended a few kilometers inland to where the Cochimi people lived.

Cochimí aboriginal inhabitants of the central part of the Baja California peninsula, from El Rosario in the north to San Javier in the south

The Cochimí were the aboriginal inhabitants of the central part of the Baja California peninsula, from El Rosario in the north to San Javier in the south.

Misión San Bruno Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

The short-lived Jesuit mission of San Bruno was established in 1684 on the Baja California Peninsula near the Gulf of California, in colonial Mexico of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Mission was located at 26°13′57″N111°23′53″W. The location of this mission should not be confused with the location of the present day town of San Bruno which is located about 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the north.

Misión San Juan Bautista Malibat Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Misión San Juan Bautista Malibat also known as the Misión San Juan Bautista de Ligüí was founded by the Jesuit missionary Pedro de Ugarte in November 1705, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Loreto near the Gulf of California coast of what is today the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The mission is located at 25°44′22″N111°15′51″W.

Misión San José de Comondú Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mission San José de Comondú was one of the Jesuit missions established early in the 18th century in Baja California Sur, Mexico, west of Loreto on an arroyo flowing to the Pacific coast. "Comondú" was a place name of the native Cochimí, who were the objects of the missionaries' efforts. Over the course of its existence, the mission was twice relocated.

Francisco María Piccolo, S.J., (1654–1729) was one of the first Jesuit missionaries in Baja California Sur, New Spain, now Mexico. His letters and reports are important sources for the ethnography and early history of the peninsula.

Miguel del Barco was a Jesuit missionary in Baja California, Mexico and wrote major contributions to the peninsula's history and ethnography.

Misión La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mission La Purísima, was founded west of Loreto in Baja California Sur, by the Jesuit missionary Nicolás Tamaral in 1720 and financed by the Marqués de Villapuente de la Peña and his wife the Marquesa de las Torres de Rada. By 1735 it had been moved to a new location at the Cochimí ranchería known as Cadegomó, meaning "arroyo of the carrizos", about 30 kilometers south of the original site. The mission was abandoned in 1822. In the early twentieth century, the church was still in use, but by the start of the following century only a few traces of structures remained...

Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz Airapí Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mission La Paz was established by the Jesuit missionaries Juan de Ugarte and Jaime Bravo in 1720 and financed by the Marqués de Villapuente de la Peña, at the location of the modern city of La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Visita de San Juan Bautista Londó Spanish subordinate mission station in Baja California, Mexico

The Jesuit visita, or subordinate mission station, of San Juan Bautista Londó was founded by Juan María Salvatierra and Francisco María Piccolo in 1699. It was located at the Cochimí settlement of Londó, about 30 kilometers north of Loreto and 13 kilometers west of the Gulf of California coastline, west of the abortive mission site of San Bruno that had been occupied in 1684–1685 by Isidro de Atondo y Antillón and Eusebio Francisco Kino.

Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas, also known as Todos Santos Mission, was founded by the Roman Catholic Jesuits in 1733. After 1748, the mission was known as Nuestra Señora del Pilar de la Paz. The mission was the first European settlement at the site of what is now the city of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur. The Santa Rosa Mission was located in one of the few areas of Baja California suitable for agriculture. The residents of the Mission were primarily Guaycura Native Americans whom the Jesuits and their successors, the Franciscans and Dominicans, attempted to convert to Christianity and to make into sedentary farm workers. Recurrent epidemics of introduced European diseases reduced the Indian population to only a handful by the 19th century and in 1825 the mission was closed.

Juan de Ugarte Central American Jesuit priest and missionary

Juan de Ugarte, S.J., (1662–1730) was a Jesuit missionary and explorer in Baja California Sur, New Spain, and the successor to Juan María de Salvatierra as head of the peninsula's missions.

The Californias Region of North America in California

The Californias, occasionally known as the Three Californias or Two Californias, are a region of North America spanning the United States and Mexico and consisting of the U.S. state of California and the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Historically, the term Californias was used to define the vast northwestern region of Spanish America, as the Province of the Californias, and later as a collective term for Alta California and the Baja California Peninsula.