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Author: Robert K. Morse
Title: The Mission is Our Future: Defining a Californian Identity on the Historical Memory of the Missions
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
November 2000

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Source: The Mission is Our Future: Defining a Californian Identity on the Historical Memory of the Missions
Robert K. Morse

vol. 3, no. 3, November 2000
Article Type: Article

The Mission is Our Future: Defining a Californian Identity on the Historical Memory of the Missions

Robert K. Morse


I drafted my thesis from an idea that I found in the New York Times in late August last year. The article was entitled "American Acropolis" and dealt with the reconstruction efforts at the Old Stone Church, which is a part of the mission San Juan Capistrano. I am particularly interested in why we continue to study the missions and what we can gain from the history. Kevin Starr argued that as California becomes increasing Latin we look to the missions as a symbol for the future. If we are to take the words of Kevin Starr seriously, then history becomes a lens through which we can gauge our progress and see where we are going. In order to understand the importance of the missions to the California experience we must understand the many ways in which the mission space has been used. I shall argue that it is in this multiplicity of uses that the mission continues to give definition to what it means to be Californian.

First off, the mission serves an educational purpose with a California initiative being enforced requiring every fourth grade student to complete a project on the missions. Second, there is the obvious spiritual purpose of the mission space, which at several sites continues to be a place of worship. Third, the mission in many respects was a place of social activism or at least a site of critique for social structures. This critique is evident in the art decorating the mission space. Fourth, there is the presence of commerce and the selling of the mission ideals through tourism, making Mission San Juan Capistrano the third most visited site in Orange county right behind Disney land and Knott's Berry Farm. The final and perhaps the most important use of the mission is precisely as an emblem for the authentication of the California experience. A revival in mission lore and a romanticized view of the mission gave a purpose to California as it came out of the boom of the gold rush and was confronted with the reality of competition with the eastern seaboard. Beyond the Gold Rush, Californians struggled with a reason for their settling California. A view of the missions as a defining purpose for California developed at the end of the last century. By looking at the multiplicity of uses through both time and space of the California Mission, I believe we can understand why the missions continue to be studied and, furthermore, what the purpose of history really is, in the great equation of identity. History tells us who we were so that we might better understand who we are becoming. In this manner, historical memory is essential to our understanding of our identity.


At the end of the last century, Frank W. Blackmar wrote a book entitled, Spanish Institutions of the Southwest. In it he described the rise and fall of the Spanish colonial system in the New World.


Part of this system included missions established by brothers of various catholic orders ranging from the Dominican to the Franciscan and Jesuit. At the end of the seventh chapter, which described the history of the California Missions, Blackmar wrote, "Some missions have crumbled to dust, others have been transformed in attempts to preserve them, and all will soon be forgotten in the new civilization of steam, and electricity; of free institutions and universal intelligence, the civilization wrought by wheat, fruit, and gold." [1] Much to Blackmar’s dismay, Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of many missions that is far from forgotten. In August 1999, the mission received $1 million in state funds to continue a project in the restoration of the dome on the Great Stone Church. The whole project is budgeted for over $10 million. Blackmar was writing his thoughts on the impact of the missions at a time when many in California were looking towards the missions with rose-colored glasses. In 1884, Helen Hunt Jackson published her novel, Ramona, which romanticized life at that mission. Others would soon follow. In fact, a whole era of revivalist fervor sprang up. The California Digital Library and the University of California at Riverside have rather substantial collections of photographs taken of the missions between the years of 1895-1945.

The Missions remain a unique part of California and its heritage. They are as much a part of the California landscape as the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact, the Division on Tourism uses images of the facade of the Mission San Diego de Alcala as part of its promotion materials for that region. In many other areas of life the missions hold a certain power and prestige. Many of the Missions still exist as parishes or even schools. Mission motifs are used in many of the buildings throughout California. [2]

Nevertheless, the mission experience has been controversial. Primarily, the denigrators of the Spanish Missions in California claim that the Franciscan friars destroyed the indigenous population through the introduction of disease and the use of corporal punishment. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a whole slew of writings and opinion circulated speaking to the destruction of indigenous cultures. This group of writing was known as the Black Legend. Those sympathetic to the Franciscans claim that the friars were acting out of their own world view. Strong discipline was well within the scope of the Franciscan mindset.

What is at stake here? Moreover, why is it important? I am arguing that history plays a critical role in the formation and verification of identity. History helps us define our present state of being and predict where we are going. Benjamin Barber, author of Aristocracy for Everyone, writes "One generation engaged in a kind of time travel, visiting their forebears in order to steal a glimpse into the future, patterning their destinies on the template of the past." [3] History provides a base from which to operate. It becomes a point of reference, helping give a definition to current experiences. "Historical memory" is the way the past defines who we are in the present. In my opinion, the Spanish missions of California remain an essential part of the "historical memory" of California. Our view of the missions and their history helps us further understand California as a whole.

In his introduction to Inventing Leonardo, A. Richard Turner writes, " Memories are essential to any wise perspective on the present. The significances of Leonardo, and surely they are multiple—as are those of any great figure—are only unearthed and made relevant to our own time through the archaeology of memory. Without those memories, the living present which is the only holy ground we can know with certainty is barren soil." [4] Although Turner is writing about how we interpret Leonardo and not how we interpret the missions, it still underscores the importance of memory.

Defining California as a whole is somewhat complicated. There is no single definition for that which composes California. Rather, multiple definitions come together to create California identity. The state is geographically, and more importantly, socially diverse. The mission system reflects that diversity. Although the same architectural and social models were the basis for each mission, the way that the ideal was articulated was quite diverse across the spectrum of buildings that composed the mission system. In this way, the missions begin to act as a lens reflecting different perspectives of the same ideal. Each lens in turn offers a unique way of looking at things.

Californians, like the rest of us, long for symbols to latch onto to help us articulate our place within the greater realm of society. Through looking at history and having a response to it, we learn where we stand not only within an historical framework but also within our present day society. I hope to point out the various ways that the missions have become a symbol for California, and the problems that arise from the creation of such a symbol. The discussion will ultimately deal with the use of historical memory in the formation of identity.

If we are to hold the missions as an "emblem of the future," we must first engage in a discussion about the importance of symbols. Nathan Knobler in his book Visual Dialogue writes,

Man is an image maker. From the paintings on the cave walls of Paleolithic man a record of the visual arts has continued to our own time, and though the motivation for these images appears to change from era to era, this ample evidence to affirm the need of men to transform their experiences into visual symbols.(Knobler, 3)

In this study of the uses of the mission, I will discuss how it is that the mission means so many things to so many people throughout so much of California’s history. History by its nature is a study of biases and interpretations. When we look at a particular document what we as students of history must do is to read through the biases, seeing what the greater truth the narrative might tell us.

The process of history is a process of power dynamics. The student of history is well versed in the relationship of power to the biases of history. A descendant of the Chumash Indians holding a sign in protest of the veneration of Junipero Serra is going to have a different set of biases, then a Franciscan priest who believes very strongly in veneration of Junípero Serra. Each applies their biases to the interpretation of the history. It is precisely these biases that give history its meaning. Through the analysis of what is in the historical record and more often what is left out we can better understand the relationships of the participants within history.

History gives us insight into a particular viewpoint. However, we must remember by whose set of glasses we are viewing things. This study will focus on the way in which the missions were viewed over time, and how that viewing has ultimately affected some of the social trends in California. California, as a state of many diverse peoples, gains a richer definition from the experiences of diverse peoples. In this way, it makes sense that looking at the missions from different angles would provide a fuller understanding of how the missions have been viewed.

As an introduction, I offer my own perspectives and how I became interested in the subject. The summer before I went into the eighth grade, my family and I moved to Southern California. My father had just accepted a position as a headmaster at a small Episcopal Day School. One day, within the first month of school, I went to the library to check out the book. On the tables were a series of models depicting one of the missions in the California Mission System. When I asked the librarian what the models were for and she remarked that the fourth grade had been finishing up their mission projects. I was surprised to learn that the state mandated a fourth grade study of the missions. Not having grown up in the California I wanted to learn more.


I soon discovered that the missions had to worked their way into the popular culture. The San Diego Padres, el camino real, and Mission Bay were all aspects of my everyday life that owed a direct connection to the mission system. Without even being conscious of its happening the missions started to hold a significant impact on my life and how I was defining myself. I have always been a relatively religious person, and the concept of a mission became fascinating to me. I wanted to learn more about the missions, the priests, and the success or failure of the mission system. Catholicism is still very much a part of the Latino community in Southern California. As I rode to school each morning I remember the image of the Santa María de Guadalupe marking the entrance to Chicano Park. The symbols that composed my California landscape had their origin within mission walls.

In the course of this thesis, I will be focusing on five sets of purposes or uses for the California Mission sites. First, and foremost, I will be looking at the educational purposes of the mission. I believe this is important because the missions exist today as educational spaces, site for school tours and archaeological digs. This particular purpose seems to play itself out in the other purposes or uses. Behind the push for tourist dollars or the artist's brush is the underlying goal to educate people about the missions. Second, I will be looking at the spiritual foundations of the missions and how they have affected the dynamics of California. Many of the missions continue to be space for worship. Third, I wish to discuss the commercial aspects of the mission. The idea of tourism not only defines the missions today but also continues to shape much of California. Fourth, I will be looking at the mission as a site of social criticism or critique. I will match trends within the mission' early years with social phenomenon that still happen today. Finally, I will be discussing the authenticative purposes of the missions. By this, I mean how the mission became a symbol of California and what that does for our understanding of the importance of history. As parts of a system, the missions were just as different from one another as they were similar. Each mission seems to be a particular interpretation of the ideal based on the location, labor, and a variety of factors.

As I conceptualized this project, I thought it best to publish it as a multimedia project. The focus of the project depends on the way in which we view the missions through time and space. I will be using an image-based approach, coupling visual evidence with many of the points I make. A web-based environment will not only allow me to distribute text and image on the same screen but also allow for connections between the materials.

