Monday, January 12, 2015

Junípero Serra in Mexico's Sierra Gorda

The Missions of Mexico's Sierra Gorda, in the mountainous state of Querétaro several hours by car north of Mexico City, though physically very distant, are closely connected to those of the Californias. Beginning in the late 17th century, Jesuit missionaries began establishing missions in Lower or Baja California (that story retold in my book, Miraculous Air). In the late 18th century, when the Spanish King, for reasons known only to himself, expelled the Jesuits from the Spanish realm, it was Father Junípero Serra, the Franciscan missionary of the Sierra Gorda, who took over that enterprise, and continued marching north, establishing
missions up the Pacific Coast of what is today the state of California. 

> See the Huntington Museum page on Junipero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions

This past Easter week, I had the great fortunate of being able to visit the missions of the Sierra Gorda-- to follow, as the Mexicans say, la ruta de las misiones. A delightful synchronicity: my dear friend and fellow writer, Araceli Ardón, recently published a beautiful book on this very subject: Los caminos de Fray Junípero Serra en Querétaro / The Paths of Junipero Serra in Queretaro (Gobierno del Estados de Querétaro / Valverde International / Fundación DRT). Texts are by Araceli Ardón and Andrés Garrido del Torral, with photographs by Gerardo Proal and Gonzalo Alcocer Fernández de Jáuregui. (Other than the museum shop in Jalpan, I do not know where the book can be purchased, but it can be found in libraries at this link. I hope to update this link shortly.)

The five Franciscan missions of the Sierra Gorda are Concá, Tancoyol, Jalpan, Landa, and Tilaco.  Herewith a few of my own snapshots:






The plaza in from of Mission Jalpan

More about Junípero Serra:

> Brief bio on PBS apropos of a series about the West

> Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California by Gregory Orfalea

> And forthcoming this March:
Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz

More about the Franciscan missions:
UNESCO page on the Missions of the Sierra Gorda
Misiones de la Sierra Gorda, Querétaro, in México desconocido, an excellent Spanish language Mexican magazine
Museo Histórico de la Sierra Gorda in Jalpan de Serra

Among the other many sights to see in the Sierra Gorda are the Sotano del Barro in Arroyo Seco, a vast sinkhole with a colony of macaws; El Chuvaje waterfall; and archeological sites including Ranas, 
Toluquilla and Tancama. For more about these and others, see:

Your COMMENTS are always welcome

(Poet and artist Sir Edward James' Surrealist Garden,
a place many visit on their way to see the missions)

(includes a short story set in Querétaro by Araceli Ardón)

(very interesting throughout; of note, 
he mentions his creative retreats into the Sierra Gorda)