Little Bits of History

July 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 16, 2017

1769: La Misión San Diego de Alcalá is founded. Spanish friar Junipero Serra founded the first Franciscan mission in The Californians, a province in New Spain. Translated into English the mission’s name was The Mission of Saint Didacus of Acalá.  Didacus was a Franciscan lay brother and served with the first group of missionaries to the Canary Islands. He died in 1463. The Jesuits had tried to bring their faith to The Californians earlier and their first mission failed. By 1697, they were successful in establishing a foothold. The Jesuits founded a total of 18 missions in the lower ⅔ of Baja California Peninsula. They were expelled in 1767 and the Franciscans were brought in. A new governor was also brought in to oversee the transition.

Serra was born in Spain and came to the Spanish colonies in 1749, landing in Veracruz. His group then had to travel to Mexico City via the Camino Real or royal path. During the trip, Serra was bitten by something which caused his leg to swell. It became infected and never properly healed; it bothered him for the rest of his life. He was placed in charge of the Sierra Gorda Spanish Inquisition in 1752 and found several natives to be witches of the “most detestable and horrible” sort. This was his only report on the matter. Serra was also a practitioner of self punishment. While other missionaries of the time also did this, none were quite so extreme as Serra.

When King Carlos expelled the Jesuits, Serra was brought north. The first Europeans arrived at what is today San Diego by sea when they landed there on April 11. The first overland group arrived on June 29. Many of the early explorers died en route either from starvation or accident. Sierra arrived on July 14 and two days later a cross was raised and Father Serra held the first Mass. With that, the Mission San Diego de Alcalá was officially founded. In just a few months, food had run low and there were still no permanent buildings. The local inhabitants resented the incursion of Spaniards and attacked within a month. They considered abandoning the mission.

Father Serra was fearful of leaving, believing that if abandoned, “centuries might come and go” before any Europeans returned and were able to save the souls, if not the bodies of the natives. Luckily, a supply ship arrived in time to save the fledgling mission. The mission grew and eventually became the city of San Diego which now covers 372 square miles and has a population of 1.4 million people. It is the second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States. They mark this date as the founding and the city was incorporated on March 27, 1850. It passed from Spain, to Mexico, to the California Republic before becoming part of the US in 1848.

Thank God I arrived the day before yesterday, the first of the month, at this port of San Diego, truly a fine one, and not without reason called famous. – Junipero Serra

Well, when I was a kid, I grew up in San Diego next to the ocean. The ocean was my friend – my best friend. – Robert Ballard

The bridge to Coronado Island off San Diego was built because the mob had a hotel there and needed a way to get people out there. – Don Winslow

I need to surf – surf and yoga. Whenever I’m in L.A., I go down to San Diego to surf for the weekend, and I always come back perfect. – Rodrigo Santoro

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