As I have learned, symbols often hold oppositionary and contradictory meanings. The Virgin Mary can be both a symbol of the resistance to and accommodation of the colonial system. By understanding the nature of symbols, the nature of history, and the nature of "historical memory", I believe that we can better understand the nature of identity. To this end, we might be able to understand what a statement of identity it is to say that we hold the missions as emblems of our future.


This project is designed to give you a feel for some of the many uses of the California Missions. The viewer of this site will have the option to take one of five tours through the missions based on a different perspective of the practicality of the missions. By going on the different tours and looking at the various images and perusing the websites that are linked to the tour, the viewer will experience the missions in one of several possible ways.

Just select who you want to follow and don't forget to look around, you never know what you might find.



The missions continue to be part of the curriculum goals of California school systems. Check out any web site for an elementary school in California and chances are that you will find a set of links devoted to the fourth grade mission project. The missions themselves are sites for education sponsoring field trips and archaeological digs. Many of the missions have docent programs. Volunteers tell visitors of the history of the missions. Colleges and universities have classes on mission history that do on-site excavation. There are several preservation and research associations that students and scholars can take part in. Education seems to be a defining purpose. The more we learn about our surroundings, the better able we are to make a statement about our relationship to our surroundings. The missions were perhaps one of the first truly multicultural experiences in California. The Indians came into the missions in relative peace and incorporated the aspects of Catholicism into their own rituals of community building.

Franciscan Educators

The Franciscans designed the mission to lend to the total integration of the indigenous population. Each mission had two priests. These priests had the goal of teaching the Indians Church doctrine as well as a craft. The Franciscans taught the Indians Spanish and educated them in the handicraft, agriculture, and the particulars of worship. As an Order, the Franciscans continue to publish a substantial number of books each year.

The missions continue to be part of the greater educational scope of California. It is not hard to find lesson plans on the missions. Take, for example, a lesson published on the site for the Schools of California Online Resources for Education. The lesson is called Your Mission; the last Mission. This is a project based lesson plan for the fourth grade. The objectives are clearly outlined. The students are asked to study the missions, their geography, their layout, their impact on the people, in order to present a proposal for the creation of the last mission. Similar lessons, on SCORE web site use role-playing as a means of setting the stage for a problem-based activity.

Rob Garretson created The California Missions On-line Project as part of the requirements for the completion of his master in art of educational design. The project includes a section on each of the twenty-one missions. This site also includes a series of short quizzes that the student can take after reading the material covered in each of the mission descriptions. Houghton Mifflin published a companion site to its text "Oh, California." The site invites teachers to print worksheets and encourages internet research on the missions.

Lesson plans regarding the study of missions are not limited to the fourth grade level. Katy Roush developed a lesson that is geared toward the high-school student. A Study of Portola's Expedition uses role-playing to get students to act out the interactions between the Spanish explorers and the indigenous people they encountered in California. The students divide themselves into groups and assign different characters. At the beginning of the day, a situation concerning the expedition is given to them. Students are encouraged to do outside research.

California Education Standards

Mission study is first required in the California School system at the fourth grade. In regards to the standards Despina Costopoulos, on behalf of the Secretary for education wrote, "The history of Spanish missions is an important part of California yesterday and today, however, curriculum selection is decided at the local level." Ms. Costopoulos went on to explain that California did establish a set of curriculum standards that the school's are expected to follow. In other words, it comes as close to a state mandate as possible, without "technically" being required.

As we can see from the guidelines, the missions play a key role in understanding the early social, political, cultural and economic institutions in California. These guidelines were established to set up standards so that every school in California would be required to at least meet these minimums. For the fourth grade, the subheading reads "California: a Changing state." The impact of the Franciscans and the mission system seems to be the focus of the study. The grade level looks at all major social, political, economic, and cultural institutions in a forming state.

To support the study of the mission, Mission San Juan Capistrano, for instance, provides several educational experiences. Summer camps provide the opportunity to learn about the missions over an extended period of time. These camps also provide exposure to various aspects of mission era culture and crafts. The fourth Saturday of every month, Mission San Juan Capistrano invites children between the ages of seven to twelve to come to the Mission for the morning. According the website, each class comes complete with mission era appropriate snack, craft, and achievement certificate.

Foucaultian Analysis on the Virtual Missions

One of the particular aspects of Mission culture that caught my attention was the fact that the missions that much cyber-culture exist placing the missions in a realm of intrigue. The web presence of many of the missions serves a multiplicity of uses in and of itself. The virtual mission exists today as a commercial entity. However, there is an overarching theme of education involved in the articulation of the virtual mission. To understand what I mean by the term Virtual Mission we will look at two, one at and the other at,

Michael Foucault wrote about the connection between space and purpose in his book, Crime and Punishment. He described the effects of architecture on the establishment of a power relationship. The mission as an architectural space exerted the Franciscan presence in California. It established a power relationship for the Franciscans. Another section addresses this idea a little further.

Go to the Spanish Missions Virtual Tour. Take some time to look around and get a feel for the information presented. A fourth grade class created this site, so the language is that of an elementary level. However, the site shows a good example of a virtual tour or virtual field trip. The availability of the internet in the classroom has brought about the providence of the virtual field trip. Students gather around the computer screen looking at what they might actually encounter on real field. However, the virtual field trip lacks context. There is something about piling into a car and going to the actual location. The novelty of immediacy sacrifices the true understanding of context. Students might see the picture of the kitchen, or notice the extravagance of the rebuilt church. However, one has no way of knowing if the students understand why it is important that the space is not original, or the dynamics of the social living space based on a total living conception of the mission.

Next, go to the history pages on the California missions site. These pages give brief historical notes about each of the California missions. The site also has a substantial section on mission-era music. Although, the site provides historical information it is primarily a commercial site. The site has an on-line order form for a gift shop. In many respects, the site mimics the presentation of actual missions whose primary focus and subsistence is tourism dollars.

The virtual mission, much like the real mission has a tone of education but does not exist for that sole purpose. The economics and politics of how it is used is just as important to understand as any other purpose it might have.


Education remains one of the central focuses of the California Missions. It is through continued education that we continue to define ourselves. We learn where we have been and predict where we are going. The California Department of Education believes in the value of mission education. Their defined curriculum standards include a study of the mission system and its impact on California. The original intent of the Franciscans was to educate the Indians and make them loyal citizens of the Spanish crown.

Although education is a major focus of the missions, many other uses of the mission space define this focus. The missions survive on tourist dollars. If we are to believe that the missions are cultural icons, we must also examine the implications of such a statement.

To support the missions is than to support California as a whole. This in term plays out in the world of politics and economics. To fight for the mission is not only a religious contestation but also a greater battle of identity. In this manner, the missions continue to be intimately connected to California, the changing state.



The Franciscans entered California at the precise time when the ideas of the Enlightenment were sweeping through Europe. A reaction to ideas of personal liberty and the overall glorification of the individual kindled the Franciscan desire to succeed in the New World. The Franciscans reacted to these liberal ideas that the individual, in fact, was not the dominant social force in society. They believed the contrary that the individual most bend to the needs of the society. The issue at hand here deals with the extent to which the religious motives of the Franciscans played out in a complete social structure and the power ideals they wished to enact in California. The colonial structure established by Spain was genius in its ability to exploit. Colonial Latin America by Burkholder and Johnson mentions the Spanish system exploited the Indians and those they settled to the point of death without killing the Indians straight off. In the battles between church and state in the new world, we can certainly see the truth of the statement. Michael Gonzalez writes in an essay about the conflict between church and state, "As we will see, whoever could master the Indians, or in other cases win their cooperation, settled the question of who ran California best, Franciscans or Governors." [1] In 1830, when the missions became secularized by the Mexican government, there were 48,000 Indians in California; they outnumbered the Franciscan priests 10 to one. [2] In order to accomplish the goals of hispanization the Franciscans used a staff of Indian leadership. John Johnson points out, "By convincing some of the local political elite to accept baptism, the missionaries were undoubtedly planning to have more Chumash follow their leaders examples." [3] The Franciscans believed that they could use the system of power already in place to help them accomplish their goals.

The other issue at hand in this section deals with the problems created by forcing conversion upon the indigenous population. The notion of false conversion and the problematic of syncretism is evident in many of the writings and in the continuation of native artistic trends in the decorative schemes of the missions. Although I do not believe I have any definitive answers to these problematics, the issues must still be addressed. Perhaps in working through this, we might be able to discover that history is not always about answers. The questions raised might be just as important a device for understanding the present as any possible conclusion might be.

The question of religion plays deeply into the relationship of "historical memory" and identity. Religious issues tend to have an ethereal quality about them. As religious people, we respond to spiritual issues. There are two things that one does not discuss at the dinner table: politics and religion. Nevertheless, if we are to share a meal as Californians or any other group we must first discuss the issues of religion, for they are intimately connected to our composition as people of faith or people without faith. Either way religion serves as a crucial element in the equation of identity and given the nature of the mission space as an institution of faith and belief that part of the equation must be addressed.

Spiritual Fathers

The Franciscans entered California with visions of grandeur. In letters their letters images of Eden are abundant. [4] Junípero Serra wrote, "Land is plentiful and good...Besides there are so many vines grown by nature and without help, that all it would require [is little work] to cultivate." [5] Fray Juan Crespi described the beauty of the land, "large vineyard of wild grapes and an infinity of rosebushes in full bloom." [6] Not only did rhetoric of a paradise full of new believers abound, but also, the language that regarded the Franciscans as Spiritual fathers to the Indians flourished at this time. Serra wrote, "The spiritual fathers should be able to punish their sons, the Indians, with blows." In this manner, Serra himself authorized the use of corporal punishment as a means of penitence and punishment for seemingly wayward Indians.

This tradition of viewing the Franciscans as spiritual fathers can be seen not only in the writings of the Franciscans at this time period but also in the way in which the Franciscans and the Indians were captured artistically. The best example of this is the sculpture that is outside of Mission San Fernando. This sculpture depicts a padre with arms wrapped around an Indian. The Indian is only half the size of the Franciscan. In many ways this depicts the unequal balance of power within the perception of the Franciscans among who the work.

