History has been kind to Padre Junipero Serra (1713-1784): founder of the California Missions, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Pope Francis canonized Padre Serra on September 23, 2015, during a Mass in Washington, DC.
History has generally forgotten Captain Felipe de Neve (1724-1784), Spanish governor of Alta California and Serra’s political opponent. Serra, dogmatically believing his and God’s purpose were indistinguishable, thwarted Neve’s attempts to inventory mission supplies, as required by First Commandant General Teodoro de Croix, King Carlos of Spain’s emissary. Instead, Serra sent his mission inventories to the Pope in Rome. Spain supplied the money and supplies; accounting for both went to Rome. The result was widespread over-stocking and hiding of mission supplies by the padres.
Both Serra and Neve had differing visions of the future for California Indians brought up in the missions (neophytes) who faced the end of Spanish control of Alta California, and encroachment of the “Anglos” from the East. For Serra, God’s protection would suffice. For Neve, security came through a return to self-sufficiency, independent from the missions. Serra won, Neve lost, and the mission Indians were decimated.
Alta California is a fiction couched within actual historical events that took place between 1777 and 1784 in Las Californias, New Spain. Throughout I have tried to keep Paco Palido's story, the fiction, in the foreground, not letting it get subsumed beneath historical events.
Below are the historically accurate elements mentioned in Alta California: