he Spanish mission was a frontier institution that sought to incorporate indigenous people into the Spanish colonial empire, its Catholic religion, and certain aspects of its Hispanic culture through the formal establishment or recognition of sedentary Indian communities entrusted to the tutelage of missionaries under the protection and control of the Spanish state. This joint institution of indigenous communities and the Spanish church and state was developed in response to the often very detrimental results of leaving the Hispanic control of relations with Indians on the expanding frontier to overly enterprising civilians and soldiers. This had resulted too often in the abuse and even enslavement of the Indians and a heightening of antagonism. To the degree that the mission effort succeeded, it furthered the Spanish goals of political, economic, and religious expansion in America in competition with other European-origin nations. Spanish colonial authorities enjoyed the patronato real (royal patronage) over ecclesiastical affairs, granted to the Spanish crown by the pope. As patrons the state authorities made the final determination as to where and when missions would be founded or closed, what administrative policies would be observed, who could be missionaries, how many missionaries could be assigned to each mission, and how many

soldiers if any would be stationed at a mission. In turn, the state paid for the missionaries’ overseas travel, the founding costs of a mission, and the missionaries’ annual salary. The state also usually provided military protection and enforcement. Franciscans from several of their provinces and missionary colleges in New Spain established all the missions in Texas. The ideal of the missionaries themselves, supported by royal decrees, was to establish autonomous Christian

This historical monument has been standing as the center of the Spanish Mission civilation for many years.

towns with communal property, labor, worship, political life, and social relations all supervised by the missionaries and insulated from the possible negative influences of other Indian groups and Spaniards themselves. Daily life was to follow a highly organized routine of prayer,

work, training, meals, and relaxation, punctuated by frequent religious holidays and celebrations. In this closely supervised setting the Indians were expected to mature in Christianity and Spanish political and economic practices until they would no longer require special mission status. Then their communities could be incorporated as such into ordinary colonial society, albeit with all its racial and class distinctions. This transition from official mission status to ordinary Spanish society, when it occurred in an official manner, was called “secularization.” In this official transaction, the mission’s communal properties were privatized, the direction of civil life became a purely secular affair, and the direction of church life was transferred from the missionary religious orders to the Catholic diocesan church.qv Although colonial law specified no precise time for this transition to take effect, increasing pressure for the secularization of most missions developed in the last decades of the eighteenth century. Colonial authorities and Franciscan missionaries attempted to introduce the mission system into widely scattered areas of Texas between 1682 and 1793, with greatly varying results. In all, twentysix missions were maintained for different lengths of time within the future boundaries of the state. To this number should be added San Miguel de los Adaesqv (the easternmost colonial Texas outpost, which was later incorporated into Louisiana) and

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