This is the last script on Father Kino  received on behalf of the Father Kino Association, from Father Charles in June 2003

Padre Kino  -  A Dream Denied

 Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino, the seventeenth century Jesuit missionary to Northwest New Spain, entered my life nearly fifty years ago.  Well, not exactly, when I was ten, I sat before a fireplace screen at my Grandmother’s home in San Diego; it depicted the pioneers of California and the very first figure on the illustrated border of the huge map was a Blackrobed figure.  It identified the first missionary to California – Eusebio Kino!  As a proud native of the state, I insisted this was a terrible mistake because everyone knew the missionary to California was Fray Junipero Serra.  It took me twenty years to realize that the history painted on that screen was absolutely correct.

            Surely, Padre Kino is no stranger to any of you in this audience.  But I do worry that he is nothing more than just a fairly prominent name in the colonial history of Mexico.  As savory as that history may be, Kino is often considered not much more tantalizing than frijoles refritos.  Tasty and familiar, but nothing really new on the menu of humanity.  And if any of you are among those who ask, “Is there anything new on Padre Kino,” you are bound to be disappointed because we historians have combed the archives for decades; nothing has emerged out of the archival dust.  Nothing that is except newer and richer understandings about the man and his work.  That is why I have chosen as a topic today: “Padre Kino, a Dream Denied.”

            Over the past several years I began work on a new translation of Kino’s memoirs – the famous “Favores Celestiales.”  I was able to retrieve only one fairly well worn copy of the translation made by Dr. Herbert E. Bolton in 1919, entitled Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta, a title that on the bookshelves of most stores was destined not to sell.  The title was an academician’s way of avoiding the flowery and pious one Kino gave to his grant proposal to King Philip V of Spain – the Heavenly Favors of Jesus, Mary Most Holy, and the Most Glorious Apostle of the Indies, Saint Francis Xavier.  He was quite right in addressing the King as he did, but in a marketing sense, it was a disaster -- the manuscript never made it to print.  Kino finished it just a year before his death in the desert; and his treatise was shelved in the library of the Jesuit college in Mexico City for lack of a living promoter.  His dreams about a major expansion of the northwest missions were not readily shared either by companions or the newly appointed Bourbon administration in Spain.

            Working on the retranslation was tedious.  Often I would ask “why doesn’t he get on with the details of history?”  Time and again he laments about the opposition he encountered from colonial officials and Spanish speculators.  Time and again he praises the industrious and docile Indians of the Pimería.  Chapter by chapter the memoirs reveal a generous, positive minded apostle stung by reversals and rewarded by successes.  Part One of Kino’s Favores Celestiales is a recasting of his first tract that he wrote after the murder of Padre Francisco Xavier Saeta at Caborca in 1695.  The manuscript of that tract resides today in the Biblioteca Nacional in Mexico City; like the Favores, it, too, was never published although the manuscript was widely known to successions of Jesuit superiors.

 From the manuscripts on Saeta and the Favores it is clear that Kino kept meticulous records of his journeys and explorations, including detailed maps and inventories.  He carefully archived letters from superiors and colonial officials.  His headquarters at Dolores in Sonora was a treasure trove of the early history of northwestern New Spain.  Tragically, that archive has been scattered and lost over the centuries.  What we have remaining is his compilation of events that he composed, not as history but as a paean to the promise of North America.  If you overlook that aspect of his writings, you are on the virtual edge of misinterpreting his life and his importance.  In my own writing and research on Kino I have tried to puzzle out the historical sequences and human interactions of this frontier missionary and apostolic visionary; in most cases I have failed because Kino cloaked over the details of daily life, although he left enough evidence in his writings to piece together an incomparable history.  However, to come to know the man behind the pen, one has to pay minute attention to the scope of his dreams.

            As a young man Kino envisioned himself following in the tracks of his cousin Father Martino Martini, the Jesuit missionary to China.  His fervent interest in mathematics, physics and astronomy was fueled by his recognition of their apostolic usefulness in the Orient.  But fate sent him West, not East.  In his quest for the Orient he got only as far as the crashing waves on the Pacific shores of Baja California and the swells of that same ocean in search of pirates that would seize the China Ship.  Providence kept pulling him back to the mainland of Mexico and the frontiers of Spanish expansion to the northwest.

