Spanish mission style

One of the things that drives me absolutely crazy about the debate in the United States, especially the Southwestern United States over "illegal immigrants" is that those who want to "ship the illegals home" tend to forget that almost all of the Southwest of the US used to belong to Mexico. Thus a lot of the "Mexicans" living in California have been here for 300 years or more, before California was even a state.

In fact, Spanish missionaries started coming up the western coast of the US before the 13 Colonies declared independence from England. The cities of Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Juan Capistrano, were all first the locations of Spanish missions. That means the first building built in all of these areas was a large Catholic church. Priest and monks lived in these missions and tried to convert the Native American populations in each area; those who converted lived on the mission lands and helped with farming and other daily tasks.

The Spanish missionary conquest of California is not, therefore, without its problems. But I always like to highlight it for anyone coming to California for the first time, because it is important to realize that California has a separate history from "the United States".

So when I was asked recently for "must see" sights in Berkeley California by an Icelandic tour guide, I included the International House at the top of Bancroft Avenue. It is one many delightful examples of the Spanish Mission Revival architectural style. The Riverside Inn, in Riverside California (where I had my first wedding) is another example of it, as is the central campus of Stanford University. In fact, if a tourist to California keeps their eyes open, they can see lots of evidence of the fact that California was part of Mexico for longer than it has been part of the United States. And I think that is a legacy worth respecting.

Comments

Jon said…
It amazes me (living by the Northern U.S. border) that so few white Americans know that Spanish was, and maybe still is, the dominant language in the Southwestern U.S. for so long a period. I am always hopeful that the indigenous languages survive despite the dominant culture.

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