Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768

Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768

Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768

Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768

Excerpt

Until 1769, the name California meant only the peninsula known today as Baja California. When a new frontier area was opened to the north, its pioneers dubbed it Nueva California, and began to call the peninsula Antigua California, partly from nostalgia, partly to eliminate confusion in the minds of those who were receiving reports from the region. By 1800, both names were discarded; the two areas were divided administratively and renamed Baja and Alta California. Today, Alta California is the most populous of the United States. Its history has been written many times over, but little attention has been paid to the modest peninsular settlement from which the giant sprang. This work looks back three hundred years to the individuals and events that created the first permanent California colony and influenced everything that happened thereafter in both Californias.

Antigua California remains a peculiarly apt title for the peninsula in the time of which I write. It retains a sense of prior history, the two hundred years of Spanish explorations, labors, dreams, and disappointments that led up to the colony's founding. It captures the poignant vision of two groups that left the peninsula at the time this work ends. In 1768, California's Jesuit missionaries, the founders of the colony, were ousted and exiled to Europe. The term Antigua California recalled for them the field in which they had labored for up to thirty years and in which sixteen of their fellows were buried. Meanwhile, men -- and before long, women -- who were born in peninsular California or had worked there for years, were pressed into service to take and hold Nueva California, far to the north. For them, Antigua California summoned up visions of home, family, and traditional life. This book is largely the story of these two groups; its title recognizes their feelings for the land they had claimed as their own.

Because of Antigua California's unique origin and development, its documentation had an unusual bias. Only Jesuits wrote its history and, to a great . . .

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