There are other examples of the rhetoric of fatherhood in representing the interactions between the Franciscans and the Indians. One such example comes from Mission Santa Barbara and represents an Indian girl receiving a shirt or a blanket from the Franciscan Friar. In the drawing, there are several indicators of the Franciscan power dynamic. First, the father sits whereas the child stands. The child is also in the position of a curtsy to pay her respect to the priest. Second, the priest places his hand over the hands of the child. Although not evident from this copy of the image, the priest is placing a garment in the hands of the child. However, he does not offer it to her on the same plane as she receives. On the contrary, the priest asserts his authority over her by placing his hands above hers. The final indicator of an unequal balance of power is the sheer difference in size between the two individuals.

Franciscan and Indian Interaction

The Franciscans established a method for the Indians to oversee themselves in many respects. They established a process for the mission community to hold annual elections by which means the community would elect their own officials. [7] This use of Indians to govern Indians contributed to a rather significant trend within the study of colonial Latin America. It provided a means for the indigenous population to believe that the Spanish empowered them and blinded them in many respects from the repressive strategies of the Spanish. Steven Hackel, who has written a good deal on the labor practices of the Franciscans, wrote, " Thus the Spaniards’ use of and dependence on Indian officials reveal a noteworthy paradox of colonial history of the Americas: indirect rule no only reshaped Indian lives, but it also provided Indians with the means and the personnel to retain control over some aspects of their own communities, in some areas long after the collapse of colonial rule." [8] In terms of a system of power, Indian leadership provided the framework for a perception of legitimacy.

The Spanish used a system by which the indigenous people could rule themselves, in a supervised manner of course. The Spanish instituted a policy of congregacion. The Franciscans forced Indians into towns in order to facilitate their economic integration and religious instruction. Indians from different villages, who otherwise had little contact with other indigenous groups began to live, work, and pray together. [9] To facilitate the groupings, officials instigated a cabildo system. Most towns elected six to twelve regidores. The town elected two alcaldes to serve ex-oficio on the council. Felipe de Neve allowed Indians living in towns adjacent to the missions to elect their own officials. Neve wrote, "With the election and the appointment of a new Republic, the will of His Majesty will be fulfilled in the region, and under our direction, in the course of time, He will obtain in these Indians useful vassals for our religion and state." [10] Pablo Tac, a Luiseño, described the role of the alcaldes. He wrote, "In the afternoon, the alcades gather at the house of the missionary. They bring the news of that day, and if the missionary tells them something that all the people of the country ought to know, they return to the village...[and] each one of the alcaldes wherever he goes cries out what the missionary has told them, in his language, and all the country hears it." [11] Under the Franciscan power structure, the Indians learned to obey the alcaldes who were in charge of supervising the implementation of the orders. Having a person from an identical kin group giving the orders cut down on the number of problems and cases of rebellion. In the instances in which conflict did arise, angered Indians directed their hostility toward the Indian alcalde and not at the Franciscan friar.

This use of Indian supervisors perpetuated the system. After all, the town elected the alcaldes in a popular election. Tensions arose within the mission facilities in regards to these elections. The Franciscans themselves rigged many of the elections placing in office those individuals who they felt could lead most effectively. The animosity felt against the alcaldes can be viewed in the representations of the stations of the cross at Mission San Fernando.

The Abstract Versus the Concrete

The Indians that inhabited California before the Franciscans entered the scene were a rather artistic people. One particular group the Chumash are famous for their rock paintings. Norman Neuerberg and Georgia Lee describe their work in an article entitled, " The Alta California Indians as Artists Before and After Conquest." The authors write, "The rock art of the Chumash Indians is particularly outstanding. The complex and colorful paintings that likely depict mythological beings, cosmology, vision, and dream seemingly were made in the course of working magic to achieve control over natural forces and man-made crises." [12] Lee and Neuerberg go on to discuss how it is that the artists continued to create the same sorts of images in the mission space as were created before the missionaries arrived. Abstract shapes often express complex concepts or ideas. Lee and Neuerberg write, "In many aboriginal cultures, the most sacred concepts are not represented in the art at all, or if they are, they are hidden in geometric motifs that only bear symbolic relationships to the meaning behind them." [13] In most cases, the Franciscans were unaware of the meanings of these symbols and therefore did not stop their inclusion in the decorative schemes of the mission space.

What does this do then to the understanding that there are abstract designs that complement the more concrete Roman Catholic iconography? If this designs are representations of significant objects, spiritual beings, or even symbolized prayer, then the Indians have mixed their understanding of the Christian faith with their own beliefs and practices. Other indigenous artistic traditions can be found within the art and decoration of the missions. One example can be seen in this painted altarpiece at Mission Santa Barbara. Here we see the representation of a saint. The shell inlay reveals the significance of the work. The white stripes above the saint's head is actually mother-of-pearl that has been inlayed on the wall using a technique that is similar to a technique used in Mexico.

Elsewhere in this mission are examples of the religious significance of these various indigenous artistic traditions. Let us look at the figure of a saint in a niche. This particular piece was carved in limestone. It is possible that this piece was copied from the altarpiece that we have already seen. Besides the small sculpture, a plaster relief of a cross-flanked by triangular flags above a native geometric motif, was found in the right hand bell-tower. Neuerberg argues that the place of this piece suggest that it had an astronomical purpose. [14]

What does this problem of syncretism ultimately tell us? First, it speaks to the nature of religion. A polytheistic religion will be able to incorporate elements of other religions into it. In this manner the control and power elements of a monotheistic religion becomes subverted through the incorporation of certain elements into another religious background or faith.

Furthermore, I believe that the presence of the indigenous design motifs in conjunction with the Franciscan iconographic schemes proves the Franciscan ignorance of native tradition. Being abstract forms, the design motifs of indigenous people could be articulating ancient religious beliefs and the Franciscans would have little understanding of what was actually occurring.

Modern Churches

Many of the missions still have a religious purpose as a primary goal. They hold services on Sunday and participate in the feasts and festivities of the Catholic tradition. These churches continue to serve their local communities. I think this goes to show that although the missions have inherited a myriad of other uses they retain a spiritual purpose. Granted the missions are no longer residential and very few, if any produce agricultural products and handicrafts. I think in some respects however the fact that the missions still have parishioners that visit to worship on Sunday mornings means that the missions still continue to be a part of the viable faith community. Mission San Juan Capistrano has Sunday services, and offers a variety of additional liturgical services ranging from baptisms to weddings. Many of the Missions house clergy who travel up and down the mission system on a pilgrimage experience. The missions are places for people to reflect upon their religious heritage.


Although there is much variety in the religious composition of California today, religion continues to define the Californian identity. Schools removed prayer and the separation of church and state marks a change from mission-era California. However, many of the missions still hold services on Sunday and on special occasions. The missions retain their religious significance.

For the most part the missions are functioning religious spaces. This adds a different dynamic then, say, a tourist attraction or a museum alone. The element of religion adds an attitude of faithful reverence to the up keep of the mission grounds. In most cases, mission advertising states that a specific denomination or religious group does not support the missions. However, with active congregations participating in weekly services such truth in advertising seems unlikely.

Whatever the case may be, religion continues to play an active role in how the mission is used today. In turn, this influences the way the space is portrayed to the visiting public. If we are to make sense of the spaces we create, we must never forget their original intention, for this is as important as how the space is currently used. In this manner, history plays an important role in defining who we are and where we are going.



On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered a few gold nuggets on the American River while building a sawmill for John Sutter. By March 15, the news of the gold had been published in "The Californian" sparking a gold rush that would prove to shape the dynamics of California. [1] Even before the gold rush California was seen as a land of great economic promise. As the Spanish moved into California in 1769, they did so under the banner of religion but the economic purpose was obvious. As the mission system began to work its way along the coast of California, it made an impact on the California landscape and in the Californian economy that extends to today. The presence of Europeans changed the economies of the indigenous peoples of California through trade and through destruction of natural resources. The missions worked their way into the greater framework of Spanish colonial system by becoming a necessary economic unit. In many respects, the missions were able to provide the presidios and military institutions with much needed food and resources. Even today, the missions have an economic interest. Many are open as tourist attractions drawing large numbers of visitors each year. The missions have their impact in the greater Californian culture with the influx of mission style architecture and companies that use mission motifs to sell their products. Clearly, the economic purpose of the missions is a growing and viable one.

As commerce plays out its modern narrative the most fascinating trends are those centered on tourism and the tourist dollars that pump through California. Specifically, the tourism dollars are a major contributing factor for the continued preservation of the missions. Gerald J. Miller, who is the administrator of Mission San Juan Capistrano, believes that his mission is "the most important ruin in North America." [2] The Mission San Juan Capistrano receives approximately 500,000 visitors a year. The Mission classifies itself as a nonprofit and sustains itself by museum admission fees, donations, and contributions. Mission advertising is explicit about the fact that the mission survives with out aid from any church or government agency. [3]

Affecting Ecological Change

The Spanish designed the missions to include California into the framework of the Spanish Empire. They were an essential part of the threefold plan that would use civil, religious and military forces to occupy and settle California. [4] The Spanish had the goal of extracting the most possible wealth out of the colonies. To this end, they established the institution of the encomienda that forced the Indians and lower class to work for an encomendero. The Spanish presence affected the Californias in some rather severe ways. In an article about the effects of the Spanish on California, James Sandos establishes several paradigms to help with his argumentation. One of the impacts that the Spanish had on California was a process known as "species shifting." Sandos describes ecological changes such as the introduction of new species of livestock that ate milder grasses of the region. These milder grasses were replaced by harsher varieties of European grasses which were otherwise foreign to the area. [5] In this manner, the changes to the indigenous diet and a depletion of natural resources left little choice for the indigenous population outside of accepting the Spanish presence and in many cases becoming part of a mission community. Missions offered food and shelter to those who would convert to Christianity. John Johnson wrote about the economy of the missions, "At Mission Santa Barbara every year a new shirt and blanket were given to all neophytes, including young children who had been baptized but who still resided with their parents or relatives away from the mission." Through the destruction of natural resources at Spanish hands, the Indians became dependent on the missions to meet their subsistence needs. Johnson continues by stating, "the spiritual message would be more readily accepted it were accompanied by economic aid." [6] Regardless of the provocation of the depletion of natural resources in Spanish hands, the missions seemed to serve a valuable role in the continued survival of the indigenous people. This role was arguably controversial, since their initial intervention creating the depletion of resources and the demands of Franciscan priests on Indian neophytes probably contributed to the spread of disease.

