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line of California
missions, founded between 1769 and 1823, stretches about 650 miles from San
Diego in the south to Sonoma
in the north. Along this trail called
El Camino Reál (The Royal Road) are the visible reminders of a colorful period
to the mission days are all around us, in the names of streets and towns, in
the architecture of our buildings, in the symbols of the mission bell and the
red tile roof. Learning about the missions
helps us to understand California
the 1760's Spain
controlled what is now Mexico
(then known as New Spain). When Russian ships began exploring the coast
north of Mexico,
decided to secure the land by sending an expedition headed by Gaspár de Portolá
and Father Junípero Serra to establish Spanish missions along this coast. Portolá was named Governor of Alta (Upper) California
and Serra became President of the missions.
Serra was a missionary priest in the Franciscan Order, a religious group founded
by St. Francis of Assisi
under the Roman Catholic Church. Serra
established the pattern for the missions, spacing them about one day's walk
apart and placing two padres at each site, one to serve as business manager
and the other as spiritual leader.
gained its independence from Spain
in 1821 and soon resented the expense of supporting the missions. In 1833 the Mexican government ruled that all
mission lands should be transferred from the Catholic Church to the pueblo,
or civilian community. This transfer
was called secularization, and it
ended the period of prosperity and influence of the missions.
focus of the California Missions Fact
Cards is on the physical mission, particularly the buildings. The histories of these mission buildings are
traced from their establishment to the present.
The facts have been gathered from many sources, and are selected to be
those of interest and use to elementary school students. Though there are common factors in the descriptions
of the missions, each of the 21 has unique features which are included in the
Fact Cards are designed as supplemental
material to extend and enhance elementary school units on California
history. The student will also want to
explore sources that describe life at a mission for the Franciscan missionaries,
for the people native to the area, and for the soldiers who protected the missions.
The influence of the missions on the Native Californians and the interactions
among all mission residents deserves careful study.