Spanish Colonization

When Franciscan friars Father Crespi and Father Junipero Serra came to colonize California in the late 1760s, they looked upon this undertaking as a “sacred expedition” to bring native heathens into the Church.  In truth, the effort was prompted by rumors of Russian ships nosing about the Pacific Coast–a potential threat to Spain’s unoccupied New World holdings.  The priests were accompanied by California’s first governor Don Gaspar de Portola, and escorted by soldiers to protect the missionaries and guard the country.  The primary aim was to safeguard the Monterey harbor (the greater bay of San Francisco had not yet been discovered).  The soldiers erected presidios (forts).  Knowing they were committed for a long term, some of these soldiers brought their wives and children from Mexico; others married Indian women who were attached to the missions.  In time these families established pueblos (towns) on the outskirts of the mission properties:  San Jose in 1777; Los Angeles in 1781, and Santa Cruz (then known as Branciforte) in 1797.

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