August 21, 2009

Fun facts about missions

10 facts about California's missions

By Christopher ReynoldsZorro was born at a California mission.

Figuratively speaking, that is. Author Johnston McCulley's first story about the black-masked crusader, published in 1919, was titled "The Curse of Capistrano" and set at Mission San Juan Capistrano. The first Zorro movie followed soon after.

This revelation (on Page 71) is just one among many sacred and secular nuggets to be found in "The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation" (Getty Publications, 276 pages, hardcover, $39.95), a new coffee table book that's both scholarly and, in the words of historian Kevin Starr, "sumptuous."
One of the 10 facts with pop-culture connections:3. California's missions were a crumbling mess until they were rescued by an imaginary mestizo maiden. Without Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 romance novel "Ramona," there's no telling what the mission sites would look like now. But as that book rose to spectacular success, readers seized upon its fictionalized accounts of a California maiden of mixed descent in the early 19th century. Encouraged by railroad companies seeking western tourism, thousands of readers went looking for the real-life landmarks behind the story, and soon a movement was afoot to restore the crumbling structures. Jackson had written the book to lament the plight of California's Indians, but her readers gave the missions far more immediate attention than they gave the remaining Native Californians. (Page 55)Comment:  For some photos of Mission San Juan Capistrano, birthplace of Zorro, see Pix of Juaneño Indian Country. For more on the missions, see Mural Depicts Subservient Indians and The Missions' Mission.

Below:  Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo.

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