That initial clash of civilizations must have been a startling one. In 1787, Pedro Fages wrote about the Indians in San Diego. He described them as, "The most restless, stubborn, haughty, warlike and hostile toward us, absolutely opposed to all rational subjection and full of a spirit of independence." [7] Franciscan and military records describe California Indians as dirty, constantly thieving, and in need of constant supervision. Is it little wonder that an attitude of superiority would lead the Franciscans to develop image of fatherhood in their dealings with the Indians?

On the other side of the encounter, the indigenous people believed that the Spanish possessed a powerful form of witchcraft. The Indians described the Spanish guns as "hollow sticks that belched smoke." [8] The Spanish lacked knowledge of how to live in a strange new world that could have prevented the extent to which they change the ecological structures at play in California. Personal hygiene plays a tremendous role in the interactions of these two sets of peoples. The Spanish did not bath by any means of frequency, where as the indigenous population was accustomed to using soap plants and sweat baths to cleanse their bodies. The lack of proper hygiene might have been a significant factor in the rise in disease. [9]

In many cases, the changes caused by the coming of the Spanish forced the Indians to the missions. These changes affected the indigenous diet and introduced disease to the population. Ultimately, conversion by necessity led to the problematic of syncretism and false conversion. Francis Shipek an anthropologists who wrote about the Indian reaction to the Franciscans, wrote, "It would be easy to learn to respect a new ritual perfectly without even understanding its meaning." [10] The Indians learned that in order to survive they needed to go through the motions of the Catholic ritual. The problems of the Indigenous false conversion have already surfaced, when we looked at the resistance issues on the mission grounds. In another section you will see how this becomes a guiding problematic in the decorative schemes of the mission space.

Architecture of Power

To get a true understanding of the impact of the decorative schemes of the mission we must look at the space in which the decorations were displayed. Tom Cummins, an art historian from the University of Chicago, discusses the importance of the spatial relationship between art and architecture. He writes, "One must stand before the painting in the consecrated space of the Jesuit church to look at it, often surrounded by music and incense, by talk and human odor." [11] Cummins makes the connection that art must be seen within the appropriate historical and therefore architectural context. As this quotation seems to point out, we must understand that the paintings we will view are within the architecture context of a Spanish mission church in California.

As Kurt Baer, an art historian who has written extensively on the Californian Missions, writes, "The appearance or style of architecture in general, and of any group or single building in particular is affected by and is the direct result of social and material conditions." [12] It seems self evident that the Franciscans were not only constructing a mission but a set of social conditions. In defining architecture H.W. Janson states, "the design of every building, from country cottage to cathedral reflects external limitations imposed upon it by the practical purpose of the structure, by the site, by cost factors, materials, and technology. (The only ‘pure’ architecture is imaginary, unbuilt architecture.)" [13] It seems to follow, that the architecture of the mission represents Franciscan thoughts on the social structure of the new world and their role as hispanicizers of the Californian Indians.

The purpose of the missions was to Christianize and civilize the Indian population. The education of these natives was carried out in a twofold manner. First, they were placed in an occupation or craft ranging form weaving to cattle raising. Second, they were given book instruction in Spanish, Church doctrine, and Church liturgy. To achieve this end each mission had two priests. One would act as supervisor for the manual labor and the teaching of the arts and crafts, while the other attended to the spiritual needs of the mission and the book instruction of the indigenous population. [14]

In order to achieve their goals the Franciscans constructed their spaces carefully. In the study of art there is a saying "Form follows function." Looking at the mission layout one can see how the construction of spaces created the desired social dynamics the Franciscans implemented within their missions. Looking at the Mission layout one can see various rooms that are clear indications of a Franciscan ideal of social order. Baer points out that the term "mission" refers to the community not just the church. The mission was composed of spaces that would accommodate three areas of Franciscan living. There were religious, residential, and industrial areas. [15] Let’s take a look at the mission plan and discuss the various elements and how they might fit into a Franciscan plan of colonization. The most interesting thing to note is that the Franciscans prohibited young girls from living with their families outside the mission walls. The girls were required to remain in a monjería or nunnery. While housed in the mission convent the girls would learn under the direction of and Indian matron. When the girls were old enough, Indian boys would court them through the barred windows of the convent. Only then once she had married could a native girl leave the confines of the mission and settle down in the pueblo outside the mission walls. [16] Looking at the Schematized Plan of a Mission Community, one can see that the monjería is along the back wall of the mission. Although the church is one of the bigger spaces, it is truly incorporated into the other spaces of the mission. The church in this manner is somewhat de-emphasized from other early religious buildings in Mexico and in New Mexico that are solely the church building. Clearly, this demonstrates the fact that the mission as an institution was much larger than just the space of the church building. The spaces of the mission include every aspect of life.

Another feature that seems important to mention is the presence of the Guard House and the Mayordomo. This clearly shows that a union between church and military was necessary to some extent. An important point to make is that the missions varied in the layout but most contained the same basic elements. However, looking at the schematized plan of the mission community, we see that the mission layout worked to enhance the role of the priest as overseer. Each mission not only had a Church building but also housed the priests, servants, soldiers, and indigenous women. Around the courtyard of the mission grounds there were not only living quarters, but also workshops, store rooms, a refectory, and a kitchen. The patio plan aided a priest in his ability to get from one part of the mission compound to the next relatively quickly. [17]

In the figure of the schematized plan of a mission community, the central element of the mission ground is the court yard. The court yard usually contained a fountain in the middle of it. Low lying shrubs framed the path of the courtyard. Often little niches with statuary or painting filled some of the spaces in the courtyard. Perhaps this space was more intended for Franciscan enjoyment. The gardens will be viewed through a romantic lens once the missions fall into ruins and an interest in there space is revived.

Overall, the architecture of these missions lent themselves toward a greater realization of the desire to bring about the hispanization of the Indians. The plan is a clear indication of the Franciscan desire to instigate a total living concept. The neophytes, (or newly baptized) would be assigned specific tasks within the mission space. The use and importance of the bell tower, or campanario, is critical to this conception of work. The bells dictated everything within the cycle of the day. The bell would indicate when to rise, when to eat, when to pray, when to study, and when to sleep. Since all space is socially produced there is a political interpretation of the architecture as well. The Franciscans were asserting there presence not just through the immediate space they inhabited but throughout the region were the sound of the bell would signify that they were present and asserting a position of authority over the inhabitants of the region.

Selling of the Missions

This bell tower has become a trademark for the mission ideals. In fact, Mission Foods Corporation uses a campanario to sell their goods. The design is rather simple, but nonetheless worthy of description and discussion for as a use of the missions today. A single bell hangs from an arch while the word M-I-S-S-I-O-N is indelibly printed at the bottom of the logo. What does it mean to the historical mission to be a source of advertising for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of tortillas? Does Mission Foods corporation wish that we believe that there is something romantic and important about buying their particular products? Advertising as an industry aims at catching ones attention with something interesting enough to warrant a purchase. The simplicity of the mission logo suggests, perhaps in its own subtle way that tortillas in the bag are made from wholesome ingredients and under moral and perhaps even ordained settings. Since the missions are known throughout California, the association of a tortilla maker with the missions achieves a greater exposure to the commercial audience. The manufacture can use the popular knowledge of the missions as way to tap into a market with a prior knowledge of the mission as an idea. This creates an association with something that is already recognizable and easy to remember.

If you are looking for the perfect gift for the hard to please person, you might consider checking out the mission memorabilia available for purchase at ‘’. This e-commerce site is dedicated to the sale of mission-era artifacts. One can purchase anything from small statues of Junípero Serra to candelabra. The site boasts that any profits from the sale of items will be donated to the Mission Preservation and Restoration effort. The ownership of part of the missions promises to be an experience worth purchase. The owner writes, "As you journey back in time, you'll discover your feelings will be touched _ you'll ‘live’ the joy, sorrow, disillusionment, uncertainty, & spiritual enlightenment of the Padres, soldiers, Indians and civilians." [18] It becomes an ownership of the good and the bad, a realization that the history composed of both positive and negative power relationships.

Other commercial businesses seem to have jumped into the same bandwagon of mission preservation. Mervyn’s of California, a major department store chain, has undertaken a campaign to contribute to the California Mission Garden Restoration Project fund. To date the company has contributed more than $120,000 to the project. Mervyn’s is currently selling a line of collectible mission miniatures. Each of the mission replicas sells for roughly twenty-one dollars a piece. Once again the ideals of the mission are tapped into help the commerce goals of a California company. The company claims the importance of preserving the missions because of their culture and beauty. A careful play on words helps boost the company agenda, saying that the missions are their mission. [19]

In 1989, David Avalos, James Luna, Deborah Small, and William Weeks got together to create their work of art commenting on the use of the California Missions as a tourist attraction in San Diego. Their piece is entitled California Mission Daze. It highlights the repressive nature of the missions and the various ways in which the contemporary mission acts as a vehicle to sell the indigenous population or in many cases "sell out" the indigenous population. The installation is in fact making a mockery of the bazaar-like atmosphere. At "Honest Injun’s" store, you might be able to find pots, pictures, a bottle of something (possibly tequila), and of course, all the Padres memorabilia you can imagine.

In much of California, the mission continues to make a sale today in many other ways. By the 1900s, the mission revival style had become an important style that really became in many respects a California heritage. The army opted to build Fort Winfield Scott using a style that drew on the architectural legacy already established in California. The barracks in here show a building that is devoid of much ornamental decoration. The arches, gables, and false facade are the same architecture elements at play in the missions. [20]

My high school, a building rather familiar to me, has many elements of mission architecture in its design as well. It uses the bell tower on all its publications. If we go to the school’s homepage we can see the tower in all its glory. [21] Missing from this view are the images of the covered walkway lines the interior of the buildings as they face the quadrangle. Whether the use of the mission motif was a conscious or unconscious decision is irrelevant, in my opinion. The important thing is simply that the mission style of architecture is incorporated into a variety of spaces in the California landscape.

