Serra Letter

serra and indian


O Lord Jesus Christ, reward the apostolic zeal of Your servant, Blessed Junipero Serra, who departing his native Spain, labored for the salvation of souls in Mexico and California. Grant that, as we honor him for his dedication to You, he may be recognized as a saint in the Church. Through Blessed Junipero Serra's intercession, kindly grant the favor I request. Amen.

Father Junipero Serra
a letter from the mission field

The following is a translation of a letter, dated July 3, 1769, addressed by Junipero Serra to his future biographer, Father Palu:

"MY DEAR FRIEND:--Thank God I arrived the day before yesterday, the first of the month, at this port of San Diego , truly a fine one, and not without reason called famous. Here I found those who had set out before me, both by sea and land, except those who have died. The brethren, Fathers Crespi, Vizcaino, Parron and Gomez, are here with myself, and all are quite well, thank God. Here are also the two vessels, but the San Carlos without sailors, all having died of the scurvy, except two. The San Antonio, although she sailed a month and a half later, arrived twenty days before the San Carlos, losing on the voyage eight sailors. In consequence of this loss, it has been resolved that the San Antonio shall return to San Blas, to fetch sailors for herself and for the San Carlos."

"The causes of the delay of the San Carlos were: first, lack of water, owing to the casks being bad, which, together, with bad water obtained on the coast, occasioned sickness among the crew; and secondly, the error which all were in respecting the situation of this port. They supposed it to be thirty-three or thirty-four degrees north latitude, some saying one and some the other, and strict orders were given to Captain Villa and the rest to keep out in the open sea till they arrived at the thirty-fourth degree, and then to make the shore in search of the port. As, however, the port in reality lies in thirty-two degrees thirty-four minutes, according to the observations that have been made, they went much beyond it, thus making the voyage much longer than was necessary. The people got daily worse from the cold and the bad water, and they must all have perished if they had not discovered the port about the time they did. For they were quite unable to launch the boat to procure more water, or to do anything whatever for their preservation. Father Fernando did every thing in his power to assist the sick; and although he arrived much reduced in flesh, he did not become ill, and is now well. We have not suffered hunger or other privations, neither have the Indians who came with us; all arrived well and healthy."

"The tract through which we passed is generally very good land, with plenty of water; and there, as well as here, the country is neither rocky nor overrun with brush-wood. There are, however, many hills, but they are composed of earth. The road has been good in some places, but the greater part bad. About half-way, the valleys and banks of rivulets began to be delightful. We found vines of a large size, and in some cases quite loaded with grapes; we also found an abundance of roses, which appeared to be like those of Castile."

"We have seen Indians in immense numbers, and all those on this coast of the Pacific contrive to make a good subsistence on various seeds, and by fishing. The latter they carry on by means of rafts or canoes, made of tule (bullrush) with which they go a great way to sea. They are very civil. All the males, old and young, go naked; the women, however, and the female children, are decently covered from their breasts downward. We found on our journey, as well as in the place where we stopped, that they treated us with as much confidence and good-will as if they had known us all their lives. But when we offered them any of our victuals, they always refused them. All they cared for was cloth, and only for something of this sort would they exchange their fish or whatever else they had. During the whole march we found hares, rabbits, some deer, and a multitude of berendos (a kind of a wild goat)."

" I pray God may preserve your health and life many years."

" From this port and intended Mission of San Diego, in North California, third July, 1769."


[excerpt from Seventy-five years in California , page 371, by William Heath Davis; see the Library of Congress website, American Memory ]

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