Baja's missions played a very special part in the Peninsula's history. The 31 missions built in Baja constituted more than half of the 52 total missions that were built along the western coast of North America.
Before starting construction of the first mission in Loreto in 1697, missionaries had over 100 years of experience in building missions on the mainland in Mexico. However, unlike the missions on the mainland that were designed to be self-sufficient enterprises, the remote and harsh conditions of Baja made it nearly impossible to build and maintain these sites without ongoing assistance from the mainland.
Although the Missionaries and Indians who built Baja's missions performed an amazing feat under the circumstances, supplies from across the sea of Cortez in the port of Guaymas played an important part in keeping the mission system intact.
The missions that were established were not random acts of construction, but rather well planned projects following established rules set forth by the authorities. These completed missions played a very important part in Baja's history, and were ultimately the driving force behind the permanent colonization of the Peninsula.
The missionary system (not to be confused with the missionary position) was established by three different religious groups, and was a common tool for Spanish expansion into new territories. The Jesuits and the Dominicans were the most successful, although kudos should be given to the Fransiscans for a significant yet mostly unproductive attempt.
The road to the development of the 31 missions in Baja was rocky indeed, and the lack of government financing made the construction of most of the missions a private endeavor. Difficult terrain, unforgiving weather, and resistance from unsympathetic local Indians only added to the struggle. This was especially true in the southern missions where the local Indians were polygamists, and who resented the Christian values being imposed upon them. Indian uprisings ultimately led to much of the demise of the missions at La Paz, Santiago, Todos Santos and San Jose del Cabo. These same Indians also paid a heavy price for the mission system, where their population decreased from 50,000 to about 5,000 due to epidemics of small pox and syphilis brought in by the missionary groups.
Contributing to the demise of the missions in Baja was Mexico's independence from Spain, which promoted a conversion of the missions to local Pueblos. By the early 1800's the big push for missions moved north under the guidance of Father Junipero Serra, who started the system of 21 missions that are located in what is now the state of California.
Many thanks to those Baja Mision fans who have helped add information to this section of Baja Expo, especially all of the help from David K of DAVID K'S BAJA web site. We graciously welcome any additional data (or links) on the misions of Baja from anyone who wishes to pass on accurate information.
As we begin the new millennium, a very important event is in motion to help restore two of Baja's missions, Mision San Francisco de Borja and Mision Santa Gertrudis la Magna. Father Mario Menghini Pecci, who has finally retired after a lifetime of pastoral duties at a church near San Jose del Cabo (at the age of 69), is moving forward with his life goal to restore these two special Baja missions. Your donations can help make his dream a reality. Donations may be sent to his organization:
BAJA CALIFORNIA MISSIONS FOUNDATIONS
For additional information on this project, their e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on tours to Baja's missions, stop by ECOTUR MISSION TRIPS.
And for an awesome wall map of all the California and Baja missions you can contact Garza Communications Group by e-mail or by phone at (626)683-3395 to obtain their MISSIONS OF ALTA AND BAJA CALIFORNIA map. For $19.75 it is a real gem!
And for the ultimate book on Baja's missions Ed Vernon's hard cover 300 page book 'Las Misiones Antiguas, The Spanish Missions of Baja California' is quickly becoming the resource for Baja Missions. It offers lots of information, color photos, floor plans, maps, GPS waypoints and a whole lot more. It can be ordered through Viejo Press, 729 Woodland Drive, Santa Barbara, California, 93108. David K. gives this book two thumbs up!
For more information on the mission system visit the web site of CALIFORNIA MISSIONS.
Check out PHOTOS OF BAJA MISSIONS courtesy of David K.
To review information on colonial buildings in Mexico the web site of COLONIAL MEXICO has more information. And visit the web site of COLONIAL CITIES for information on some of the most authentic and historic towns in Mexico.