Baja California Missions

The history of Baja California has ancient roots and is closely linked to the colonization of the missionaries, first Jesuits and later Franciscans and Dominicans.
It is a story of resistance and determination of the indigenous peoples of Baja (Cochimi, Guaycura and Pericu) and, like all colonizations, it has its dark side.

The colonization of Baja California

In January 1633, the Spanish Government undertook an expedition to Baja California with three ships and 200 men, led by the Governor of Sinaloa, Isidro de Atondo y Antillón and accompanied by the Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino.
The ships landed in the place that would later become the city of La Paz.
The first settlement in La Paz was quickly abandoned due to hostility from the local population.
Later, they tried again near Loreto and failed again.
Kino and Atondo y Antillón returned to the mainland, where they were the first to begin missions in the northwest.

History of the Jesuit missions in Baja California

It was in 1695 when another Jesuit priest, named Juan María Salvatierra, finally managed to establish a permanent Spanish settlement in Loreto. The mission of Nuestra Señora de Loreto quickly became the religious and administrative capital of the peninsula.
From here, other Jesuits went to preach and work throughout the area, founding a total of 23 missions in the next 70 years.

Along with religion, palm groves, and fruit cultivation, the Jesuits, unfortunately, brought some diseases to Baja California that the natives had never been exposed to.
In 1767, in fact, epidemics of smallpox, plague, typhoid, measles, and even venereal diseases decimated the population. Of the 48,000 inhabitants, only 8,000 remained.

The intervention of the Spanish government and the arrival of the Franciscans.

While population decline threatened the survival and purpose of the missions, it was the Spanish government that put an end to the Jesuit efforts.
The Jesuit priests were said to have accumulated a fortune on the peninsula and were becoming very powerful.
When power returned directly to the Spanish government, King Carlos III expelled the religious from the Mexican peninsula, threatening them with weapons and repatriated them to Spain.
Later, the Franciscans arrived under the direct authority of Don Junípero Serra. They consolidated some of the missions, closed others and founded their own, such as that of San Fernando Velicata.

Father Serra received new assignments from the Spanish government and, together with Gaspar de Portola, went north to establish new missions in Alta California.

This feat, which resulted in 21 missions in Baja and Alta California, led to the beatification of Junípero Serra by the Catholic Church.
Later, in 1772, the Dominicans arrived and over the next thirty years, they established nine missions in the northern part of Baja California.
They also ran missions previously founded by the Jesuits.

The uprising of the Mexican people 

Finally, in 1810, the Mexican people rose up to end Spanish rule. The days of government of the missions were numbered.
Mexico gained its independence in 1821 and, in 1832, after Baja became a federal territory, the governor transformed the missions into simple parish churches, definitively putting end to missionary work and the government of the peninsula to religious Catholics.

These missions are still today witnesses of an ancient history and have a particular attraction. Some are still in perfect condition, others are abandoned in the middle of the desert and some adventurers or explorers continue to visit them, going into dusty trails in the middle of nature.
Baja California Travel, thanks to the valuable help of the travel tablet, GPS points and maps, will help you visit them and discover their exotic charm.

Contact our team for your trip to Baja California

Contact us without obligation to make travel plans! If you wish, we can start a videoconference so we can get to know each other better.

Scroll to Top