Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The mother of all missions

Nothing evokes California for me as much as the El Camino Real bells.
If you attended fourth grade in California, you will remember making a model mission. Or, perhaps, you watched your mom make a mission*. This year, students can choose from a variety of projects, but California stopped requiring the models. My favorite memory of the unit was getting excused from school to spend a whole day with my mom to visit a mission.

Iris selected Mission San Diego because it is the first mission in Alta California. Amazingly, I had never been there. We went on Easter Sunday, so she didn't miss any school.
We were in San Diego anyway for a family reunion weekend. I was sick with a cold, but I went along with the others to minimize my contact to a family member in frail health who could not afford to catch my cold.

It's a functioning church, with services every hour on Easter Sunday. Parking was a mess; we were very glad we took public transit.
Iris and Father Serra.
A doorway.
Take a second look at the light fixtures.
Two happy and tired girls in my handiwork.
Iris in the same 'effefant' shirt, in June 2003.
* Just for the record, my sister and I made every last bit of our missions ourselves.

Have you read your child's history textbook recently? I was surprised to read Iris' text and find that it gave even shorter shrift to the horrific treatment of Native Americans than my textbook 30 years ago. My sister-in-law of identical age says that her textbook was similarly vague. She thinks that might be the difference between San Diego and San Francisco school districts. The politics of the two cities is very different. At least my kid is not using Texas' science textbooks.

I went to the publisher's website to view supplemental materials. That did explain the genocide and why the Indians ran away and/or burned down the missions. If you read the book alone, it would have been a mystery.


  1. My mission was San Juan Capistrano, near where I grew up. I made my mission myself, as my mom was not architectually inclined. However, we kept it and my brother and sister spruced it up and 'recycled' it for their 4th grade projects. I was amazed later when I got to Berkeley as a History Major at what had been left out of our history classes.
    I made sure my kids learned the extra stuff when they went to school. 4th graders have a very strict sense of right and wrong - they can take the truth

  2. We noticed the old light fixtures, new bulbs at San Juan Bautista, close to where we live. Do you have any recommended reading ideas for missions for those of us that didn't grow up in California? I always get vague answers from anyone I ask about it.

  3. I don't know of a good survey book. Mark and I make a point of stopping by missions and presidential libraries on our road trips. I read all the brochures, displays and plaques critically. The rest of the history, I picked up from reading omnivorously.

    Books used in college classes are generally more nuanced. As a Cal graduate, I am partial to the U of CA press. ;-)

    I went to their website for CA history books. Search the page for 'mission'
    and you see W W Robinson's book, Land in California.


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