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California A Mexican Frontier

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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:23 pm    Post subject: California A Mexican Frontier Reply with quote

AFTER the Hidalgo revolution in 1810, Mexico was for eleven years in a state of ferment—until the establishment of independence in 1821. Just three centuries after Cortez had won Mexico for Spain, Blockades by the insurgents dealt the Missions of the Californias a hard blow. So great was the suffering in the Missions in Baja California that Fr. Presidente Sarria at Carmel sent a plea to the heads of all his Missions in Alta California for help, their own growing difficulties notwithstanding. Such goods as could be spared in charity were dispatched to the Missions in the lower territory—cotton cloth, wool (2500 pounds from Mission San Miguel alone), cows, range cattle, mules and sheep, blankets and saddles-altogether, enough to set them going again. A serious sacrifice on the part of the Padre Presidente and his Missions after the long drain on their resources to support the soldiery and their dependents. Then there were taxes and cash contributions besides. But the gifts to the Missions in Baja California were, after all, a reciprocal offering, since the first Missions in the north—San Diego and Monterey—had been started largely by the seeds, cuttings and roots, sheep, cattle and horses, and domestic and ecclesiastical necessities contributed from the older establishments on the thorny peninsula.

The climax of the eleven years of guerrilla warfare in Mexico was the raising of the flag of the revolutionaries in the capital, February, 1821.

Thus was declared the absolute and complete independence of all New Spain from the ancient monarchy in the Old World. Monterey automatically continued as capital of Mexican California.

It was not, however, until the following year that the news reached Monterey. News traveled slowly in those days. Agustin Iturbide was ready to take his oath as Emperor of Mexico (Agustin I) before the startling news shook the sleepy old capital into a consciousness that the world without was changing.

Governor Don Pablo Vicente de Sola, to whom fell the none-too-happy task of bridging the change in California, met it a bit nervously. But he was game in the end, seeing that things were going over peacefully.

"Early in March,” Dr. Bolton tells us, in Iturbide Revolutions in the Californias, “Sola received dispatches from Mexico requiring the allegiance of California to the Imperio Mexicano and announcing the forthcoming assemblage of the Cortex."

To meet the situation, an imposing convention was called to meet in Monterey, April 9th, in the Presidio. Behold the important personages, assembled not only from Alta, but from Baja California, with much pomp and flourish:

"The Military and Political Governor of this Province, Colonel Don Pablo Vicente Sola, the Captains of the Presidio and Territories of Santa Barbara and San Francisco, Don Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega, Don Luis Antonio Arguello; the Captains of the Military Companies of the battalions of Tepic and Mazatlan, Don Jose Antonio Navarrete and Don Pablo de la Portilla, Lieutenant Don Jose Maria Estudillo for the Company at San Diego; Lieutenant by brevet, Don Jose Mariano Estrada, for the Company in garrison at this Presidio of Monterey; Lieutenant by brevet, of artillery, Don Manuel Gomez, Comandante of his branch of the service, and the Reverend Fathers Mariano Payeras and Senor Vicente Francisco de Sarria and Fray Jose Senan." (Incidentally, descendants of some of these army officers still live in Monterey, treasuring in the bosom of their families the honor that crowned their family names.)

Consternation had seized the inhabitants at these strange procedures; but, after all, what was a revolutionary change to them in their individual lives, so far from Mexico? Why a long face, when life could be so gay? On with the merienda , the baile and the fandango!

Two days after the convention had been convened, the following document was promulgated:

"In the Presidio of Monterey, on the eleventh day of the month of April, of the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two, I, the undersigned secretary with vote, certify that, after the previously prepared resolutions ordered by the Regency of the Empire in consequence of the mandate of sovereign provisional administrative council, the Independence of the Empire was sworn to this day in this Capital of New California by its Military and Political Chief, by the gentlemen and Reverend Fathers who signed these proceedings whereby obedience was accorded to the new Supreme Government, by the officers and troops of the garrison, and finally by all the inhabitants, this very solemn act being concluded with a majestic church sermon, prolonged vivas, repeated volleys of musketry and cannon, music, illuminations, and whatever was thought appropriate to the complete celebration of so fortunate a day, Jose Maria Estudillo, secretary with vote. [signed] Sola (rubric)."

Almost before California had grown accustomed to addressing the new ruler as "Your Imperial Majesty, Emperor of New Spain," His Imperial Majesty had abdicated; had returned; and been neatly shot (1823). And the Republic of Mexico had been set up in its stead. Things move fast, when the revolutionary spirit is in the air.

The republic was formally created by the adoption of a constitution based upon that of the United States of North America, July 19, 1823. A year later it was promulgated.

Handwriting on the wall for Mexican California, Monterey thus found herself capital of a republican followed Father Sarria's declination to take the oath, though he offered "to take the oath of fidelity of not doing anything against the established government. If this is not admitted, I say to you that I am resigned to the penalty of banishment."

Though ever after under the shadow of exile, the venerable friar stood by his guns, serving at Carmel, later assigned to Mission Soledad, the lonely post in the Valley of the Moaning Winds. Refusing to leave the Indians after secularization—when the sale of everything of value had reduced them to abject poverty—he stayed on till the end. One morning, saying Mass at the altar, he was seen to sway; then to fall. The Indians rushed to his assistance. He died in their arms, of want and privation. Loath to bury him in the decaying Mission, where coyotes would overrun his grave, the Indians constructed a bier of pine-boughs, and in relays carried his body to Mission San Antonio de Padua, for burial beside the altar. Torches of pitch-pine lighted their way over the mountain when darkness overtook them. A noble figure, worthy successor of Serra. Rest, Sarria!

It is of interest to note that Carmel Mission holds a memorial of the sainted man who had the courage to stand by his Indian children to the end. It is a finely designed copper holy-water font, bearing the friar's name and the date of its gift (1820).

The shadows of secularization were soon to envelop Carmel, capital of the Missions, and slowly but surely to spread over all the Franciscan outposts of civilization in California—now numbering twenty-one—Stretching along the coast, from San Diego to Sonoma.

Schools, factories, corrals, orchards, vineyards, gardens, hospices, where the wayfarer of whatever color or creed, was welcomed—horse and rider—and sent on his way refreshed, to the next outpost. And without price, save that of companionship, and news from the outside world. The world's most interesting experiment in community living, under God—its constitution the Ten Commandments.
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