 His assignment to join the expedition of Don Isidro Atondo y Antillón to the “California islands” in 1683 was a profound failure that shaped the rest of his mortal life.  Wealth and courtly influence made no sense in that God forsaken, destitute land.  It was human misery and deprivation that burned deeper into his soul than the sun into his skin.  Never had he encountered a people more abandoned than those on that desert island, where even the Spaniards recognized their total dependence on supplies over the seas.  California was less a conquest than an exercise in survival.

 Kino’s return to the mainland and his assignment to the missions of the northwestern frontier was obediently accepted, and eased somewhat by the knowledge that he would be only a few days sail away from those poor isolated humans.  Although his original hopes to evangelize the Seris and Guaymas Indians on the Gulf coast were dashed by an assignment to open missions among the Pima Alta, he kept the memory of California and its people firmly in mind.  Like so many frontier tribes, the Pimas were considered fair game for slavers who enriched themselves by selling them as laborers to the grueling mines of the Sierra Madre.  But Kino saw them as an industrious, docile people who built excellent farms in the valleys of the foothills.  This was a land of immense opportunity far beyond the extraction of silver and gold.  In a matter of a few years Kino had sold himself and several companions on the value of developing these natives and their lands into prosperous missions that could care for each other, and through their surplus production to aid others far away.  And Kino remembered that California was not all that far off.

 In a matter of only eight years the Pimería Alta was prospering.  The threat of jealous colonials to oust the Italo-German Jesuit in 1690 was crushed by bushels of wheat, ollas of corn, and trampled by herds of cattle and horses.  The Pimería was coming alive.  But the brutal slaying of Saeta seemed to contradict all of Kino’s assessment of these Indian peoples; he rode to Mexico City in near desperation in 1695 to plead for more missionaries.  And once again the hand of Providence was laid upon the unsuspecting Eusebio.  There in Mexico City in early ’96 while urging the Jesuit provincial to find more missionaries for the northwest, he learned of his reassignment to California in consort with his old Italian superior, Padre Juan María Salvatierra, who had come in response to complaints about the missions of the Pimería – only to be convinced of the rectitude of Kino’s apostolate.  With the opulence of the Piman missions and the generous benefactions of friends in Mexico as collateral the austerity of abandoned California could well be overcome.  The dream was born again.

 In the fall of 1697 Kino loaded his saddle bags and spurred his horse toward the port of Guaymas.  Salvatierra was waiting for him to join the new, independent California expedition.  But this time, it wasn’t Providence that handed him a turn of fate, it was the people of Sonora.  They feared his loss to the management of the missions might mean the loss of peace on the frontier;  Kino was simply too important a player to be allowed to leave.  Couriers of the governor intercepted him with orders to return to his headquarters at Dolores.  No California redeux. 

 Stung by the suddenness of the reversal of his assignment, Padre Kino plunged into an even more vigorous campaign of development.  If he couldn’t work in California, at least those in California would never suffer want from a lack of food and supplies.  A shorter road to Guaymas would be opened; the port would be readied to store more food and house more livestock.  And he would incorporate  even more Indian communities into the mission economy, priests or not.  Once again the drying timbers for his boat building at Caborca would be cleaned off and shaped for creating a reliable vessel to ply the Gulf with supplies for California.

For most historians this is the portion of the Favores that defines Kino’s importance in history – the explorations that led to the discovery of an overland passage to California and the definitive proof that California was not an island, but a long, slender peninsula.  And precisely at this point is where most writers miss the apostolic and historic significance of the life of Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino.  His enthusiasm to develop more Indian pueblos into productive agricultural centers to aid California had driven him west to the shores of the Gulf and across the deserts to the fabled lands of the Yuma and Quiquima.  As he spied the glimmering Colorado delta from the barren hills at the edge of the Camino del Diablo, he wondered what lay beyond.  As the stared at the blue shells, a gift of those same delta tribes, he wondered how they acquired shells he had only seen once before on the shores of the Pacific.  It was all beginning to make sense – California had to be conjoined with the mainland!

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