While it won’t get you a day off of work, or even a specialty stamp, today is one of the most significant days in California history — although it goes unnoticed by many.
On July 16, 1769, Franciscan friar Junipero Serra founded California’s first Catholic mission and presidio in San Diego — with 20 more to follow up and down the California coast.
On Monday afternoon in a private ceremony, the Soldados de Cuera, Native Californians and a Franciscan father portraying Father Serra gathered on a hill above San Diego to commemorate what many believe to be the founding of California. The group performed a re-enactment of the official Spanish ceremony dedicating the state’s first mission, first presidio, first port and first city.
The day included a handful of Santa Barbarans who made the trek down the coast.
“Spain unified all the people of the region,” said David Bolton, executive director of the California Missions Foundation, which operates out of Santa Barbara.
“The natives (of California) operated as individual units, they weren’t unified. Spain began to unify everyone into one California. Spain obviously had that vision, and it was very successful.”
The foundation was established 22 years ago, the only statewide organization committed to preserving missions. It has grown to more than 700 members, hosting an annual conference, working with historians and providing scholarships.
Mr. Bolton pointed to ongoing work with Spain and Mexico in preserving California’s rich multinational history.
“So much has happened in this state during the past 250 years, from technology advances, to infrastructure, to culture and entertainment, and so much more — it all started with Spain unifying this great land on July 16, 1769. The four nations of Spain, Mexico, the U.S. and the many native communities all have played an important and significant role in the California story,” Mr. Bolton said.
To learn more about the foundation, visitcaliforniamissionsfoundation.org.