Lonely Planet Writer

US organisations and Mexico work together to preserve colonial Spanish missions

Preserving colonial Spanish missions has seen the Californias from both sides of the border come together.

Spanish missions
Preserving Spanish missions is a goal of the Mexican government and organisations and donors in the US Image by Mission Don Juan / CC BY 2.0

The missions stretch from the northerly California’s Bay Area down to San José del Cabo in Baja California Sur.  Mexico News Daily reports that they serve as a constant reminder of Spain’s colonial history shared by both the US and Mexico. The General Director for International Affairs with Mexico’s National Council for Culture and the Arts, José Luis Martínez y Hernández, explained that all the churches for the 400 years between the 16th and 20th century are government property.  While the Mexican government has responsibility for preserving and protecting these missions, it is different in the US where they depend on private donations and organisations. In essence, Mexico see the missions as part of their country’s heritage – a view that is not shared north of the border.

brings the two Californias together
The importance of keeping colonial Spanish Mission is something that is bringing the two Californias together Image by Chuck Abbe

However, American organisations are looking to follow the example of Mexico. Jennifer Scheper Hughes on behalf of the UC-Mexico Initiative said the missions help to connect the Californias. She learned that there now is a strong belief that the historical heritage of the California missions is endangered. The initial meeting was to see what the shared heritage means to both nations and to create a joint vision for the future. Another goal is to recognise that the Spanish missions on both sides continue to be central to the religious life of a large percentage of local residents. It was also noted that an effort is being made to spearhead an initiative to recognise the Camino Real Misionero de las Californias – the cultural route that connects Baja California with upper California.