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Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California

Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California [Kindle Edition]

Gregory Orfalea

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Product Description

Product Description

The fascinating narrative of the remarkable life of Junípero Serra, the intrepid priest who led Spain and the Catholic Church into California in the 1700s and became a key figure in the making of the American West

In the year 1749, at the age of thirty-six, Junípero Serra left his position as a highly regarded priest in Spain for the turbulent and dangerous New World, knowing he would never return. The Spanish Crown and the Catholic Church both sought expansion in Mexico—the former in search of gold, the latter seeking souls—as well as entry into the mysterious land to the north called “California.”

Serra’s mission: to spread Christianity in this unknown world by building churches wherever possible and by converting the native peoples to the Word of God. It was an undertaking that seemed impossible, given the vast distances, the challenges of the unforgiving landscape, and the danger posed by resistant native tribes. Such a journey would require bottomless physical stamina, indomitable psychic strength, and, above all, the deepest faith. Serra, a diminutive man with a stout heart, possessed all of these attributes, as well as an innate humility that allowed him to see the humanity in native people whom the West viewed as savages.

By his death at age seventy-one, Serra had traveled more than 14,000 miles on land and sea through the New World—much of that distance on a chronically infected and painful foot—baptized and confirmed 6,000 Indians, and founded nine of California’s twenty-one missions, with his followers establishing the rest. The names of these missions ring through the history of California— San Diego, San Jose, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Clara, and San Francisco—and served as the epicenters of the arrival of Western civilization, where millions more would follow, creating the California we know today.

An impoverished son, an inspired priest, and a potent political force, Serra was a complex man who stood at the historic crossroads between Native Americans, the often brutal Spanish soldiers, and the dictates of the Catholic Church, which still practiced punishment by flogging. In this uncertain, violent atmosphere, Serra sought to protect the indigenous peoples from abuse and to bring them the rituals and spiritual comfort of the Church even as the microbes carried by Europeans threatened their existence.

Beginning with Serra’s boyhood on the isolated island of Mallorca, venturing into the final days of the Spanish Inquisition, revealing the thriving grandeur of Mexico City, and finally journeying up the untouched California coast, Gregory Orfalea’s magisterial biography is a rich epic that cuts new ground in our understanding of the origins of the United States.

Combining biography, European history, knowledge of Catholic doctrine, and anthropology, Journey to the Sun brings original research and perspective to America’s creation story. Orfalea’s poetic and incisive recounting of Serra’s life shows how one man changed the future of California and in so doing affected the future of our nation.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 36353 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (14 Jan 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BW5R7KI
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #980,056 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the "San" came from 14 Jan 2014
By BookVodney - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a fabulous study of early California history in the late 18th century. You will be taken on a journey of discovery, secular quest, political struggle between Spanish administration & religious quest, and more importantly understand the end result: the suffering & Christian transformation of the aboriginal people who comprised the land we know as California. The primary character: Friar Junipero Serra was a deeply devoted aging Franciscan tasked as a missionary to bring the pagan natives into the fold of the Church and develop into loyal subjects of the Spanish empire. King Charles the III, recently diminished the power of the Jesuits (who typically were the missionaries), and looked to the Franciscan's to seek out and grow the Church & Empire.

The North American west course was vital to Spain's growth to build trade with the Philippines. Serra a self-flagellating pious Friar in his mid- 50's was assigned to lead the Franciscan effort to grow the Catholic religion and establish the Church in this new land. In spite of the local Spanish government and military disruptions - Serra was able to establish nine missions, and baptized 6000 people. He also converted the natives from nomads into herders & farmers. The new communities thrive with the new existence, but later many died from European disease with venereal disease being the leading cause of death. The Friars of course acted upon extreme measures to control the spread - locking up young women at night and flogging those in relationships. Serra worked himself to death eventually, but thought iron willed devotion planted the seeds of Cathoism which remains strong to this day in modern California.

The author did a great job developing this time into a very readable format that describes the tough character and will of Serra, and his very strong influence on American history.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What was California like BEFORE the Gold Rush? 4 Feb 2014
By bedwards - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I grew up in California and went East to college. Our home was in the Sacramento Valley, near the Mother Lode, and my great grandparents on both sides settled in Santa Barbara in the 1800s. In New England it is taken for granted that America's early history was all home-grown and a local phenomenon. California, they assumed, had the Beach Boys ..... and that was about it.

But I've cared about Junipero Serra since I was a little kid, visiting relatives near the Santa Barbara Mission. Too many years later, my wife and I have loved to travel. Often, although I'm not very religious, we find ourself walking in Father Serra's footsteps. We've been to his birthplace in Petra, Mallorca, to Baja California churches such as the one in Loreto, and of course to most of the California missions. My most recent birthday was spent on an over-night at Hearst's Hacienda at Camp Hunter Liggett, in the shadow of Serra's third mission. A month ago we enjoyed every station of the Huntington Library's Father Serra exhibit. Of course I purchased Professor Hackel's history ("Junipero Serra") and quickly consumed it.

"Journey to the Sun" explores Junipero Serra's life and what it meant to California. I could feel the Franciscan's pain on the rough and risky trails he chose, and Author Orfalea makes very clear the devotion that drove Serra forward. He paints a vivid picture of what California was like at the very time New England was holding it's American Revolution. One chapter is devoted almost entirely to describing how the native people lived BEFORE the arrival of these Spanish holy men and soldiers.

This is not a "revisionist history". The missionaries meant not to subjugate the Indians, but to save their souls. They were also frail human beings who failed in some important ways. Junipero Serra struggled against unimaginable hurdles and hardships. Professor Orfalea brings it all to life.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book about Serra and the California Evangelism of the Natives! 6 Feb 2014
By Dennis Awad - Published on
I liked the way the book was written and the poetry that was in it. It gave a good incite into what type of person Serra was and how he loved his faith and wanted in a loving and strong way to convert the population to make them more civilized from his point of view.
A must read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Journey 4 Feb 2014
By Susan M. Perona - Published on
Gregory Orfalea's own "journey" has produced a remarkable book! Father Junipero Serra has never been so fully realized, nor beautifully imagined. Father Serra's historical effort to convert the Native Americans to Christianity and to establish the California Mission system, in the New World, is both a wondrous read and an indelible image. Mace Perona, Retired Film Studies professor
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful read. 21 Jan 2014
By Emerito D. Posadas - Published on
I have visited 4 California missions so far. What I needed was a book to educate me about how and why these missions were established throughout California 250 years ago. The author makes Serra come alive in every page. Serra's unrelenting faith inspite of the odds to built these missions is impressive. The author's succinct style and careful research makes this book highly interesting and readable.
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