Here is a brief description of the variety of styles that compose the revivalist Spanish colonial, or Mission Style architecture. This comes from a site that describes a variety of architectural styles and forms.

Spanish Colonial revival is really a catalog of styles, unified by the use of arches, courtyards, form as mass, plain wall surfaces, and tile roofs, all derived from the Mediterranean world. Designers were inspired by a number of sources: the adobe and colonial buildings of Monterey, California; late forms of Moorish architecture; medieval Spanish and Italian church architecture; Ultra_Baroque design of colonial Spain and Portugal; rural forms from Andalusia; Italian Romanesque and Renaissance revival elements; and southwest Hopi and Pueblo Indian adobes. This broad source base made it relatively easy to create a convincing harmony between the exterior image, interior space, decorative elements, and the building's function. Eclectic as the Spanish revival was, the purity of single elements was often retained, such as an Ultra_Baroque entry decoration. In some cases an entire style source, such as Andalusian, was virtually transplanted. [22]

By its nature the mission style is multicultural much like the population of California. In building the missions, the priests became the architects and the foreman. They were in charge of the entire building process. The differences in mission facades is explained by the process through which the missions were built. Given differences in materials, site specifications, and labor the missions were each built slightly different from its predecessor. Overall, the style is convincingly the product of it surroundings. [23]

Attracting the Tourists

Mission San Juan Capistrano is the third most popular tourist attraction in all of Orange County right behind, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. The statistics seem hard to believe. Mission San Juan Capistrano has 500,000 visitors each year. It seems odd that the State does not contribute more to the up keep of the missions. The camino real or king’s highway stretches along the California coast from San Diego in the south to San Francisco in the north. The California state tourism board features the attraction of the Mission at San Diego as one of the symbols of California. [24]

Year after year, tourist attraction books and vacation guides capture the mission in the innocence and benevolence that created the revivalist romanticism about the missions. The web is a terrific place for the average mission aficionado. There are virtual mission tours that guide you through snap shots of various mission site attractions. On the Geo-Images web page, a listing of virtual panoramas can be found. One can not get an inside look at the interior of a mission church. Looking inside the mission church at San Miguel, we get a unique opportunity to visual what the conception of the space might have felt like in the Church. Thanks to the modern wonder of the internet and advances of panoramic virtual reality we are looking at the inside of the mission church at San Miguel in its full 360 degrees of. Although such "virtual" ambient viewing can not compare with the actually total sensory viewing of actually standing in that space smelling the old wood, and hearing the creaking of floor boards. This set of images does provide the viewer with a better understanding of how the interior of the church is composed and how the pieces I have been discussing better fit together. Looking directly at the center of the altar, we see a simple cross. Above it is a statue, (that is hard to fully decipher) on either side are two statues, and these are smaller and a little bit lower on a vertical plane. These statues are all underneath an additional architectural structure. Along the frieze of this canopy like structure is a circle pattern in the middle of the structure is a large object in the center is a representation of an eye. Surrounding the eye are radiating protrusions. In many of the missions, this sort of representation occurs in fact it is known as the eye of God. It is supposed to represent the glory, power, and omnipotence of God. The walls also provide a unique understanding of the decoration of the church. The first thing that I notice is that the niches for statuary are not carved into the wall or constructed out from the wall but rather are decorative only. The decorative schemes are elaborate, with the inclusion of painted columns and dome over the statuary. Being on the right wall the statue closest to the altar is most likely a depiction of the mission's patron saint. In comparison with other missions I have seen, that at least appears to be the general convention for devotional statuary.

The presence of such visual resources on the World Wide Web seems to indicate an active interest in understanding the missions. The missions thus have become part of the cyber culture of California as well as an important thread in the everyday lives of Californians. The mission truly has become a symbol to be bought and paid for and incorporated into one’s personal iconography.


California continues to be shaped by the economics that govern her citizens. Tourism brings millions of dollars to the state each year. Learning how to attract these tourists and get them to spend their money is what the game is all about. Those who control the avenues of marketing also control the perspective on history that is told. That is to say, the one who controls the channels of dissemination is the one who gets to tell the story.

With an understanding of economic motivations, we can see how the missions continue to influence life in California. The Mission motif has worked its way into the nuances of popular culture in advertising, professional sports, and architectural design. City and towns have even taken on mission names. The town of Ramona was named for the heroine of the novel by the same name. This novel popularized a romantic revival concerning mission lore. There is Mission Bay and Mission Beach.

Without a doubt, Californian's seem proud of their mission heritage. The Franciscans shaped the landscape of California both literally and figuratively. They changed the ecology of the land, and forever marked the Spanish presence on the cultural landscape.

Social Criticism


When one thinks of California, images of people acting out against social norms draw one's attention. San Francisco is home to many NGOs and groups calling for social and political change. Long Beach and Santa Barbara remain the surf Mecca of Southern California. As a state, California continues to be defined as a place of social criticism and perhaps even social activism. The missions surely add their own element to the criticism at hand in California. Labor institutions were questioned as is evidenced within the Stations of the Cross. Cross-cultural icons such as the Santa María de Guadalupe continue to have power within the liturgies and worship spaces of the Catholic homes and Latino communities that compose much of California. Norman Neuerberg, an art historian who dedicated his life to the study of the missions has identified the use of graffiti by many of the indigenous artists who decorated the missions. The use of graffiti continues to act as a form of self-expression. [1] We can see the work of taggers along the freeway and on the walls and fences that run along Californian neighborhoods. Finally and perhaps most obvious as a form of social criticism, the canonization process of Junípero Serra created a resurgence of mission studies into the uses and abuses of Indian labor by the Franciscans. In this vein, the missions were the sites of a protest against the veneration of Serra on September 17, 1987. I believe that the missions continue to hold a sway on the public consciousness of California. Without a doubt, the elements of social criticism that have started within the mission walls shape the movements that are still present in California today.

Stations of the Cross

Let us look at some of the visual sources within the Missions that reflect an attitude of criticism. A prime example can be seen in the figures of the Stations of the Cross from Mission San Fernando. First off, it is important to note the significance of the Stations of the Cross in the Catholic liturgy. The Stations of the Cross, or the Way of the Cross, as it more commonly referred to, are fourteen standard scenes depicted the sufferings of Christ on His way to Calvary. Devotion to the places of suffering stems from pilgrimage experiences in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1342, the Franciscan order took over control of the holy places and saw it as part of their mission to promote devotion to the holy places and the Passion of Christ. In 1731 Pope Clement XIII secured the mode and method of practicing the devotion. [2]

Although we do not know much about the particular Indian artist that painted the Stations of the Cross at Mission San Fernando, it has been suggested that his name is Juan Antonio matching a neophyte by that name who was baptized on June 13, 1798. [3] The Chumash painted their rocks in as many as six colors ranging from red, black, and white, with many sites painted entirely in red. The style of this paintings are linear and abstract with a mixture of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic shapes. [4] Phillips suggests that the Chumash use of abstract art held a religious significance, and the designs themselves might have stood for hard to define concepts such as good and evil. [5] From the various decorative schemes that lined the mission walls of San Fernando we can see that the Padres gave the Indian artists substantial freedom. [6] The Stations of the Cross at this particular mission were unlike the stations at other mission sites. The Padres used books of similar images to teach the Indians the specific iconography of each station. As Kurt Baer points out in his book on painting and sculpture at Mission Santa Barbara, "The need early arose for art production in the new countries; this brought about the rise of native colonial art, dating from shortly after 1521 for their models they had imported works from Flanders and Spain." [7]

This image is the focus of an article by George H. Phillips. It depicts one of the Stations of the Cross. Unlike many of the other stations of the cross in the mission system, this one stands out as being crafted by an indigenous hand. Hand in hand with the stories of the Stations of the Cross, this scene depicts Christ being led by a figure at the far right by a cord around his neck. Christ is carrying the cross and is marked by the crown of thorns and bloodied face that identifies him to the viewer. It is hard to tell whether or not the two figures in closest proximity to the cross and to the left of Christ are helping him or hindering him by adding extra weight to the end. The remarkable thing about this painting is the fact that the figures appear to be either of indigenous or Spanish descent. This gives the painting a sociological twist given that we know the artist was an Indian. We know very little about the artist. However, from the visual clues that he has left behind we might be able to piece together a statement that the artist might have been trying to make given the social institutions created by the Franciscans. Stylistically, the painting is very flat, lacking three dimensionality. All but two faces are in strict profile. The two that do look out at the viewer are to the very right and left of the vertical cross bar. These or the two figures possess a childlike gaze as if caught in a moment of amusement. In the far left hand corner, we see a trumpeter and a horse. The horse engages the viewer in a full frontal pose. Below the trumpeter whose face is cut off by the frame in this copy, is the group of soldiers stemming from left to right. Given the spears that they hold, it seems to follow that these figures are soldiers. They are all dressed alike, but given the variety in their skin tones shows a mixture of indigenous and Hispanic lineage.

