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Expanded Diary of Pedro Font

Friday, January 5.—We remained here to rest, and the commanders conferred concerning the matter of the rebellion of the Indians of San Diego.

After dinner I went with Father Sanchez to see the creek from which they made the acequia for this mission of San Gabriel, and with which it has the best of conveniences. For, besides the fact that the acequia is adequate, and passes in front of the house of the fathers and of the little huts of the Christian Indians who compose this new mission (who must be some five hundred souls recently converted, counting large and small), it dominates all the plains of the immediate vicinity, which are suitable for planting or for crops, and for this reason the fields are near the pueblo. This mission has such fine advantages for crops and such good pastures for cattle and horses that nothing better could be desired. The cows which they have are very fat and they give much and rich milk, with which they make cheese and very good butter. They raise hogs and have a small flock of sheep, of which on our arrival they killed three or four wethers which they had. Their flesh was especially good, and I do not remember having eaten fatter or finer mutton. They also have a few hens.

The mission has plentiful live oaks and other trees for building timber, and consequently there is abundant firewood. It lacks only lime, which up to the present has not been found; but perhaps by careful search it will be found and will make possible the improvement of the buildings, which at present are partly adobe, but chiefly of logs and tule, and which for this reason are very insecure and exposed to fire.

At present the buildings consist of a very long shed, all of one room with three divisions, which serves as a habitation for the fathers and for a granary and everything. Somewhat apart from this building there is a rectangular shed which serves as a church, and near this another which is the guardhouse, as they call it, or the quarters of the soldiers, eight in number, who serve the mission as guard; and finally, some little huts of tule which are the houses of the Indians, between which and the houses of the fathers the acequia runs.

In the creek celery and other plants which look like lettuce, and some roots like parsnips, grow naturally; and nearby there are many turnips, which from a little seed which was scattered took possession of the land. And near the site of the old mission, Which is distant from this new one about a league to the south, there is grown a great abundance of watercress, of which I ate liberally. In short, this is a country which, as Father Paterna says, looks like the Promised Land, although the fathers have suffered in it many hardships and toils, because beginnings are always difficult, especially in lands where formerly there was nothing; and besides, they suffered want because for two years the supplies failed them.

The converted Indians of this mission, who are of the Beneme tribe, and also of the Jeniguechi, [Footnote 186] tribe, appear to be gentle, friendly, and of good hearts. The men are of medium stature, the women being somewhat smaller, round-faced, flat- faced, and rather ugly. The costume of the men in heathendom is total nakedness, while the women wear a bit of deer skin with which they cover themselves, and likewise an occasional cloak of beaver or rabbit skin, although the fathers endeavor to clothe the converted Indians with something as best they can.

The method which the fathers observe in the conversion is not to oblige anyone to become a Christian, admitting only those who voluntarily offer themselves, and this they do in the following manner: Since these Indians are accustomed to live in the fields and the hills like beasts, the fathers require that if they wish to be Christians they shall no longer go to the forest, but must live in the mission; and if they leave the ranchería, as they call the little village of huts and houses of the Indians, they will go to seek them and will punish them. With this they begin to catechize the heathen who voluntarily come, teaching them to make the sign of the cross and other things necessary, and if they persevere in the catechism for two or three months and in the same frame of mind, when they are instructed they proceed to baptize them.

The routine for every day is as follows: In the morning at sunrise Mass is regularly said; and at it, or without it if none is said, they assemble all the Indians. The father recites with all of them the Christian doctrine, which is concluded with the Alabado, which is sung in all the missions and in the same key. Indeed, the fathers sing it even though they may not have good voices, since uniformity is best. Then they go to eat their breakfast of atole, which is given to everybody, making the sign of the cross and saying the Bendito [Footnote 187] before eating it. Afterward they go to work at whatever they can do, the fathers encouraging them and teaching them to labor by their example. At noon they eat their pozole, which is made in community for all, and then they work for another spell. At sunset they again recite the doctrine and conclude by singing the Alabado.

The Christians are distinguished from the heathen in that an effort is made to have them go somewhat clothed or covered, so far as the poverty of those lands will permit. And in distributing the pozole [Footnote 188] is not taken of the catechumens unless it be that they are given some of what is left over. If any Indian wishes to go to the mountain to see his relatives or to hunt acorns, they give him permission for a specified number of days. As a rule they do not fail to return, and sometimes they come bringing some heathen relative, who remains for the catechism, either through the example of the others or attracted by the pozole, which they like better than their herbs and the foods of the mountain; and so these Indians are usually caught by the mouth.

The doctrine which is recited in all the missions is the short one of Father Castañi, [Footnote 189] followed with complete uniformity, no father changing a single word or being permitted to add anything to it. It is recited in Castilian even though the fathers may be versed in the native tongue, as is the case at the mission of San Antonio, whose father minister, Fray Buenaventura Sitjar, understands and speaks well the language of the Indians of that mission. Nevertheless the doctrine is recited in Castilian, and although the father translated the doctrine into the native language, [Footnote 190] the most that is done is to recite once each day in the vernacular and once in Castilian, thus conforming with what so many times has been ordered since the first Mexican Council, as is set forth by Senor Solórzano, to the effect that the Indians shall be taught the doctrine in Castilian, and that effort shall be made to have them speak Castilian, since all the languages of the Indians are barbarian and very lacking in terms.

In the missions an effort is made to have the large unmarried girls sleep apart in some privacy. In the mission of San Luís [Footnote 191] I saw that a married soldier served as the mayordomo of the mission, thus giving the father some relief, while his wife looked after the unmarried girls, they being under her care and calling her maestra. In the daytime she had them with her, teaching them to sew and other things, and at night she locked them in a room where she had them secure against any insult, and for this reason they called them the nuns. This appeared to me to be a good arrangement.

In short, this method which the fathers observe in those new missions appeared to me to be very good; and I may note that what is done in one is done uniformly in the others, which is what pleased me most. The mission of San Diego is an exception. Here, since it is the poorest, and the country, because of its few villages, does not permit it, there are no common fields or even private ones, nor is pozole distributed there in common. There the Indians have been permitted to live in their rancherias with the obligation to come to Mass on Sundays in their turn, the same as is done in Baxa California; and this is the reason why this mission is so backward, aside from the fact that its Indians are the worst of all in those new missions.

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