10/21/05 - founding los angeles

In today's excerpt - the founding of the city of Los Angeles:

"In 1769 ... alarmed that the Russians and the British might challenge Spain's claim to the [California] region ... [they] sent an expedition ... to establish missions and garrisons with which to guard them.  With them ... came Father Junipero Serra ... a former teacher of philosophy, nearsighted, badly handicapped by an ulcerated leg, and further weakened by his pious habit of scourging his own flesh in atonement for the sins of others. ... Nothing could quell his missionary fervor and ... Father Serra and his successors would establish twenty missions in all ... including San Diego ... San Jose and San Francisco de Asis.  Near the Mission San Gabriel, where earthquake tremors were so strong they shook the Spanish off their feet, a small town sprang up in 1781, settled by forty-six persons whom the mission fathers considered lazy and corrupt, interested mainly in drinking, gambling and pursuing women ... called El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles.

"To curtail what they called the Indians' 'free and undisciplined state' and thereby bring them to Christ, the friars used soldiers to round them up and force them into missions. The fathers managed to baptize some 54,000 California Indians during the mission era, but few survived more than a few years of mission life.  The Indian population between San Diego, and San Francisco declined from perhaps 72,000 to as few as 18,000, victims of poor food, poor treatment and European diseases, fostered by overcrowding. 'They live well free' a puzzled friar said, 'but as soon as we reduce them to a Christian and community life ... they fatten, sicken and die.' "


Geoffrey C. Ward


The West: An Illustrated History


Little, Brown, and Company


Copyright 1996 The West Book Project, Inc.


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