Spanish missions in Baja California

Last updated
Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto. Siglo XVIII.jpg
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó
Mision Santa Rosalia de Mulege in Baja California Sur Mulege mission.jpg
Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé in Baja California Sur

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.

Contents

Mexico secularized all missions in its territory in 1834 and the last of the missionaries departed in 1840. Some of the mission churches survive and are still in use. [1]

Background

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.

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.

The location of the Indian peoples of Baja California. Guaycuras.png
The location of the Indian peoples of Baja California.

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. 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.

The Native Americans

Indian peoples encountered by the Spanish missionaries in Baja California (from north to south) were the Kumeyaay, Cocopah, Pai Pai, [2] Kiliwa, [3] Cochimi, Monqui, Guaycura, and Pericu. [4] The Kumeyaay and Cocapah practiced limited agriculture, but the majority of the Baja Californians were nomadic or semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers who eked out a living under difficult desert conditions and scarcity of fresh water.

In a policy followed throughout much of Latin America called reductions, the missionaries concentrated the Indians at or near the mission for religious instruction and training to become sedentary farmers and stock herders. Their goal was to create a self-sufficient theocracy in which the missionary, usually supported by Spanish soldiers and laymen, attempted to rule over every facet of the Indian's religious and secular lives. [5] The 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 missionaries to maintain and expand control. [6] There were instances of armed resistance by the Indians against the missions, notably the Pericue revolt of 1734-1737, and Indians at the missions frequently ran away to escape the religious and labor regime forced on them by the missionaries or sabotaged the missionary's efforts by passive resistance. [7]

At the time of first contact with the Spanish, the Native Americans living in Baja California may have numbered as many as 60,000. By 1762, their numbers had fallen to 21,000 and by 1800 to 5,900. The primary reason for the decline was recurrent epidemics of European diseases, primarily smallpox, measles, and typhus. The spread of disease was facilitated by the missionary's practice of congregating the population near the mission. Endemic Syphilis resulted in higher child mortality and a reduced birth rate. By the early 19th century, the tribes of Baja California were culturally extinct, except for the Kumeyaay, Cocopah, and Pai Pai. [8]

Missions in Baja California

Baja California and the location of the Missions, highlighting the location of the Loreto Mission. Loreto map.png
Baja California and the location of the Missions, highlighting the location of the Loreto Mission.
Mision Santa Rosa de las Palmas Church mission todos santos (40693205371).jpg
Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas

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 Antillón, 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 due to the hostile response on the part of the natives. The missionaries attempted to establish a settlement near present-day Loreto, which they named Misión San Bruno but failed for lack of supplies. [9] Kino went on to establish a number of missions in the Pimería Alta, now located in southern Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico.

The Jesuit priest Juan María de Salvatierra eventually managed to establish the first permanent Spanish settlement in Baja California, the Misión Nuestra Senora de Loreto Conchó. Founded on October 19, 1697, the mission become the religious center of the peninsula and administrative capital of Las Californias. From there, other Jesuits went out to establish other settlements throughout the lower two-thirds of the peninsula, founding 17 missions and several visitas (sub-missions) between 1697 and 1767. [10]

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 Gulf of California, 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.

During the sixty years that the Jesuits were permitted to work 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. [11] 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. Gaspar de Portolà was appointed Governor of Las Californias, with orders to supervise the Jesuit expulsion and oversee the installation of replacement Franciscan priests. [12]

The Franciscans, under the leadership of Fray Junípero Serra, took charge of the missions and closed or consolidated several of the existing installations. 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 new northern missions, and the remainder returned to Europe. [13]

Governor Portolà was put in command of an expedition to travel north and establish new settlements at San Diego and Monterey. Serra went along as leader of the missionaries, to establish missions in those places. [14] On the way north, Serra founded Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá. Francisco Palóu was left in charge of the existing missions, and founded the Visita de la Presentación in 1769.

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


Baja California (state)

Baja California Sur

In chronological order

Jesuit Establishments (16841767)

Franciscan Establishments (17681773)

Dominican Establishments (17741834)

Father-Presidents of the Baja California Mission System

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

Eusebio Kino Italian Jesuit missionary

Eusebio Francisco Kino was an Italian Jesuit, missionary, geographer, explorer, cartographer and astronomer born in the Territory of the Bishopric of Trent, then part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. For the last 24 years of his life he worked in the region then known as the Pimería Alta, modern-day Sonora in Mexico and southern Arizona in the United States. He explored the region and worked with the indigenous Native American population, including primarily the Tohono O'Odham, Sobaipuri and other Upper Piman groups. He proved that the Baja California Peninsula is not an island by leading an overland expedition there. By the time of his death he had established 24 missions and visitas.

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.

