Visiting Spanish Missions in California

It has been a long while since my last post.  This is directly due to to my second child and I’ve quickly learned that with only one child there is still free time, but with two all personal time no longer exists.  There is no time to read much about history, study more language, ponder the big questions.

There is no time.

But today, I find myself with an hour of freedom and am determined to get this post written.

Here in California I really enjoy visiting the old Spanish Missions whenever I’m traveling and one happens to be close by.   I enjoy all things Spain related as I spent time studying in both Spain and Mexico and became completely enraptured by the culture, history and language that these experiences completely changed the course of my life.  To walk into an ancient church turned mosque reconfigured back into a church in Toledo Spain it is almost as though you can feel the history, like humidity enveloping your body, is truly a mystical experience; if one sits quietly you can almost hear whispers of long dead worshipers and see an ethereal procession of medieval clergy.  

Toledo, Spain

I remember going to the top of the school tower on a warm Spanish night in Toledo and looking over the dimly lit city.  I imagined the gentle breeze brought with it the clanks of armor, the murmur of shouts and thud of thousands of feet of a Moorish army advancing in the distance to my ears.  I was there waiting for them 1000 years later expecting that just maybe our thoughts and emotions may leave an eternal impression in some unperceived reality where time does not exist and perhaps we might sense each other if only for an instant, like the flicker of a firefly.

The Conquest of Granada

Through books I was there, when the Templars conquered Granada and I’ve touched the Alhambra.  I followed their descendants from their poor, dirty villages to Cadiz where they embarked on an adventure of exploration never to return home.  I was there in Vera Cruz when the arrived after a long and arduous journey across the Atlantic only to find themselves at the beginning of another; this time over the land of New Spain filled with indigenous inhabitants whose civilization has been laid to waste by countrymen.  

Mission at Carmel

And here I am at the end of their journey, one of the farthest points from Spain, in a wild, dry wilderness that seems to offer nothing but bare, brown hills, an unforgiving perilous ocean and over one thousand ways to die.  I stand at the very spot where they erected the cross in a quest to bring all souls to their God by whatever means necessary.  I know what they did to the Native Americans and see the brutal scars they created upon innocents with their righteous wrath.  I hear the cries of the Indian children as they were taken from their parents and locked away in this house of hell. 

But these images of the past fade and as I look around and see modern people of every race carrying electronic wizardry to capture an exact replica on tiny screens of whatever catches their eye.  I see them arrive in self propelled carriages and realize from their languages they arrived on this very spot from very remote corners of the globe with minimal effort and I am astounded at how advanced humanity has become since the founding of this mission.

Leon Trousset Founding Painting

 I see them touching the statues believing they will receive divine power, sprinkling themselves with water in that they will enter a state of grace and making the same signs that the Spanish explorers would have done in the painting on the wall.  I think that for those explorers none of them would have had the opportunity to go to a university and spend many years in the pursuit of nothing but knowledge and learning.  But looking at my fellow visitors I believe at least half would have gone to a university and more than a few became people of science.  Yet here they are, doing as was done over 200 years ago.  

Mission at Carmel

I see them making the religious signs and kneeling to pray to a statue.  For them this is the sacred act of contrition, a gesture which unites them with the creator.  All of this in a place that was built on the slavery and forced servitude of the Native Americans.  They pray to the image and bones of Junipero Serra asking for healing, asking for forgiveness, asking for favors.  What almost every visitor fails to understand is that they kneel also upon the bones of thousands of the Native Americans that were tortured, enslaved and ultimately wiped out by the Spanish and their religion.  They submit themselves to the porcelain figures which presided over an absolute genocide and did not shed a tear.  

I see the Filipinos and the Mexicans prostrate themselves to a religion that invaded their lands, killed their people, ended their ancient civilizations and wonder why the ghosts of their warrior ancestors do not return in a blinding, ghastly rage to smash the idols of the oppressors and to scream and wail among the pews.

Then I realized I’ve completed my tour and go to lunch.  

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/