With what material did the Indians construct the San Fernando mission?

Tourist Attractions

By Meagan Drillinger

The San Fernando Mission

The San Fernando Mission, officially known as the Mission San Fernando Rey de España, is a historical site located in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1797, it was the 17th mission built by the Spanish Franciscan order in California. The mission was established to convert the indigenous peoples of the area to Christianity, and it served as a center for agriculture, crafts, and education. Today, the San Fernando Mission is a popular tourist attraction and a reminder of the rich cultural history of the region.

The Indigenous Peoples of California

Before the arrival of the Spanish, California was home to a diverse group of indigenous peoples who spoke over 100 languages and dialects. The Tongva, who inhabited the San Fernando Valley, were among the many native groups in California. They had a complex social organization based on clans and a rich spiritual tradition, which included the worship of a creator god and a belief in the interconnection of all living things.

The Spanish Arrival in California

In 1769, the Spanish arrived in California and began a campaign to colonize the region. They established a series of missions, presidios (forts), and pueblos (towns) along the coast, with the aim of converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity and integrating them into Spanish society. The Spanish brought with them new technologies, animals, and crops, which transformed the landscape of California and had a profound impact on the native way of life.

The Construction of the San Fernando Mission

The San Fernando Mission was built between 1797 and 1808 by the Tongva and other indigenous peoples, under the direction of Spanish Franciscan friars. The mission complex included a church, living quarters for the friars and neophytes (converted indigenous peoples), workshops, and gardens. The construction of the mission was a massive undertaking, requiring thousands of adobe bricks, which were made by the indigenous laborers.

Building Materials Used by the Indians

The indigenous peoples used a variety of materials to construct the San Fernando Mission, including rocks, wood, and adobe bricks. They also used mud, straw, and water to create the adobe bricks, which were the main building material of the mission. The indigenous peoples had a deep knowledge of the local materials and adapted their building techniques to the climate and geology of the region.

Adobe Bricks: The Main Building Material

Adobe bricks were the main building material of the San Fernando Mission because of their availability, durability, and insulating properties. The bricks were made by mixing mud, straw, and water in a large pit, and then molding the mixture into rectangular blocks. The bricks were left to dry in the sun for several weeks, and then stacked to form walls. The adobe walls were covered with plaster, which protected them from the elements and gave them a smooth finish.

Mud, Straw, and Water: The Recipe for Adobe

The indigenous peoples used a simple recipe to make adobe bricks: mud, straw, and water. The mud was sourced from nearby riverbeds or dug from pits, while the straw was gathered from wild grasses or domesticated animals. The water was added to the mud and straw mixture to create a workable consistency. The indigenous peoples used their feet to stomp on the mixture, which helped to mix it evenly and break up any clumps.

The Role of Indigenous Labor

The construction of the San Fernando Mission was a collaborative effort between the Spanish Franciscan friars and the indigenous peoples. The indigenous laborers were the primary builders of the mission, providing the skilled labor needed to make adobe bricks, build walls, and create the mission complex. The indigenous peoples were paid in goods and food, and were also required to convert to Christianity as part of their labor contract.

The Influence of Spanish Building Techniques

The Spanish Franciscan friars brought with them new building techniques and styles, which they used to influence the design and construction of the San Fernando Mission. The mission complex was laid out in a grid pattern, with a central courtyard and a church at one end. The church was built in the Spanish Baroque style, with ornate decorations and frescoes. The indigenous peoples incorporated these Spanish styles and techniques into their own building traditions, creating a unique blend of indigenous and Spanish architecture.

The Legacy of the San Fernando Mission Today

Today, the San Fernando Mission is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of California’s rich cultural history. The mission complex has been restored and preserved, and is open to visitors who can learn about the indigenous peoples, the Spanish Franciscan friars, and the history of the mission. The San Fernando Mission is also a reminder of the important contributions of the indigenous peoples, who provided the labor and expertise needed to build the mission.

Conclusion: Honoring the Indigenous Contributions

The San Fernando Mission is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the indigenous peoples of California, who used local materials and adapted their building techniques to create a beautiful and functional mission complex. The mission is also a reminder of the complex and often fraught history of California, which has been shaped by the interactions between different cultures and peoples. By honoring the indigenous contributions to the San Fernando Mission and other historical sites, we can better appreciate the diversity and richness of California’s cultural heritage.

References and Further Reading

  • Weber, F. (2002). The California Missions: A Pictorial History. Interlink Publishing.
  • Hackel, S. W. (1997). Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850. University of North Carolina Press.
  • Lightfoot, K. G., & Parrish, O. (2009). California Indians and the Mission System. AltaMira Press.
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Meagan Drillinger

Meagan Drillinger, an avid travel writer with a passion ignited in 2009. Having explored over 30 countries, Mexico holds a special place in her heart due to its captivating cultural tapestry, delectable cuisine, diverse landscapes, and warm-hearted people. A proud alumnus of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, when she isn’t uncovering the wonders of New York City, Meagan is eagerly planning her next exhilarating escapade.

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