Monday, October 26, 2015

El Camino Real - Part 1

Starting in the mid-16th Century, European Colonialism and Christian Mission work had taken over exploring the New World consisting of the Americas and the Orient, including Japan. Missionaries, whether they were Franciscans, Dominicans, or Jesuits (the late-comers of all), were combative rather than sanctimonious in their proselytizing activities of Christianity.

I traveled extensively in Mexico after my retirement. Wherever I traveled, even in the remote fishing village of Baja California, I found a mission. I was impressed with the dedicated spiritual work of missionaries who learned the indigenous languages, fought atrocities and plagues, often met death before accomplishing their goals. I hear, on the other hand, negative reports of many priests. Seems they didn't fall under the same ink? Let's examine.

It was Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) who traveled to Japan in 1549 via Africa and India, accompanied by Anjiro, his guide and interpreter, later known as Paulo de Santa Fe. Disappointed, however, as there was no headway gained after two years because of the dissensions throughout the country then. A priest sought China next, but died on his way. Xavier, who had baptized an estimated 30,000, was beautified in 1619 and canonized in 1622, respectively by Pope Paul V and Pope Gregory XV. He became a patron saint of the missionaries (see Rioslogger post).

Juan Maria de Salvatierra (1648-1717), another Jesuit born in Italy, was deeply involved in the success of Sonora and Sinaloa Missions. He lived in Chihuahua for 10 years, the land of the Tarahumaras. He was appointed 'visitor ambassador' of Sonora y Sinaloa Provinces. After being informed that all military expeditions to Baja California had been without success, he began a “spiritual conquest.” It's said that he landed in 1697 at Bahia Conception in a small boat with a handful of crew and soldiers and laid the foundation for Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the first and what became the base of Baja California Missions.

As he did in Chihuahua, he mastered the indigenous language and in 7 years established 6 other missions along the coast. Close to 20 Missions were built by Jesuits after Salvatierra, but King Carlos III expelled all Jesuits from Espana Nueva. There was a couple of reasons quoted – first, "some missionaries amassed fortunes" and the other, Jesuits attempted to unseat the new king citing an illegitimate birthright. King Carlos III newly appointed Franciscan Father Junipero Serra instead to go to San Diego with Captain Portola, and later in 1772, sent Dominicans to replace Jesuits in Baja California.

Traveling myself to Loreto, I found out that Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra departed there for San Diego via a sea route (according to his diary March to July 1769)) but Salvatierra was seldom mentioned. Salvatierra died in 1717, (well before the Jesuit expel order was issued) while traveling and compiling the History of Espana Nueva at the request of King Felipe V. I personally feel that he deserves to share the honorable title "apostle of California" with Father Junipero Serra.

A Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero (1731-1787), expelled in 1767 by King Charles III, relocated to Italy and became a scholar and historian. He wrote "Historia Antigua de Mexico", in which he praised works of Juan Maria Salvaierra, Eusebio Francisco Kino and other Jesuit missionaries.

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