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Missions were created to bring the word of God to a new land. They thought the Indians deserved a chance to go to heaven.. The country of Spain helped the Catholic church and the Spanish priests. They wanted to strengthen the Spanish Empire over in the New World. The thought they could teach the Indians how to be like the Spanish. Spain thought the Indians could become Spanish citizens. This would give the king more power. The missions were set up between 1769 and 1823 in California. The Spanish also build forts called "presidios." Presidios were supposed to protect California from foreign troops like the Russians and the British. Spain already had missions in Mexico. They went to Alta California which is not a part of Mexico. They made a trail of missions called the El Camino Real. El Camino Real means "Royal Highway" in Spanish. They called it this to honor the king of Spain. Each mission had a Franciscan priest called a "padre." Padre means "father" in Spanish. The head of the priests was Padre Junipero Serra.
San Diego Mission
The mission I picked is the very first mission. It has a long name. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala. It is located in San Diego California. Blessed Father Junipero Serra founded it. It was first made on July 16, 1769. Padre Serra liked the site because it was near the San Diego River.
The San Diego Mission was completed in 1774. But in 1775 it was destroyed by Yuman Indians who were angry at the Fathers for destroying their way of life. The mission was taking the people of the tribe. It also took land and other resources. So they burned down the mission and killed one of the padres. Father Luis Jayme ran out of the fire and was beaten to death by the Indians.
In 1776 the Padre Serra decided to make the mission at a new location. They moved closer to the Indians. When they decided to make a new mission they uses adobe for the walls and they used tile roofs. They used this because they don't burn quickly. They did not want to be attacked again. Adobe is heavy clay soil. The mission was also made of wood for the beams. The priests taught the Indians about making adobe into bricks. They dug a ditch and mixed clay with grass or straw.
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"The Role of Missions in History." 123HelpMe.com. 28 Jan 2020
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The new San Diego Mission was finished in 1780. It was shaped in a quadrangle. The mission and other buildings were built around nice patio with a good garden. The mission had 50,000 acres of land. They grew all kinds of crops like wheat and corn. They grew beans too. They had vegetable gardens and fruit orchards and they grew grapes in vineyards. They had 20,000 sheep, 10,000 cattle and 1,250 horses.
Indian Life on the Missions
Yuman Indians first came to the missions to look at all the strange objects the Spanish brought. They were not used to guns or pots or pans or horses. Later many of the Indians became sick because the padres had germs they were not used to. Their shamans couldn't heal them so they went to the fathers for help. They thought since they brought the diseases then they would know how to cure them. Most of the people who got sick died.
Indians also went to the mission looking for food. But they did not understand that the priests wanted them to stay forever. They had to give up their way of life in exchange for food, blankets, shelter and clothes. They had to think about God like the Spanish did. They became Catholic. When they joined the mission they had to work there too. The Indians had tolearn Spanish and go to church. They got baptized by the priests were called "Neophytes." They worked really hard making adobe bricks and pots. They also worked to take care of the animals and the crops. But the worst thing was that the Spanish soldiers who guarded the mission were very mean to them. They beat them with whips or killed them. Spanish people were used to whipping but the Indians had never been punished like that.They were really bad to the Indian women. They abused the women. The disease and bad treatment is what made the Yuman leaders burn the first San Diego Mission down.
A typical day in the mission.
$ Bells ring at sunrise
$ Wake up
$ Go to church
$ Eat Breakfast
1. Worked in the fields and workshops
2. Plow with oxen or harvest crops
3. Help Building Mission with Adobe. Made 28 bricks in a day.
1. Made food
2. Took care of children
3. Raised chickens
4. Weaved cloth
5. Made Olive Oil
6. Roasted corn
1. Gathered Olives and other fruit in baskets.
2. Older boys took care of horses
$ Lunch at Noon
$ Go to church
$ Go to church. Learn church ideas
$ Free time.
$ Off on Sundays and feast days. But they had to stay in church half the day.
Mission Life for the Padres
The Padres thought they were working for God. They wanted to share their faith with the Indians.
Father Serra thought he had a really good thing to tell the Indians. He wanted to help them out and teach them how to farm in a better way so they could support themselves. They didn't think the Indians were civilized because the men did not wear clothes. They painted their bodies and pierced their noses with a shell. The women tattooed their faces.
A typical day for a Padre was like this.
$ Prayed seven times a day starting at 2 a.m.
$ Said their prayers
$ Led mass
$ Showed the Indians how to work
$ Taught the children
$ Wrote letters to church officials
$ Kept records of marriages, baptisms and funerals. Also kept track of what the mission owned.
$ Went to bed at 9 p.m.
Most Padres served a mission for 10 years. It took 2 years to get a letter back from Spain. Sometimes family members died and it took years to hear about it. Some got very sad because of the hard conditions. Padres in California got sick too. They complained about headaches and trouble with their eyes. Padres could be nice and the Indians might like them very much. Other padres were cruel. They made the Indians stay by being harsh. All the priests tried to get the Indians to be baptized. Priests at San Diego suffered for the mission. Father Junipero Serra had sores on his legs and walked with a limp. Father Luis Jayme was killed for being a padre. Many of the Indians became Catholic and stayed Catholic after the mission closed The fathers thought this was good work.
During the Mexican Occupation of California, the missions were orderd to become Secularized. This means that the church could not control it anymore. In 1846 the Mission was occupied by the U.S. Cavalry. The soldiers fixed the missions up. In 1862 Presiden Lincoln gave the Missions back to the Catholic church. In 1976, Pope Paul the VI (6th) named it a minor basilica (church). People still go to church there today.