Assignment on 2-04

The California Missions

After the arrival of Christopher Columbus and his forces in the Americas, Spain rapidly took control of much of the Caribbean Islands, South America,, Central America, and Mexico. However, it was not until 1769 (275 years later) that the Spanish Empire finally decided to extend its reach northward into California.

To carry out the conquest of California, Spain established a chain of 4 presidios (military forts) and 21 Catholic missions along the Pacific coast to subdue the native peoples, to convert them to Christianity, and to train them in the values and the agricultural practices of Spanish society (see the map on the right).

First Spain and then Mexico operated this mission system from 1769 until it was shut down in 1834. This period of time has come to be called the “Mission Era” in California history, and many of you have studied these missions as you have gone through California’s K-12 schools.

Today, as we look back on the Mission Era at its goals and its practices, how should we interpret that period of history? Were the missions largely a positive force for the spread of Christianity and European civilization? Were they essentially a tool of colonial conquest that took the land from and devastated the cultural patterns of the native peoples? Were they some combination of these things, or were they something else entirely? In short, what meanings should we assign to the California missions?

The Assignment

For next class, you are to conduct your own research on this question. You are to explore different analyses or interpretations of the California missions, and to form your own opinions and judgments about the missions.

Then, in one page, articulate your preliminary assessment of the CA missions, and identify 2 sources in which you located interpretations that you find to be insightful or credible. You should bring this written document to our next class, and it will serve as the 4th Homework Brief of the term.