Santa María de Guadalupe

Taking a look at modern memorabilia such as the bottle opener viewed in this picture we can see the impact of the Santa María de Guadalupe on the popular culture of Mexico. Interestingly enough, many of these images extend across the border into the United States and remain part of the iconography of the Latino culture of the desert southwest. In the many mural schemes of East Los Angeles, for example we can see the image of the Santa María de Guadalupe on the murals of the many barrios. During the 1960s, images such as the Virgin de Guadalupe were used by Hispanic Muralists as a form of expression of the self. The artists used the image of the Santa María as a cultural identifier. Let us now look back to the image as it occurred within the Mission grounds. The Virgin Mary itself is seen in the traditional mandola. The image itself is taken almost exactly from a text in the book of Revelation:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. The Santa María de Guadalupe stems from a long tradition of similar Saints representing a symbolic aspect of the Virgin Mary. The Guadalupan Mary is unique in that it is a depiction of the Dark Virgin.(Revelation 12:1-6, NIV)

The Santa María de Guadalupe was considered to have miraculous powers. Another image was executed in Mexico City in the year 1743 and is a typical image of the Santa María de Guadalupe. It depicts the epidemic of 1737 and as the caption reads beneath the image, "The Virgin of Guadalupe comes to the aid of the faithful in Mexico City during the epidemic of 1737." The text that was just written corresponds to the image of the Santa María de Guadalupe. Here is the tale of the Guadalupe as it is related by a legend. This is the legend as the catholic on-line encyclopedia relates it;

The picture really constitutes Guadalupe. It makes the shrine: it occasions the devotion. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of the woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign, and in addition a supporting angel under the crescent. Its tradition is, as the new Breviary lessons declare, "long_standing and constant". Oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. To a neophyte, fifty five years old, named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac hill to hear Mass in Mexico City, on Saturday 9 December, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared and sent him to Bishop Zumárraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer. He had not immediately believed the messenger; having cross_questioned him and had him watched, he finally bade him ask a sign of the lady who said she was the mother of the true God. The neophyte agreed so readily to ask any sign desired, that the bishop was impressed and left the sign to the apparition. Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle, who seemed dying of fever. Indian specifics failed; so at daybreak on Tuesday, 12 December, the grieved nephew was running to the St. James's convent for a priest. To avoid the apparition and untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said: "What road is this thou takest son?" A tender dialogue ensued. Reassuring Juan about his uncle whom at that instant she cured, appearing to him also and calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe she bade him go again to the bishop. Without hesitating he joyously asked the sign. She told him to go up to the rocks and gather roses. He knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians he came back. The Holy Mother, rearranging the roses, bade him keep them untouched and unseen till he reached the bishop. Having got to the presence of Zumárraga, Juan offered the sign. As he unfolded his cloak the roses fell out, and he was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him: the life size figure of the Virgin Mother, just as he had described her, was glowing on the poor tilma. A great mural decoration in the renovated basilica commemorates the scene. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop's chapel, and soon after carried processionally to the preliminary shrine. [8]

The Virgin of Guadalupe has a political understanding as well. Mexico, it is said, was born at Tepeyac. Tepeyac was the site of the apparition. The Santa María de Guadalupe has puzzled anthropologists regarding the nature of the image as a form of resistance. The Virgin is seen with an indigenous face. William Taylor, who has written a good deal about the Guadalupe and the social history surrounding it. As the "dark virgin" the guadalupe is consider by some to represent the "spiritual aspect of protest against the colonial regime." [9]

The Virgin Santa María de Guadalupe, the continuation of indigenous artistic traditions and the presence of graffiti all prove that syncretism took place amongst the indigenous population. I believe that it gives and indication that the Franciscans really did not want to understand the indigenous people and the practices and customs they held before conquest.

The worship of the Guadalupe seems to have coincided with the worship of the Aztec god Tonantzin. The Guadalupe image became a symbol for both resistance to and accommodation of the colonial system. In a chapter on the uses of World Historical perspectives called "Between Global Process and Local Knowledge," Taylor addresses the issues of how the Virgin of Guadalupe can take on such oppositionary meanings. First off the Virgin Mary is the only person to fall outside the stain of sin and therefore can be seen as a mediator for the liberation and redemption of humanity. The Indians could understand this in broader terms of their own political and social situation. The Guadalupe could be interpreted as a millenarian image bringing redemption from the oppression of labor service to colonial officials as well as liberation from imposed taxes. At the same time, the Virgin could be seen as an accommodating symbol. The colonial system lasted so long in part because of the hierarchical structure established. The Indians saw this as giving legitimacy to the system because of the complex system of appeals available in the courts. Ultimately, the Indians being declared citizens of the crown had the ability to petition the crown about injustices. The Virgin of Guadalupe helped to bring legitimacy to the religious issues faced by the Indians. She was the intermediary and intercessor on behalf of the Indians. Taylor writes, "One had to trust in her and give her time, just as one had to accept that justice came slowly in the colonial courts." [10] Taylor believes that the Indians would have addressed the Virgin of Guadalupe as they would have addressed the colonial authorities, hat in hand.

In developing his arguments, William Taylor cites Victor Turner’s ideas on the ‘multivocality’ of religious symbols. Turner, apparently, mentioned that female images were especially likely to take on multiple meanings. It was common for the same image to represent contradictory qualities. One might represent the values of nurturing, protecting, terrifying, and destroying, all at the same time. [11] Taken to the larger context this same analysis applies to the ‘multivocality’ of the California Missions. Simultaneously, they take meanings that appear to be contradictory. The missions are at once redemptive, fostering, abusive, and disruptive. The complexity of meanings of such a symbol help one see the complexity of identity of that which assigns symbolic meaning. California itself is composed of a wide range of binary opposites. Conservative, liberal; militant, pacifist; religious fanatic, atheist; all compose the spectrum of California identities.


Norman Neuerberg believes that Indians learned to mask their resistance. One example of their resistance is the presence of unauthorized graphic decorations that can be found in most, if not all, of the missions. Neuerberg has found them only at five missions because the priests would whitewash the walls when these extraneous designs were found. Neuerberg writes, "These abusive drawings are either painted or scratched. They are the equivalents, on mission walls, of pictographs and petroglyphs of which they are really a continuation." [12] The images are in fact evidence of syncretic practices by the Indians with in the mission grounds.

What does the presence of these images tell us about the indigenous response to the catholic worship? There are two images with headdresses that represent one of the gods of the Juaneno. Given there placement in the mission itself, it is most likely the case that the Indians painted or scratched these designs when they were seated on the ground as they would have been for mass. This complicates the issues, as it is a clear indication of syncretism. The Juaneno in all likelihood continued to practice elements of their religion with the mission grounds and quite possibly at the same time as the "new" catholic rituals were introduced to them.

How does the presence of graffiti apply today? In most urban centers, graffiti has risen in the last decade. The thrill of "tagging" keeps many youths striving to find the next place they can place their initials, and claim ownership over their neighborhoods and their space. In many ways graffiti becomes a tool to express one’s individual dissatisfaction with the system in which they are placed. Let’s take a look at some of these examples. This image represents the artist's disgust with police brutality. Amid the neighborhood decorated with graffiti, a police officer raises his night stick in confrontation with another figure. On the ground behind the second figure we see a can of spray paint. This image represents an attitude of disgust for the authority figure caricatured as a pig.


Although the specifics elements of representation are different between the mission graffiti and the example from Venice Beach shown above, the process of self-expression and social criticism is the same. In both cases, the artist represented something in reaction to the authority in control. In this manner, graffiti is a vehicle of self-expression and social criticism.

Site of Protest

Exactly one hundred years after the missions had been secularized by Mexico an historical commission was established to start the canonization process of Junípero Serra. [13] In order to start the canonization process, Serra’s life history had to be reconstructed. A commission was formed to sift their Serra’s letters and rebuild his biography. The commission charged with this daunting task was composed of Herbert E. Bolton professor of Hispanic History at UC Berkeley, Monsignor James E. Culleton chancellor of Monterey Fresno Diocese, and Father Maynard Geiger. The latter two were both Franciscans, and there was some debate as to whether or not their bias might have compromised the integrity of the commission.

Ultimately the outcome proved to be favorable for fans of Junípero Serra. In 1985, Pope John Paul II declared Serra venerable. This marked the first of three steps toward the sainthood of Serra. [14] On September 17, 1987 Pope John Paul II visited Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo. He brought the news of the veneration of Junípero Serra. He was greeted by a group of protesters who opposed this step toward the canonization of Serra on the grounds of his mistreatment of the Indians. [15] Essentially the canonization process sparked a debate over the uses and abuses of Indians by Serra and his Franciscan brothers. Serra himself is quoted with writing, "That spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of these kingdoms [the Americas]." [16] This indicates some force was used to gain indigenous submission and conversion to Christianity.

It is clear that the mission site remains today, an institution of social criticism. There are many who are critical of the missions and the impact the missions have had on California. With the canonization process a closer look was taken at the life of Junípero Serra. Sympathetic to a Franciscan call, Father Maynard Gieger and Monsignor James E. Cullen might have opted to ignore the abuses of the Franciscans. At the same time, many others it seems were able to equate Serra with Hitler and talk about the death that followed in his path. As is the case with anything we use in the study of history, we must weigh personal bias against what the text says, and more importantly, what is left out. Surely there is an element of truth in either side’s positions and it is only through understanding of how the study of history works are we to really arrive at the more important lesson of why it is important?


Social Criticism is an important part of any growing society. In any social movement there are those opposed to the move of the majority. Those who speak out against injustice continually shape America as a nation. As a trend, social criticism is formative by nature. All the expression of criticism often differs in style the process of criticism remains the same. For criticism to be effective, the critic must use enough identifiers in the representation of the points of contestation. As can be seen in the Santa María de Guadalupe, many images of criticism can be viewed as an image of support if the viewer fails to identify with the references of conflict. Simply put, such images may not convey the same meaning to all sets of people.

So in a greater context of the symbol/referent relationship, we see how the mission itself may be symbolic of a variety of opposing meanings. They can be condemned for the evangelistic evils of the Franciscans or condoned for the call to faithful observance of higher ideals such as beauty or piety. In this way, the California Missions are symbols of many different Californias, understood from a variety of viewpoints.



