Travels in Mexico
Occupation of San Diego
Planting the Cross
Serra as Father-President
Moving the Mission
Serra’s Final Days
The Years Following
The Serra Museum Today
In just over two hundred years, settlement by Europeans has transformed San Diego from a region sparsely populated by Indians to an expanding urban metropolis. On July 16, 1769, Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary, planted a cross on today’s Presidio Hill and founded Mission San Diego de Alcala. Soldiers who accompanied the missionaries later served at the Royal Presidio of San Diego, a fortress which contained the mission. The ruins of the Presidio foundations can still be seen as grass-covered mounds in present day Presidio Park. The mission site was moved from the presidio area in 1774 to a location near the river six miles inland in Mission Valley. These two institutions – presidio and mission – formed the nucleus of Hispanic life during San Diego’s early years.
Although Father Serra maintained his California headquarters in Monterey, he was always cognizant of the activities and problems of San Diego, the vital southern port of the province. The interrelationship of the mission, presidio, and Indian villages frequently commanded his attention and he often visited San Diego during his fifteen years as Father-President of the California missions,
The Junipero Serra Museum, designed and built in Presidio Park in 1929, commemorates the Hispanic period in California (1542-1846) with special emphasis upon Mallorca, the birthplace of Serra and several other Spaniards who served in San Diego. The museum’s exhibits illustrate the discovery period, Spanish and subsequent Mexican colonization programs, Indian culture at the time of European contact, and artifacts recovered from presidio excavations. Father Serra’s life is a significant theme in San Diego history and it is fitting that his name be honored at the exact place where Upper California began.
The complete text of the book is presented here, but the book includes many more images.
Iris H. W. Engstrand, Ph.D., has written several books on California and Western American history including San Diego: California’s Cornerstone(1980) and Spanish Scientists in the New World: The Eighteenth Century Expeditions (1981). She is Professor and Chairman, Department of History, University of San Diego