New Lives for Old: Life in the Mission Provinces
Within the provinces of Apalachee and Timucua, the mission system was a major agent of change affecting the native people. The Spanish Crown and its represen tatives sought to transform the people into a population that not only was not detrimental to the La Florida colony, but one that contributed to Spanish colonial interests. An expedient way to do this was to work to make the people Catholic Spanish subjects who participated in and were dependent on the Spanish empire.
How were the Spaniards able to accomplish this transformation? How did they replace traditional lifeways with aspects of Spanish lifeways?
The Franciscans entered the La Florida mission field more than seventy years after Juan Ponce de León's 1513 voyage. The first inland Timucuan mission was founded nearly seventy years after Hernando de Soto's army had marched through the province. By the time of these first mission efforts, depopulation and cultural changes resulting from disease had been ongoing for more than two generations. As anthropologist Henry Dobyns has noted, epidemics "made inoperative many conventional understandings evolved by large populations" and led to many native groups questioning "their respective visions of the fundamental postulate of ethnic superiority."1 A way of life that had served so well for generations suddenly did not provide the security it had in