Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, or Mission Loreto, was founded on October 25, 1697 at the Monqui Native American (Indian) settlement of Conchó in the present city of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Established by the Catholic Church's Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra, Loreto was the first successful mission and Spanish town in Baja California. The mission is located at 26°00′37″N 111°20′36″W / 26.01028°N 111.34333°W.

The mission closed in 1829. The Mission Church survives and is located in downtown Loreto.

Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó. Construction of the church was completed in 1744.[1]
Loreto map



After Hernán Cortés' initial failed 1535 attempt to found a colony in the Bay of Santa Cruz (today's La Paz, Baja California Sur), the next 150 years were marked with further unsuccessful efforts to colonize Baja California. The most nearly successful of these attempts was the 1683–1685 outpost at San Bruno, only about 20 kilometers north of Loreto, among the Cochimí. This failure by Admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón and the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino led directly to the success at Loreto 12 years later.

After many unsuccessful ventures in Baja California, the government of New Spain and the Spanish crown were reluctant to finance any further attempts. However, Kino's enthusiasm for this potential mission field was persistent. He ultimately persuaded some of his colleagues, including Salvatierra, and the authorities in New Spain to allow the Jesuits to return to the peninsula, but this time on their own responsibility and largely at their own expense.

By the start of 1697 everything was ready for the journey's start at the mouth of the Río Yaqui River in Sonora. Kino was unable to participate, because an Indian rebellion in Sonora required his presence on the mainland. Salvatierra would soon be joined at Loreto by Francisco María Piccolo, and they were supported from the mainland by the procurador for the mission, Juan de Ugarte.

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto. Siglo XVIII
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó in the 18th century.


On October 19, 1697, Salvatierra, with nine armed men, disembarked from the galley Santa Elvira at the place the Indians called Conchó (probably meaning waterhole). The site was distinguished by "a small patch of stunted shrubbery and a spring of fresh water, both rare luxuries in that inhospitable country." In the first days after their arrival, the missionary erected a modest structure that served as a chapel, to the front of which they affixed a wooden cross. On October 25 they carried the image of the Virgin of Our Lady of Loreto in a solemn procession, a ritual of faith that claimed the area as Spanish territory. Thus began the Mission Loreto.[2]

A Monqui rancheria -- a settlement whose population was usually 50 to 80 persons -- was only a few hundred feet from where the Spanish decided to build the mission -- with the only waterholes in the area between the two. The Spanish presence attracted more Indians; some were offered food in exchange for working and attending religious services, but the majority became hostile. On November 13, about 200 Indian men attacked the rudimentary fortress of the Spanish, shooting arrows and throwing rocks. The Spaniards fended them off with a mortar and two harquebusses. After about two hours, the attack ceased. Two Spaniards were slightly wounded and Salvatierra reported that they had killed and wounded several Indians.[3]

Two days later a Spanish ship with supplies and reinforcements, including a second Jesuit priest, Francisco María Piccolo. arrived and, with the help of native workers paid with food, the Spaniards quickly erected a walled fortress called the Real Presidio de Loreto (Royal Fort of Loreto) that became the mission headquarters. Sporadic resistance by the Monqui to the mission continued but after a confrontation on Easter Sunday 1698 in which several Indians were killed or wounded,the Monqui accepted the presence of the mission. By late 1698, a total of 27 men -- priests, religious helpers, and soldiers, staffed the mission.[4]

Later history

The Loreto Mission would prove "worthless as a breadbasket" because of insufficient water to irrigate crops, but valuable as a base for expansion of the missionary enterprise and Spanish control of Baja California. The Spanish recognized that providing food to the Indians would draw them to the mission, but food had to be brought from the mainland of Mexico across the often stormy Gulf of California. Periodic shortages of food impacted the mission for decades. In 1699, the mission's need to find land suitable for agriculture led it to establish a new mission in a promising valley about 25 kilometres (16 mi) inland from Loreto at a place called Biaundó by the Cochimí Indian residents.[5] In succeeding years, with Loreto as the base, the Jesuits created several new missions in south-central Baja California and then in more remote portions of the peninsula both to the north and to the south.

Loreto mission's stone church, which still stands, was begun in 1740 and completed in 1744. Loreto continued to be the headquarters for missionaries. even after the Jesuits were expelled from Baja California and replaced, first by the Franciscans in 1768 and then by the Dominicans in 1773. In 1769, the Loreto mission (now led by Franciscans under Junípero Serra) was the departure point for the land portion of the land/sea exploratory expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá. The joint military/missionary expedition traveled into today's U.S. state of California as far north as San Francisco Bay, establishing new Franciscan missions at Velicatá (Baja), San Diego and Monterey.

