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Fray Junípero Serra

In 1769, one Pope resided in Avignon, and another one in Rome. The United States of America were not yet constituted, not even remotely imagined. The West coast of what is now the USA, was not inhabited by Europeans, and hence, was politically unclaimed, according to the Euro-centric way of thinking in those days. The Pope, or the Catholic Church, reputedly got wind that explorations or a conquest by the Russians were imminent on the American North West coast. Time and speed were crucial.

Apparently, the Catholic Church, politically very powerful at that time, asked the Spanish clergy for help. Spain, of course, was more adept in seafaring matters then, and more at home in the Americas than Italy. France annexed Avignon only in 1791, when the Pope moved back to Rome.

In 1749, the Mallorcan monk, Junípero Serra had decided to become a missionary. He left Spain from Cadiz, arriving in Veracruz, Mexico, in the same year. Mexico then was a Spanish domain under the auspices of the Catholic Church, called Nueva España. Six months after having arrived in Mexico, Serra was appointed a missionary pastor in Santiago de Jalpan. By 1768 he had helped found five missions on the Mexican mainland. In 1768, Junípero Serra joined an expedition heading for Baja California, also Mexican, where a further two missions were founded. In 1769, he was asked to join an expedition to Alta California, which today is known as California, USA. There he founded the first nine of a total of 21 Californian missions: San Diego de Alcalá, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, San Antonio de Padua, San Gabriel Arcángel, San Luis Obispo de Toloso, San Francisco Solano, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Clara de Asis and San Buena Ventura (in what is now Los Angeles).

Fray Junípero Serra hails from the pueblo of Petra where a museum is established in the missionary’s name. The photo (above) was taken there. The image shows a painting by Joan Miralles Lladó and supposedly depicts Serra’s first landing in Monterey, CA. in 1769 and the first misa (mass) held there upon a successful disembarkation. The museum is open daily. A visit can be recommended.

The photo was taken in Petra, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 30th, 2010. The time was 16:25:15.

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