American Franciscans

One Franciscan friar, Vasco de Quiroga, used his own money to found a series of missions in Michoacán (he was later made bishop of the region), which
were based on the ideas in Sir Thomas More’s philosophical novel Utopia. Here, Native Americans were taught a wide array of technical skills, such as
masonry, carpentry, ironwork, and tanning, and European-style weaving, textile dyeing, ceramics, animal husbandry, and agriculture, in addition to reading,
writing, and Christian doctrine. All lands were held communally, and the Native Americans received social benefits, including hospital care and freedom
from abuse. These missions set the pattern for those that would follow.

Among the many Franciscan missions and presidios throughout Texas and California were the Alamo, built in 1744 as the chapel of the Mission San
Antonio de Valero (founded in 1718), and San Jos, San Juan, Concepción, and Espada (the latter was originally called San Francisco de los Tejas),
along the San Antonio River in east Texas. The missions of Baja California were founded by a group of friars led by Junípero Serra and included San
Diego de Alcalá (1769), Monterey (1770), San Francisco de Asis (in 1776, San Francisco was a presidio, built along with Mission Dolores), and Santa
Barbara (1786). Santa Barbara’s church design has been traced to a reprint of an architecture book originally published in 27 b.c.e. that one of the
Franciscans had in his possession, and of all the California missions, Santa Barbara was the only one that remained in the hands of the founding
Franciscan order.

There were also the missions of San Antonio de Padua and San Gabriel Arcángel (1771), San Luis Obispo (1772), San Juan Capistrano (1776), Santa
Clara (1777), San Buenaventura (1782), Santa Cruz (1791), San Jos and San Fernando Rey de España (1797), and San Luis Rey de Francia (1798),
among others. The last California mission was founded by General Mariano Vallejo and Friar Jos L. Quijas in Sonoma, not only to evangelize the Native
Americans there but also to stop Russian infiltration (the Russians had built Fort Ross, just to the north). The mission system was abolished by the
Mexican government after its independence from Spain in 1834.

The most famous individual Franciscan, without doubt, was Bernardino de Sahagún. Born Francisco Rivera in 1500, Sahagún took the name of his
Spanish hometown when he took holy orders. He arrived in Mexico with nineteen other Franciscan friars in 1529 and devoted fifty years of his life to the
study of the principal native language Nahuatl, Aztec culture, and history. His most important written work is the Historia General de las Cosas de la
Nueva España (general history of the things of New Spain), which was highly criticized in its time because it explains the conquest of Mexico from the
Aztecs’ point of view.

Lynne Guitar
See also: Catholic Church; Dominicans; Jesuits; Missions; Religion (Chronology); Religion (Essay).
Bibliography
Brown, Walden. Sahagún and the Transition to Modernity. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.
Castañeda, Carlos E. Our Catholic Heritage in Texas. 7 vols. New York: Arno, 1976.
Jackson, Robert H., and Edward Castillo. Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians. Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1995,
McCarty, Kieran. Before They Crossed the Great River: Cultural Backgrounds of the Spanish Franciscans of Texas. Austin: Texas Catholic Historical Society, 1992.
Phelan, John L. The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World: A Study of the Writings of Gerónimo de Mendieta, 15251604. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1956.
Short, William J. The Franciscans. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1989.
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American Franciscans

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American Franciscans

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