Santa Barbara, California. Our day began with Mission Santa Barbara, nicknamed “The Queen of Missions.” The dual bell towers and the sandstone construction make it unique among the missions. Across the street from the mission is a portion of the aqueduct that brought water to the mission grounds. The self-guided tour through the museum, gardens, and church was easy to follow.
What stood out to me was an emphasis they placed on the “blending of cultures.” With Pope Francis coming to the USA and officially declaring Father Junipero Serra a saint, there has been a renewal of protests over the treatment of the Native Americans by the mission padres. The protestors are making statements such as, “the padres forced their religion upon our Native American ancestors,” “the padres enslaved our ancestors,” and “the padres forced their culture on our people.” We know that the Spanish government and the Catholic Church worked together to place these outposts in what was known as Alta California. Spain was creating a presence in this land in order to substantiate their claim on it and the Church was sending missionaries to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Different objectives, but they did work together so they are both responsible for what happened. But it is hard to imagine that Father Serra had any other objective that to teach the native people about a God who loved them. He certainly wasn’t gaining riches or power. (We learned today was that Father Serra, after landing in Veracruz, Mexico and being bitten by an insect, experienced significant leg pain the rest of his life; and he walked up and down Alta California between the missions). Throughout history there have been conquering cultures that have taught the subdued culture a new worldview and a new way of life; “forced” is probably the appropriate word, then. My mind goes to the forming of the United States of America; if the 13 independent states hadn’t “blended,” there certainly would be no unity. And then the immigration to the United States has brought a blending of cultures. I’ve heard it said that there is no U.S. culture, but we all know that isn’t true; ours is truly a blended culture. So this thought of “blending cultures” has been on my mind and I’m not sure it is all bad. Any thoughts?