Author Topic: 'Baja' was California FIRST! Some history on the peninsula. The Spanish Missions  (Read 15513 times)

David K

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 12
    • View Profile
The Jesuit Order of the Catholic Faith was charged with converting the native people of California to a 'European' style of living. This was a precursor to the colonization of California by the Spanish Empire which had already occupied the mainland of Mexico and Central and South America.

Padre Eusebio Kino was the first Jesuit to try and build a mission in California, in 1683. His first attempt was at La Paz, where Cortez himself tried to build a colony in 1535 (a year or two after California was 'discovered' by Fortun Jimenez, a mutineer who was killed by the natives in La Paz... the exact date is unknown. When Kino's La Paz mission (he named 'Guadalupe') failed, he tried again at San Bruno, 15 miles north of Loreto. The San Bruno mission and fort failed and was abandoned in 1685.

Because of the failures by Kino, the Jesuits changed their methods and negotiated with the king of Spain to have autonomy of their project and control over the soldiers Spain provided for protection against hostile natives. The King (Carlos II) agreed, but told the Jesuits they would need to secure all funding themselves, even pay the soldiers' wages.

The first mission founded under the new system was at Loreto, in 1697. As funds became available and new population centers were discovered, more missions were built north and south of Loreto.

California was believed by most to be an island, despite the repeated explorations that failed to get beyond the Colorado River delta. Maps well into the 1700's kept showing California as an island until Jesuit Padre Consag's expedition in 1746. It was then that the Jesuits desired to connect their California missions with those in Sonora, on the Mexican mainland.

Between 1697 and Consag's expedition of 1746, the Jesuits founded 14 missions north and south of Loreto and many dozens of 'visitas' (satellite visiting stations of the head mission). Once it was certain in their minds that California was a peninsula and not an island, missions began to be built to the north:
1752) Santa Gertrudis
1762) San Borja
1766) Calamajue... moved and renamed Santa Maria, in 1767.

Then the 'end' came to the Jesuit world in New Spain (Mexico)! Rumors were spread that the Jesuits were keeping riches acquired in California (gold, silver, pearls) and not sharing it with the king. A secret order was delivered to the Jesuit padres assembled in Loreto, on February 2, 1768. Captain Gaspar de Portola was in charge of the Jesuit expulsion, and three days later the Jesuits sailed from California to begin their exile back to Europe.

The truth was that the Jesuits barely survived and producing food was all they had time for. When the missions were inventoried, the Visitador General from Spain, Jose de Galvez was shocked to see the poverty at the missions. Other than alter pieces and paintings that adorned the Jesuit churches, there was not much else that could be called 'treasure'.

During their over 70 years in California, the Jesuits founded 17 missions and had only closed or reduced to visita status 3 (Ligui, Santa Rosa, and San Jose del Cabo). The Franciscans were chosen to take over the 14 missions in California, but that was reduced to 12 when Galvez ordered 2 more closed (Los Dolores and San Luis Gonzaga). The Franciscans, led by Junipero Serra, were under a different arrangement and the autonomy enjoyed by the Jesuits was a thing of the past.

The Franciscans were ordered to head north of the peninsula and build missions at San Diego and Monterey to secure the vast land known as 'Alta (Upper) California' for the King of Spain, before the Russians or British did. The Portola/Serra expedition of 1769 did just that. Once Serra saw the potential of Alta California, he wanted to concentrate their efforts in the fresh land. The California peninsula missions were transferred to the Dominican Order after just 5 years and the Dominicans founded 9 more missions on the peninsula to fill in the gap between San Fernando (Serra's first mission 40 miles northwest of Mission Santa Maria) and San Diego.

California would become known as Baja (Lower) California or Antigua (Old) California to clear which California was being discussed. The new territory from San Diego and beyond was called Alta or Nueva (New) California.

The two California's were not separated administratively until March 26, 1804. The new nation of Mexico achieved its independence in 1821, following 11 years of war with Spain. The California missions survived during this period by trading with hunters, foreign vessels, and among themselves. Mexico would secularize the Spanish missions, but the California missions were allowed to continue on as it was so distant from Mexico City and the native people were still not fully converted. Two more missions were founded after 1821, one in Alta California at Sonoma (1823) and the final one in Baja California, at Guadalupe (1834).

The United States would keep Alta California after the war with Mexico ended in 1848, and the Americans dropped Alta from the name. The peninsula, which was California first, would remain as part of Mexico, would forever be known as Baja California.

Here are some examples of missions founded by the Jesuits, as seen in this century:

Oldest ruins in California, San Bruno (1683)

Loreto, Head and Mother of All California Missions (1697)

San Javier (1699)

Santa Rosalia de Mulege (1705)

San Jose de Comondu (1708)

San Ignacio (1728)

San Luis Gonzaga (1737)

Santa Gertrudis (1752)

San Borja (1762)

The southern area of Jesuit California:

'San Juan Malibat' is at Ligui and 'San Luis' is San Luis Gonzaga

The northern area of Jesuit California:

The 17 Jesuit Missions (using their full name)

1) Nuestra Seņora de Loreto Concho 1697-1829

2) San Francisco Javier de Biaundo 1699-1817 (moved 5 miles south in 1710)

3) San Juan Bautista de Ligui/ Malibat 1705-1721

4) Santa Rosalia de Mulege 1705-1828

5) San Jose de Comondu 1708-1827 (moved 22 miles south in 1736)

6) La Purisima Concepcion de Cadegomo 1720-1822 (moved 10 miles south in 1735)

7a) Nuestra Seņora del Pilar de la Paz Airapi 1720-1748 (moved to Todos Santos in 1748)

7b) Nuestra Seņora del Pilar de la Paz (Todos Santos) 1748-1840

8 ) Nuestra Seņora de Guadalupe de Huasinapi 1720-1795

9a) Nuestra Seņora de los Dolores Apate 1721-1741 (moved to La Pasion in 1741)

9b) Nuestra Seņora de los Dolores Chilla (La Pasion) 1741-1768

10) Santiago el Apostal Aiņini 1724-1795 (moved 2 miles south in 1734)

11) Nuestro Seņor San Ignacio Kadakaaman 1728-1840

12) San Jose del Cabo Aņuiti 1730-1840 (moved 5 miles north, then back, then 1 mile north. Reduced from full mission to visita from 1748-1768)

13) Santa Rosa de las Palmas (Todos Santos) 1733-1748 (absorbed by moved La Paz mission in 1748)

14) San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui 1737-1768

15) Santa Gertrudis 1752-1822

16) San Francisco de Borja Adac 1762-1818

17a) Calamajue 1766-1767 (moved 30 miles north in 1767)

17b) Santa Maria de los Angeles 1767-1769

See more of the Jesuit founded missions:
The new book about the founding of all California missions:
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 09:00:14 AM by David K »


  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 14
    • View Profile
Thank you for sharing this excellent article about this wonderful place.