Monday, November 9, 2015

El Camino Real Part 2

It was amazing that missionaries, perhaps two or three at first, followed the Spanish conquistadors, whether they were Jesuits or Franciscans, after the demise of the Aztec Empire in 1521. That number amassed to more than one thousand. The main path was the El Camino Real Corridor (1400km), from Mexico City up north to Santa Fe, via silver mines* such as Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, though tapering off north after El Paso. The El Camino Mesilla Corridor ran sideways from El Paso to Yuma, the El Camino Sonoran Corridor south down to Hermosillo. There is one more route – the El Camino de los Tejax, from San Antonio down south to Espada, Texas along the San Antonio River.

The name Father Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) rose as explorer/ geographer in El Camino Sonoran and Mesilla, along with Father Juan Maria Salvarierra. He proved that Baja California was not an island, by leading a land exposition. He introduced horses, cattle, and new crops such as wheat to the native Indians. He established 24 missions and vistas. The ruins of one of his missions was found close to Nogales, now known as the Tumacacori National Monument. I think I drove by the Monument when I visited Rancho Santa Cruz to say goodbye to my ex-boss who relocated there from San Diego after retirement. The city of San Antonio hosted the 2002 Toastmasters International Convention and I spent more than a week there, attending the Conference and traveling to five missions along the San Antonio River. In the 18th century, the Spanish Crown secured its northern frontier empire by creating 50 military presidios and self-sufficient mission communities in Texas.

Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was founded in 1718. By the 1730s there were several church-centered settlements along the San Antonio River. Settling into mission life, the simple hunter-gatherers of South Texas, called Coahuitecans, learned the Catholic faith from Franciscan monks and practiced agriculture.

Between 1731 and 1775, the missionaries and Indians built seven long canals, called acequias, five dams, and an aqueduct to irrigate 3,500 acres of land. By the 1770s, when the mission system began to decline, San Jose was a prosperous social and cultural center with 300 inhabitants who produced cattle and agricultural surplus. Mission Indians were the original Texas cowboys and they also defended their fortified settlements against marauding Apaches and Comanches. In 1824, the Texas missions were entirely secularized and the mission Indians, who continued to live and work in the villages along the San Antonio River, became the first Tejanos. The Alamo Mission was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for the Battle of the Alamo of 1836.

For previous posts on trekking the Mexican Silver Route, please see:
* Trekking Mexico's Silver Route
* Mexico Memoirs
* Mexico Memoirs Part 2
* Dios da a Borda, Borda da a Dios

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