The Original Mexican Border

Franciscan missionariesDuring the three hundred-plus years Spain claimed ownership of California by right of conquest, Spain’s official religion took a part in setting the state’s first southern boundary. Imperial Spain’s Nueva Espana (New Spain) was far-flung: it included the Caribbean, Mexico, and parts of what are now the southwestern United States. To consolidate its colonial territories, spread the Christian doctrine and introduce European livestock and crops, mission outposts were established on the peninsula of Baja (Lower) California beginning in 1683 by, sequentially, the Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican orders of priesthood.  Franciscan Father Junipero Serra was ordered to push farther north to establish missions in Alta (Upper) California in 1769, a venture that ultimately resulted in 21 missions along California’s coast.  Four years later, in 1773, a cross was raised some 15 miles below the present international border to mark the line of jurisdiction between the territory of the Franciscan padres in Alta California and the Dominican friars in Baja California.

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