Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Manuscript for a New History of Mission San Antonio de Padua: Part One — The Mission Period 1771 to 1835.
By Leo C. Sprietsmo. Jolon, CA: Mission San Antonio, 1998. Maps. Illustrations. Bibliography. 63 Pages. Price Unavailable.
In this preliminary draft of a history of Mission San Antonio, the author has done a good job of providing a narrative of the early Spanish contact, descriptions of the Native American population and their life and culture, the growth and evolution of the mission both as an institution and as a physical plant, and life in the mission. The booklet is supported by maps, drawings and other illustrations which help tell the story (although some of the illustrations need labels). In view of the extension and controversial literature on the role of the California missions as they affected the Indians, it is interesting to note that Sprietsmo devotes much of this book to describing the Indians and their part in mission life. As such it represents an improvement over Zephyrin Engelhardt’s 1929 account. The author does defend the church against charges of flogging and excessive punishment of the Indians, using the standard argument that such punishment was consistent with the times. On the other hand, he does really make clear the extent to which the Indians were denied their freedom, or the way in which the virtually slave-like system exploited Indian labor for construction, cultivation and most other activities of the mission. On the whole, however, the treatment is reasonably balanced, and one of the better histories of a mission. It would be a good companion piece to a visit to San Antonio, which is one of the few missions still in a rural setting, and hence one of the few where one can get an idea what the original missions were really like.