The history of the California Missions is a colorful one. The missions were built and within fifty years, were secularized and fell into ruins. Depending upon who you are and where you stand the missions are going to have a particular place in your heritage. The mission and the stories that surround it are going to mean something to you. Either as symbols of exploitation and abuse or as symbols of religion and Spanish power and prestige, the missions are symbols that continue to speak about the narrative of California history. In many respects this narrative is about power relationships and how power works within the structure to the California missions. Towards the end of the Spanish control over the missions, foreign traders began to filter into the economic system of California. In 1786, Jean Francois Galaup de La Perouse criticized the missions and likened the Indians at the missions to slaves. [1] The French, the English, and the Russian all served to benefit from the discredit of the Spanish Colonial system. In particular, many of these writings focus in on the treatment of the Indians by the Franciscans. "This tradition— known as la leyenda negra or the ‘Black Legend’—was aimed at proving the Spaniards so cruel or so incompetent that they were unworthy to possess the lands they had claimed, and that they thus should be replaced by a more enlightened and enterprising people." [2] In 1840, Richard Henry Dana wrote a book entitled Two Years before the Mast. James Rawls wrote, "Dana saw the institution of the mission through the eyes of an elite, Anglo-Protestant Yankee. In his view, the Hispanic people of California were unworthy to possess this land. The mission was a symbol for Dana of what was wrong with California under it Hispanic colonizers." [3]

Romantic Revival

In an article about the history of the California Missions, James Rawls suggested that the mission as ruin theme contributed to a relief from misgivings or guilt felt by early settlers over the forceful acquisition of California and its peoples. Rawls writes, "It became a symbol of the righteousness of the American action in seizing California, a sign of the fulfillment of the California Imperative and a validation of the nation’s Manifest Destiny." [4] The mission in its ruinous decrepitude was used as a legitimatization of the American presence in California. The current state of the missions was taken to justify the colonial presence of the United States. The spark to the mission revival was rather ironic in nature. In 1884, Helen Hunt Jackson wrote the novel Ramona as a way to criticize the greed that she saw in her fellow Anglo-Americans. As Rawls puts it, "She intended the novel to be the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of Indian reform-but, ironically, it was her heavily sentimental image of the ‘good old Spanish days’ that moved her readers, not the images of contemporary mistreatment of the Indians." [5] This novel proved to be hugely successful in terms of sparking an interest in the missions. However, what came out of it was not a desire to change current conditions but a romanticized view of the past. Tours were organized which followed the mission system.

Another proponent of a romantic view was Charles F. Lummis. In the 1880s, he became publisher of a regional promotional and literary magazine, "Land of Sunshine." This publication romanticized mission lore and portrayed the Indians as humble to the greater call of Christianity that the Franciscans brought with them. Lummis is also known for founding the Association for the Preservation of the Missions. As Rawls points out the Association for the Preservation of the Missions eventually became the Landmarks Club and expanded the mission restoration campaign with the support of William Randolph Hearst and the Native Sons of the Golden West.

Mission Revival Architecture was sparked in the 1890's. The tiles, stucco, gables, arches, and towers were mimicked in countless, schools, train stations, office buildings, and residences through out Southern California. Artists chose the missions as the site of their landscapes and vistas. Even some contemporary paintings like the idea of a mission in ruins as a backdrop for their work. Photographers flocked to San Juan Capistrano to take snap shots of the crackled walls seeming to be held up the structure of vines that weaves across the face of the surface. Mission motifs began to spread over much of Southern California. The mission style became a rather exportable architectural style. Terra cotta shingles on the roof of a building seemed an appropriate fit for a unique architectural design and development.

Problems of Restoration

One of the biggest problems in the understanding of mission era art and architecture are problems related to restoration of the missions. Although I am not sure that we can truly avoid this problem or really want to either, it is something that must be taken into consideration. We must work through the issues of caused by restoration if we are really going to be able to make valuable statements in regards to the nature of history and the understanding of how history continues to be played out. Norman Neuerberg had really noted the mechanics of the reconstruction process and best understood the simple fact that what we see in the mission area today was not what was really in the space. Early on in the process of research the missions I stumbled across the California Missions Studies Association. It is a group of scholars and students dedicated to investigation and preservation of the missions and their history. After inquiry about the art of the California missions, I received the following response;

You would make a big mistake to think that because things are located at one mission today, that they were historically associated with that mission. Carmel for example is chock full of [decorative] and fine art from San Antonio, Santa Cruz, the Royal Presidio Chapel, Soledad so it is all mixed up. Norman had a better idea than anyone how things were arranged up here, but things still get moved around. San Miguel and San Antonio are a case in point. [6]

Does it detract from the pieces if we no longer know their origincertain pieces does that detract from them in anyway? The bigger problems that can be seen are those related to the restoration of the missions. As you already know, the missions fell into ruins after secularization in 1834. When the missions were restored facades were altered and electric lighting was installed. A good example of some of the problems of restoration can be seen in the bracings at San Gabriel Arcángel. The caption reads, "Side bracing for the ceiling crossbeams reveals the traces of an inappropriate Victorian-style ceiling support with scroll-sawn arches, installed in the last century and modified in the 1930's. What are we to make of the facade of Santa Clara that stands today as a "modern interpretation" of the one built in 1825? Ultimately, we must find that art offers a vision of simultaneity, as Tom Cummins would put it. He writes about the responsibility of the art historian to gain proper context but also the power of the painting to supersede context. The art of the missions meant something to those who built the missions and lived at that time. In addition, the art of the missions means something to Californians today. The fact that we wish to restore the art or architecture adds an element of time to the discussion. The viewing takes on an additional personae and interpretation. Cummins writes of the power of history, "One is therefore invited to fill that ‘no place’ with various times and events, not in a linear sequence of causality but simultaneously." He concludes, "If the painting is seen in this way, the work of art is no longer a thing to be possessed by a guiltless, timeless "gaze" but a site that extends beyond its frame to where the tension between art and history is manifested in the present, and where an art historian must engage with the work."


Culture is defined as "The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought." [7] The California Missions can in this way be seen as icons of the greater California culture. Their impact on the belief systems and social organization was significant. In fact, the missions continue to have an influence on the products of human work and thought. They are the subject of both art and literature. The influence of mission style architecture is a stylistic trend that continues throughout the west.

The institutions of Catholicism, such as the Santa María de Guadalupe, continue to define the Latino community. The elements of the Hispanic heritage of California are highlighted in the missions. The missions as avenues of religion, economy, politics, and society in California, influence much of the popular culture. To this extent, the mission can be said to have a defining role on California.


In the course of this study, I have engaged in a variety of different discussions centered on the missions and the manner in which they can be viewed. From the beginning, I isolated five main uses of the mission space and developed the issues surrounding each of those main uses or purposes of the missions. The nature of the symbols has been discussed in fairly substantial ways. This path of reasoning led us down the path to discuss the nature and use of history. In each case and corresponding purpose or use of the mission, the history has been developed to help us better understand ourselves and who we are as identities. The process of defining one's identity is a lifelong process. It involves the formation and formulation of symbols that tell specific details about your life. The California Mission has taken on a variety of meanings over time. The Franciscans developed a view of the missions as a paradise for new believers. With the secularization of the missions, attention became focused on the Indians and the treatment thereof. The turn of the century however, marked a revival in the mission lore and a general interest in the missions. As we move towards the 21st century, and into the information age, the mission and its history has become accessible at our finger tips. The mission begins to take on a greater even more complex understanding. It is an institution of Spanish power, and a forgotten legacy of the past abuses of power. As we move toward a more diverse society, the multiplicity of uses, and the many lenses through which the missions may be seen acts as a greater metaphor for the California society in general. Each lens and perspective is another angle and set of social experiences, through which the mission can be seen and understood. With a multiplicity of possible lenses, there is a multiplicity of possible Californian identities.



1. Blackmar, Frank W. Spanish Institutions of the Southwest. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1891. 152.

2.; this site offers a brief history to the uses of mission style architecture.

3. Barber, Benjamin R. An Aristocracy of Everyone: the Politics of Education and the Future of America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 19.

4. Turner, A. Richard. Inventing Leonardo. Berkeley; University of California Press, 1992.



1. González, Michael J. "The Child of the Wilderness Weeps for the Father of our Country." Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998. 149.

2. González, Michael J."The Child of the Wilderness Weeps for the Father of our Country." Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush. Los Angeles: University of California Press,, 1998. 151.

3. Johnson, John R. " The Chumash and the Missions." Columbian Consequences. ed. David Hurst Thomas. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. 368.

4. González, Michael J. "The Child of the Wilderness Weeps for the Father of our Country." Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998. 155.

5. Juniperro Serra as quoted in González.

6. Juan Crespi as quoted in González.

7. Hackel, Steven W. "The Staff of Leadership: Indian Authority in the missions of Alta California." The William and Mary Quarterly. ser. 3. vol. 54. Apr. '97. 348.

8. Hackel, Steven W. "The Staff of Leadership: Indian Authority in the missions of Alta California." The William and Mary Quarterly. ser. 3. vol. 54. Apr. '97. 350.

9. Hackel, Steven W. "The Staff of Leadership: Indian Authority in the missions of Alta California." The William and Mary Quarterly. ser. 3. vol. 54. Apr. '97. 352.

10. Pedro Neve as quoted in Hackel, 357.

11. Pablo Tac as quoted in Hackel, 361.

12. Lee, Georgia and Neuerberg, Norman. "The Alta California Indians as Artists before and after Contact." Columbian Consequences. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press; 1989. 473.

13. Lee, Georgia and Neuerberg, Norman. "The Alta California Indians as Artists before and after Contact." Columbian Consequences. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press; 1989.

14. Lee, Georgia and Neuerberg, Norman. "The Alta California Indians as Artists before and after Contact." Columbian Consequences. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press; 1989. 471.


1.; This web stie offers a brief historical note on the California Gold Rush and provides links to a wide variety of additional sources.

2. Purdum, Todd S. "Mendind America's Acropolis." The New York Times. August 26, 1999. B1.

3.; This is the Homepage for Mission San Juan Capistrano

4. Blackmar, Frank W. Spanish Institutions of the Southwest. Baltimore, The John Hopkins Press. 1891. 112.

5. Sandos, James A. "Between the Crucifix and the Lance: Indian White Relations In California, 1769-1848." Contested Eden: California before and after the Gold Rush. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.

6. Johson, John R. "The Chumash and the Missions." 367.

7. Shipek, Francis C. "California Indian Reactions to the Franciscans." The Americas. vol. 41. no. 4. April 1985, 481.

8. Shipek, Francis C. "California Indian Reactions to the Franciscans." The Americas. vol. 41. no. 4. April 1985, 483.

9. Shipek, Francis C. "California Indian Reactions to the Franciscans." The Americas. vol. 41. no. 4. April 1985, 483.

10. Shipek, Francis C. "California Indian Reactions to the Franciscans." The Americas. vol. 41. no. 4. April 1985, 486.

11. Cummins, Tom. "A Sculpture, a Column, and a Painting: the Tension Between Art and History." Art Bulletin. vol. 77. September 1995. 374.