Mission Loreto came to an end in 1829, by which time the native population throughout Baja California had declined "to the point of near extinction."[6]

Population decline

By the end of 1698, one year after its founding, the Loreto mission had a population of about 100 Monqui families who had been converted to Christianity, nearly all of the Monqui who had lived along a 65 kilometres (40 mi) stretch of coast. This population of around 400 steadily decreased thereafter because of the toll from imported European diseases. By 1733, the Monqui population of Loreto was only 134 and it was maintained thereafter at about that level only by importing Christian Indians from other parts of Baja California. In 1762, a Jesuit report recorded only 38 baptisms in the previous 18 years -- but 309 deaths.[7]

At the same time as the Monqui population declined, the imported Spanish, mestizo, and Indian population of Loreto increased. In 1730, the Jesuits recorded the non-Monqui population of Loreto at 175, which included 99 men and their wives and children. The men were employed as soldiers, sailors, artisans, teamsters, and cowboys. By 1770 the total population of Loreto was more than 400 of whom only about 120 were Indians indigenous to Baja California. The Monqui as a people and distinct culture were virtually extinct.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Burckhalter, David, Sedgwick, Mina, and Fontana, Bernard I. (2013), Baja California Missions, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, p. 28. Downloaded from Project Muse.
  2. ^ Weber, Francis J. (April 1967), "Jesuit Missions in Baja California", The Americas, Vol. 23, No. 4., pp. 412. Downloaded from JSTOR; Burckhalter, et al 19-20.
  3. ^ Crosby, Harry W. (1994), Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, pp. 29-33
  4. ^ Crosby, pp. 34-36, 38-39; Burkckhalter et al, p. 20
  5. ^ Crosby, 34-45
  6. ^ Jackson, Robert H. (1981), "Epidemic Disease and Population Decline in the Baja California Missions", Southern California Quarterly, Vol 63, No. 4, p. 308. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  7. ^ Crosby, pp. 266-277
  8. ^ Crosby, pp. 276-277


  • Crosby, Harry W. 1994. Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697–1768. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
  • León-Portilla, Miguel. 1997. Loreto's Key Role in the Early History of the Californias (1697–1773). California Mission Studies Association.
  • Salvatierra, Juan María. 1971. Selected Letters about Lower California. Edited by Ernest J. Burrus. Dawson's Book Shop, Los Angeles.
  • Vernon, Edward W. 2002. Las Misiones Antiguas: The Spanish Missions of Baja California, 1683–1855. Viejo Press, Santa Barbara, California.
El Camino Real (California)

El Camino Real (Spanish; literally The Royal Road, often translated as The King's Highway), sometimes associated with Calle Real (within the US state of California), usually refers to the 600-mile (965-kilometer) road connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California (formerly Alta California), along with a number of sub-missions, four presidios, and three pueblos, stretching at its southern end from the San Diego area Mission San Diego de Alcalá, all of the way up to the trail's northern terminus at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, just above San Francisco Bay.

The meaning of the term "Camino Real" has in fact changed over time. In earlier Spanish colonial times, any road under the direct jurisdiction of the Spanish crown and its viceroys was considered to be a camino real. Examples of such roads ran between principal settlements throughout Spain and its colonies such as New Spain. Most caminos reales had names apart from the appended camino real. Once Mexico won its independence from Spain, no road in Mexico, including California, was a camino real. The name was rarely used after that and was only revived in the American period in connection with the boosterism associated with the Mission Revival movement of the early 20th century.

The original route begins in Baja California Sur, Mexico, at the site of Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, present day Loreto, (the first mission successfully established in Las Californias). Today, many streets throughout California that either follow or run parallel to this historic route still bear the "El Camino Real" name. Some of the original route has also been continually upgraded until it is now part of the modern California freeway system. The route is roughly traced by a series of commemorative bell markers.


The Guaycura (Waicura, Waikuri, Guaycuri) were a native people of Baja California Sur, Mexico, occupying an area extending south from near Loreto to Todos Santos They contested the area around La Paz with the Pericú. The Guaycura were nomadic hunter-gatherers. They are distinguished by a language unrelated to any other Native American language, indicating in the opinion of some linguists that their ancestry in Baja California dates back thousands of years.

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) of the Catholic Church established Christian missions in their territory in the 18th century. The Guaycura may have numbered 5,000 at the time of Spanish contact, but their numbers quickly declined, mostly due to European diseases. They became extinct as a culture by about 1800, the survivors being absorbed into the mestizo society of Mexico.

History of California

The history of California can be divided into: the Native American period; European exploration period from 1542 to 1769; the Spanish colonial period, 1769 to 1821; the Mexican period, 1821 to 1848; and United States statehood, from September 9, 1850 (in Compromise of 1850) which continues to this present day.

California was settled from the North by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years. It was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America. After contact with Spanish explorers, most of the Native Americans died out from European diseases.