Mexican Federal Highway 1 highway in Mexico

Federal Highway 1 is a free (libre) part of the federal highway corridors of Mexico, and the highway follows the length of the Baja California Peninsula from Tijuana, Baja California, in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, in the south. The road connects with Via Rapida, which merges into the American Interstate 5 (I-5) at the international border south of San Ysidro, California.

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Norte Spanish mission in Baja California, Mexico

Mission Guadalupe was founded by the Dominican missionary Félix Caballero in June 1834, at the site of the modern community of Guadalupe, Baja California. This was the last of the new Dominican missions in Baja California and the only one begun after Mexico had gained its independence in 1821.

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

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.

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.

Juan María de Salvatierra Italian Jesuit priest and missionary

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

José Francisco Ortega Chumash patriarch was a Spanish soldier and earlyAlta California. A member of the Portola expedition in 1769, Ortega stayed on to become the patriarch of an important Californio family.

Guaycura people indigenous people of Baja California

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.

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 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Huasinapi Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mission Guadalupe was established by the Jesuit Everardo Helen in 1720, at the Cochimí settlement of Huasinapí in the Sierra de la Giganta about 40 kilometers west of Mulegé, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Misión Nuestra Señora de los Dolores del Sur Chillá Spanish mission in Baja California Sur, Mexico

The Jesuit missionary Clemente Guillén founded Mission Dolores in 1721 and sponsored by the Marqués de Villapuente de la Peña, on the Gulf coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico, about midway between Loreto and La Paz in 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.

Visita de la Presentación

During their brief presence in Baja California, the Franciscans established Visita de la Presentación, a subordinate mission station for Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó, about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) south of that mission.

Visita de San José de Magdalena Spanish visiting station in Baja California Sur, Mexico

The Visita de San José de Magdalena was founded in 1774 by the Dominican missionary Joaquín Valero to serve Cochimí Indians associated with the Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Nuestra Señora de Loreto historic Jesuit mission in Misiones Province, Argentina

Reducción de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, founded in 1610, was the first reductions established by the Jesuits in the Province of Paraguay in the Americas during the Spanish colonial period. The site is located in the Candelaria Department of Misiones Province, Argentina.

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, 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.

Spanish missions in South America

The Spanish missions in South America comprise a series of Jesuit Catholic religious outposts established by Spanish Catholics in order to spread the Christian doctrine among the local natives.

References

  1. Burckhalter, David, Sedgwick, Mina, and Fontana, Bernard L. (2013), Baja California Missions, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, p.27. Downloaded from Project Muse.
  2. 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.
  3. Meigs, Peveril, "The Kiliwa Indians of Lower California". Iberoamerica No. 15. University of California, Berkeley.
  4. Schmal, John P., Indigenous Baja, http://www.houstonculture.org/mexico/baja.html, accessed 1 Apr 2016
  5. Burckhalter, David, Sedgwick, Mina, and Fontana, Bernard L. (2013), Baja California Missions, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, p. 7. Downloaded from Project Muse.
  6. Jackson, Robert H., 1981, Epidemic Disease and Population Decline in the Baja California Missions, 1697-1834. Southern California Quarterly 63:308-346. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  7. Jackson, Robert H. (1986), "Patterns of Demographic Change in the Missions of Southern Baja California", Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, Vol. 8, NO. 2, pp. 173-279. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  8. Jackson, Robert H. (1981), "Epidemic Disease and Population Decline in the Baja California Missions, 1697-1834", Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 4, pp 308-341. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  9. Burckhalter et al, p. 17; Bolton, 1936
  10. Crosby, Harry W. (1994), Antigua California, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, pp. 20-26, p.179
  11. Robert Michael Van Handel, "The Jesuit and Franciscan Missions in Baja California." M.A. thesis. University of California, Santa Barbara, 1991.
  12. Engelhardt, pp. 275-77
  13. Robert Michael Van Handel, "The Jesuit and Franciscan Missions in Baja California." M.A. thesis. University of California, Santa Barbara, 1991.
  14. Engelhardt, pp. 3-18
  15. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (Guadalupe) accessed Jan 2017
  16. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (La Purísima) accessed Jan 2017
  17. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (Comondú) accessed Jan 2017
  18. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (Los Dolores Chilla) accessed Jan 2017
  19. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (San Luis Gonzaga) accessed Jan 2017)
  20. http://www.visitmexico.com/es/cultura-e-historia-en-el-corazon-de-la-paz (Cathedral built on Jesuit mission site) accessed Jan 2017
  21. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (Santa Rosa de las Palmas) accessed Jan 2017
  22. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (Santiago) and https://www.google.com/maps/search/maps/@23.4754437,-109.7184842,284m/data=!3m1!1e3 (map label) accessed Jan 2017
  23. http://vivabaja.com/missions4/ (San José del Cabo) and Google Earth (map label at GPS coordinates) accessed Jan 2017

Further reading