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Number of Cards
Card Description
One card each on 21 individual missions; 1 card on making a model of a mission

An Introduction

The line of California missions, founded between 1769 and 1823, stretches about 650 miles from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north.  Along this trail called El Camino Reál (The Royal Road) are the visible reminders of a colorful period in California history. 

References to the mission days are all around us, in the names of streets and towns, in the architecture of our buildings, in the symbols of the mission bell and the red tile roof.  Learning about the missions helps us to understand California today. 

In the 1760's Spain controlled what is now Mexico (then known as New Spain).  When Russian ships began exploring the coast north of Mexico, Spain decided to secure the land by sending an expedition headed by Gaspár de Portolá and Father Junípero Serra to establish Spanish missions along this coast.  Portolá was named Governor of Alta (Upper) California and Serra became President of the missions. 

Father Serra was a missionary priest in the Franciscan Order, a religious group founded by St. Francis of Assisi under the Roman Catholic Church.  Serra established the pattern for the missions, spacing them about one day's walk apart and placing two padres at each site, one to serve as business manager and the other as spiritual leader. 

Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and soon resented the expense of supporting the missions.  In 1833 the Mexican government ruled that all mission lands should be transferred from the Catholic Church to the pueblo, or civilian community.  This transfer was called secularization, and it ended the period of prosperity and influence of the missions. 

The focus of the California Missions Fact Cards is on the physical mission, particularly the buildings.  The histories of these mission buildings are traced from their establishment to the present.  The facts have been gathered from many sources, and are selected to be those of interest and use to elementary school students.  Though there are common factors in the descriptions of the missions, each of the 21 has unique features which are included in the Fact Cards. 

The Fact Cards are designed as supplemental material to extend and enhance elementary school units on California history.  The student will also want to explore sources that describe life at a mission for the Franciscan missionaries, for the people native to the area, and for the soldiers who protected the missions.  The influence of the missions on the Native Californians and the interactions among all mission residents deserves careful study. 

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