After the Portolá expedition of 1769–70, Spanish missionaries began setting up 21 California Missions on or near the coast of Alta (Upper) California, beginning with the Mission San Diego de Alcala near the location of the modern day city of San Diego, California. During the same period, Spanish military forces built several forts (presidios) and three small towns (pueblos). Two of the pueblos would eventually grow into the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose. After Mexican Independence was won in 1821, California fell under the jurisdiction of the First Mexican Empire. Fearing the influence of the Roman Catholic church over their newly independent nation, the Mexican government closed all of the missions and nationalized the church's property. They left behind a small "Californio" (white Hispanic) population of several thousand families, with a few small military garrisons. After the Mexican–American War of 1846-48, Mexico was forced to relinquish any claim to California to the United States. The unexpected discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848 produced a spectacular gold rush in Northern California, attracting hundreds of thousand of ambitious young men from around the world. Only a few struck it rich, and many returned home disappointed. Most appreciated the other economic opportunities in California, especially in agriculture, and brought their families to join them. California became the 31st US state in 1850 and played a small role in the American Civil War. Chinese immigrants increasingly came under attack from nativists; they were forced out of industry and agriculture and into Chinatowns in the larger cities. As gold petered out, California increasingly became a highly productive agricultural society. The coming of the railroads in 1869 linked its rich economy with the rest of the nation, and attracted a steady stream of migrants. In the late 19th century, Southern California, especially Los Angeles, started to grow rapidly.

History of California before 1900

Human history in California began when indigenous Americans first arrived some 13,000–15,000 years ago. Coastal exploration by Europeans began in the 16th century, and settlement by Europeans along the coast and in the inland valleys began in the 18th century. California was ceded to the United States under the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the defeat of Mexico in the Mexican–American War. American westward expansion intensified with the California Gold Rush, beginning in 1848. California joined the Union as a free state in 1850, due to the Compromise of 1850. By the end of the 19th century, California was still largely rural and agricultural, but had a population of about 1.4 million.

List of the oldest church buildings in Mexico

The following is a list of the oldest extant church in each of the administrative divisions of Mexico. The first place of Christian worship in what would become Mexico was in what is now known as La Antigua, Veracruz, founded by the Spanish in 1519.

Misión San Bruno

The short-lived Jesuit mission of San Bruno was established in 1684 on the Baja California Peninsula near the Gulf of California, in colonial Mexico of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Mission was located at 26°13′57″N 111°23′53″W. The location of this mission should not be confused with the location of the present day town of San Bruno which is located about 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the north.

The site is about 25 kilometres (16 mi) north of the later site of the town of Loreto, in present-day Loreto Municipality, Baja California Sur state, Mexico'

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó was a Spanish mission on the Baja California peninsula in colonial Mexico, the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

The site is in present-day Loreto Municipality of Baja California Sur state. The mission was located at 25°51′38″N 111°32′37″W. San Francisco Javier mission was founded by Jesuits of the Roman Catholic church in 1699 and closed in 1817. The missionary's objective was to convert the local Cochimí Native Americans (Indians) to Christianity. A mission church survives and is in use.

Spanish missions in Baja California

The Spanish missions in Baja California were a large number of religious outposts established by Catholic religious orders, the Jesuits, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, between 1683 and 1834 to spread the Christian doctrine among the Native Americans or Indians living on the Baja California peninsula. The missions gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land, and introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the region. The Indians were severely impacted by the introduction of European diseases such as smallpox and measles and by 1800 their numbers were a fraction of what they had been before the arrival of the Spanish.

Mexico secularized all missions in its territory in 1834 and the last of the missionaries departed in 1840. Some of the mission churches survive and are still in use.

The Californias

The Californias (Spanish: Las Californias), occasionally known as the Three Californias or Two Californias, are a region of North America spanning the United States and Mexico and consisting of the U.S. state of California and the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Historically, the term "The Californias" was used to define the vast northwestern region of Spanish America, as the Province of the Californias (Spanish: Provincia de las Californias), and later as a collective term for Alta California and the Baja California Peninsula.Originally a single, vast entity within the Spanish Empire, as the Californias became defined in their geographical limits, their administration was split various times into Baja California (Lower California) and Alta California (Upper California), especially during the Mexican control of the region, following the Mexican War of Independence. As a part of the Mexican–American War (1846–48), the American Conquest of Alta California saw the vast Alta California territory ceded from Mexico to the United States. The populated coastal region of the territory was Admitted into the Union in 1850 as the State of California, while the vast, sparsely-populated interior region would only later gain statehood as Nevada, Utah, and large parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

Today, "The Californias" is a collective term to refer to the American and Mexican states bearing the name California, which share geography, history, cultures, and strong economic ties.

USNS Mission Loreto

SS Mission Loreto was a Type T2-SE-A2 tanker built for the United States Maritime Commission during World War II. After the war she was acquired by the United States Navy as USS Mission Loreto (AO-116). Later the tanker transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service as USNS Mission Loreto (T-AO-116). She was a Mission Buenaventura-class oiler and was named for Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, located in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, considered the "Head and Mother of all the California Missions."

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.