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California Missions

As a fan of history - the good, the bad, and the mediocre - the efforts of the Missions in California captured my interest... and after years of talking about it, I've embarked on the journey to visit all 21 missions in California. And heck, I'll do a modest effort to even make it educational. For a change.

The overall effort was driven by Spain, and wasn't "just" in California; worldwide, there was a whole colonization effort - basically, large existing countries (think England, France, Spain, Portugal and the like) to extend their influence to distant lands. And, of course, collect taxes and otherwise exploit those lands' resources and people. It was good for business, and heck, you've heard about the takes of Christopher Columbus, sir Francis Drake, Amerigo Vespucci and the like - this is a good part of what they were up to on those ships all those many months at sea. Another 30 or so missions were also established present-day Mexico; in the terms of the day, those were in Baja California, and those in California were known as being in Alta California.

As an aside, yes, this could be tied even back to Columbus famous journys to the Americas.. even if he thought he was sailing directly to the Indies (y'know, the Asian continent) - no one knew there was a gigantic hunk of land in between. Columbus sent west by Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to convert the local people to Roman Catholics, part of a convoluted agreement with the Church to lay claim to lands (not otherwise claimed by others), but that's probably too much context.

In a nutshell, Spain pushed for their creation out of arrangements with Rome and the Roman Catholic church. By 1819, Spain was looking to cut costs in operating these remote locations (to the point that a planned mission in 1827 for the area of Santa Rosa was scrapped). Add to the equation the end of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain (1810-1821), and it was clear the math wasn't in favor of Spain in any way. Alta California pledged it allegiance to the newly formed Mexico and the Mexican government (formed in 1822), with Alta California being handled as a territory of Mexico. The Mexican government sought to secularize (de-establish the church's influence) of the mission lands and freeing most of the Native American people from missionary rule, and put the Act in place in 1833. (This was more out of concern with Spain's ongoing influence on the area and less about the treatment of the Native Americans, though it also was a bonus to the government: it seized much of the mission's land and buildings and sold or gave it away.)

Years later, when California became part of the United States (following Mexico's loss in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), several presidential degrees (including those from Buchanan and Lincon) helped restore some semblance of the land and property back to local religious control - though by this time, many of the missions were in varying states of ruin and decay.

The California missions - in number order of when each was established, noting year it was founded and present-day city:

  1. Mission San Diego de Alcala (1769, San Diego)
  2. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (1770, Carmel)
  3. Mission San Antonio de Padua (1771, Jolon)
  4. Mission San Gabriel Arcangel (1771, San Gabriel)
  5. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (1772, San Luis Obispo)
  6. Mission San Francisco de Asis (aka Mission dolores) (1776, San Francisco)
  7. Mission San Juan Capistrano (1776, San Juan Capistrano)
  8. Mission Santa Clara de Asis (1777, Santa Clara)
  9. Mission San Buenaventura (1782, Ventura)
  10. Mission Santa Barbara (1786, Santa Barbara)
  11. Mission La Purisima Concepcion (1787, Lompoc)
  12. Mission Santa Cruz (1791, Santa Cruz)
  13. Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (1791, Soledad)
  14. Mission San Jose (1797, Fremont)
  15. Mission San Juan Bautista (1797, San Juan Bautista)
  16. Mission San Miguel Arcangel (1797, San Miguel)
  17. Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana (1797, Los Angeles)
  18. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia (1798, Oceanside)
  19. Mission Santa Ines (1804, Solvang)
  20. Mission San Rafael Arcangel (1817, San Rafael)
  21. Mission San Francisco Solano (1823, Sonoma)
  22. ... and the never really started Mission Santa Rosa (begun 1827, then the effort was abandoned)

Learn more: Wikipedia: Spanish Missions in Alta California * Wikipedia: Spanish Missions in Baja California (present-day Mexico)

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