12. Baer, Kurt. Architecture of the California Missions. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1958.

13. Janson, H.W. History of Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc, 1995. 22-23.

14. Newcomb, Rexford. The Franciscan Mission Architecture of Alta California. New York: Dover Publications, 1973. viii.

15. Baer, Kurt. Architecture of the California Missions. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1958. 27.

16. Baer, Kurt. Architecture of the California Missions. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1958. 27.

17. Newcomb, Rexford. The Franciscan Mission Architecture of Alta California. New York: Dover Publications, 1973. ix.

18.; This site offers the sale of mission-era artifacts.

19.; This is the main site for the mission restoration campaign for Mervyn's of California.

20.; this site offers a brief history to the uses of mission style architecture.

21.; This is the Home Page for The Bishop's School, La Jolla, California.

22.; This site examines various genres and stylistic differences in architectural movements.

23. Baer, Kurt. Painting and Sculpture at Mission Santa Bárbara. Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955. 4.

24.; This is the homepage for the California State Tourism Board.

Social Criticism

1. For more information about graffiti and examples of graffiti browse through the contents of or

2. B.Brown. "The Way of the Cross." New Catholic Encyclopedia. vol. xiv. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967. 833.

3. Phillips, George Harwood. "Indian Paintings from Mission San Fernando: an Historical Interpretation." The Journal of California Anthropology. vol. 3. 1976. 97.

4. Grant, Campbell. Rock Paintings of the Chumash. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1967.

5. Phillips, George Harwood. "Indian Paintings from Mission San Fernando: an Historical Interpretation." The Journal of California Anthropology. vol. 3. 1976. 96.

6. Phillips, George Harwood. "Indian Paintings from Mission San Fernando: an Historical Interpretation." The Journal of California Anthropology. vol. 3. 1976. 97.

7. Baer, Kurt. Painting and Sculpture at Mission Santa Bárbara. Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955. 8.

8.; This is a site that explains various elements of catholic ritual.

9. Taylor, William . " The Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain: an Inquiry into the Social History of Marían Devotion." American Ethnologist. 10.

10. Taylor, William. "Between Global Process and Local Knowledge: an Inquiry into Early Latin American Social History, 1500-1900." In: Oliver Zonz, Editor. Reliving the Past: the Worlds of Social History. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985. 159.

11. Taylor, William. "Between Global Process and Local Knowledge: an Inquiry into Early Latin American Social History, 1500-1900." In: Oliver Zonz, Editor. Reliving the Past: the Worlds of Social History. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985. 161.

12. Lee, Georgia and Neuerberg, Norman. "The Alta California Indians as Artists before and after Contact." Columbian Consequences. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press; 1989. 473.

13. Sandos, James A. "Junípero Serra's Canonization and the Historical Record." American Historical Review. vol. 93. December, 1988. 1255.

14. Sandos, James A. "Junípero Serra's Canonization and the Historical Record." American Historical Review. vol. 93. December, 1988. 1253.

15. McCarroll, Tolbert. "Saints, Mission, and the Experience of God." Christianity in Crisis. vol. 46. October 6, 1986. 343.

16. Father Junípero Serra to Governor Felipe de Neve, January 7, 1780 in The Writings of Junípero Serra, Antonine Tibesar, ed. 4 vols. Washington D.C., 1975. 56.


1. Rawls, James J. "The California Mission as Symbol and Myth." California History. vol. 71. no. 3, 1992. 344

2. Rawls, James J. "The California Mission as Symbol and Myth." California History. vol. 71. no. 3, 1992. 345.

3. Rawls, James J. "The California Mission as Symbol and Myth." California History. vol. 71. no. 3, 1992. 346.

4. Rawls, James J. "The California Mission as Symbol and Myth." California History. vol. 71. no. 3, 1992. 349.

5. Rawls, James J. "The California Mission as Symbol and Myth." California History. vol. 71. no. 3, 1992. 350.

6. Kimbro, Edna. Electronic Mail Correspondence. 12, April 1999

7.; this site is a dictionary search engine, which gathers the definition of an entered word from several other dictionaries.

Works Cited

Printed Materials

Baer, Kurt. Architecture of the California Missions. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1958.

Baer, Kurt. Painting and Sculpture at Mission Santa Bárbara. Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955.

Barber, Benjamin R. An Aristocracy of Everyone: the Politics of Education and the Future of America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

B.Brown. "The Way of the Cross." New Catholic Encyclopedia. vol. xiv. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967.

Blackmar, Frank W. Spanish Institutions of the Southwest. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1891.

Cummins, Tom. "A Sculpture, a Column, and a Painting: the Tension Between Art and History." Art Bulletin. vol. 77. September 1995.

Father Junípero Serra to Governor Felipe de Neve, January 7, 1780 in The Writings of Junípero Serra, Antonine Tibesar, ed. 4 vols. Washington D.C., 1975.

González, Michael J. "The Child of the Wilderness Weeps for the Father of our Country." Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.

Grant, Campbell. Rock Paintings of the Chumash. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1967.

Hackel, Steven W. "The Staff of Leadership: Indian Authority in the missions of Alta California." The William and Mary Quarterly. ser. 3. vol. 54. Apr. '97.

Janson, H.W. History of Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc, 1995.

Johnson, John R. " The Chumash and the Missions." Columbian Consequences. ed. David Hurst Thomas. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

Kimbro, Edna. Electronic Mail Correspondence. 12, April 1999

Lee, Georgia and Neuerberg, Norman. "The Alta California Indians as Artists before and after Contact." Columbian Consequences. vol. I. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press; 1989.

McCarroll, Tolbert. "Saints, Mission, and the Experience of God." Christianity in Crisis. vol. 46. October 6, 1986.

Newcomb, Rexford. The Franciscan Mission Architecture of Alta California. New York: Dover Publications, 1973.

Phillips, George Harwood. "Indian Paintings from Mission San Fernando: an Historical Interpretation." The Journal of California Anthropology. vol. 3. 1976.

Purdum, Todd S. "Mendind America's Acropolis." The New York Times. August 26, 1999. B1.

Rawls, James J. "The California Mission as Symbol and Myth." California History. vol. 71. no. 3, 1992.

Sandos, James A. "Between the Crucifix and the Lance: Indian White Relations In California, 1769-1848." Contested Eden: California before and after the Gold Rush. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.

Sandos, James A. "Junípero Serra's Canonization and the Historical Record." American Historical Review. vol. 93. December, 1988.

Shipek, Francis C. "California Indian Reactions to the Franciscans." The Americas. vol. 41. no. 4. April 1985

Taylor, William. "Between Global Process and Local Knowledge: an Inquiry into Early Latin American Social History, 1500-1900." In: Oliver Zonz, Editor. Reliving the Past: the Worlds of Social History. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Taylor, William . " The Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain: an Inquiry into the Social History of Marían Devotion." American Ethnologist.

Turner, A. Richard. Inventing Leonardo. Berkeley; University of California Press, 1992.

Internet Resources

About the Author

Robert Morse graduated from DePauw University in December 1999. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. He completed this project as the culmination of the Honors Scholar program in the Spring of 2000 as the FITS-Mellon intern. The project is pending approval by the committee.

About the Project

This project has developed over time, and is under constant review by the author. Robert Morse first became interested in the study of the California Missions while he lived in California during the years between 1990-1996. You are invited to read the personal reflection by Robert Morse. This Project was completed as part of the Thesis requirement in the Honor Scholar program at DePauw University.

This Product was made using Microsoft FrontPage 2000, Macromedia Dreamweaver 2, Macromedia Fireworks, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and aided by Inspiration.

Personal Reflection

In 1990 my family moved from South Florida to Southern California. Making the transition, we had to, as a matter of principal, see all the local sites. We visited Old Town , scenic Point Loma, Balboa Park, and Mission San Diego de Alcala. I had seen the mission as a model a few weeks before we visited it in real life. The fourth graders at the school I attended had built mission models and displayed them in the library. I was intrigued by the time the students had taken and the depth of detail in the models that they built. Naturally, having seen the missions as models in the library I was eager to find out what they looked like in real life.

I remember the layout of the missions more than anything else. Walking around the mission grounds, I was caught by the amount of garden space within the mission walls. There was a space marked off for an archaeological excavation. The University of San Diego held classes at the Mission and sponsored the dig. As we left the mission, I stumbled down a path that led to a small statuette of the Santa Maria de Guadalupe. I had little idea at that point in my life that I would study the missions and the many cultural identifiers I had seen that day.

In proposing my thesis, I wanted to study something that would combine my interests. While at DePauw, I majored in Spanish and minored in Art History. California Mission Studies seemed like a logical conclusion. I studied the interaction of the Franciscan and the Indians, discovered the current debate about the treatment of the Indians brought about by the canonization process of Junípero Serra. I could have easily written volumes on syncretic art or Franciscan intentions and cross-cultural implementation of their ideals. Leave it to an advisor to advise. Four simple words haunted my progress at that point in the project. "Why is this important?"

Then it came, like manna from heaven. I had e-mailed the archivist at Mission San Juan Capistrano about current trends in restoration. The response sent me to the library to find an article in the New York Times on that very subject a day before. I finally knew what perspective I wanted to take. I wanted to trace the evolutionary history of the Spanish Mission in California as an emblem of cultural identity.

Several times throughout this project I was asked to shift my thinking. Structurally, I made a shift from a linear model of analysis to a hypertextual model. This facilitated the creation of the multimedia presentation of the material. It served a dual purpose. In that, by thinking of the project as a whole in which the parts to could be read in any order I was forced to grapple with the content in a way I would not have been able to otherwise. I had to think about the connection between the material and how to help the reader make those connections.

In the conception of the project, a multimedia presentation was necessary given the graphically intensive nature of the study. As I got into the research I discovered that I really needed to focus on the resources from the worldwide web. By provided a series of perspectives into the missions, I hope to allow the viewer to have different experiences about the missions. Each adding to their understanding of how the missions are viewed. Each telling a story about who California is and who California is becoming.

Image Gallery