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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Our Desert Trip; Part 4

Part 3 in which we stay were on a mission; A mission to visit the missions.

We saw three missions on our trip, San Antonio de Pala Asistencia, Santa Ysabel Asistencia, and Mission San Diego de Alcalá. The Asistencia missions were smaller ‘helper’ missions set inland,rahter thanon the El Camino real. The missions existed primarily to minister to Indians rather than defend the royal road, so these missions did not have military presidios.

San Antonio de Pala Asistencia is by far the most interesting of the three missions to visit. It’s conveniently located about a mile from another giant casino, in the small town of Pala, on the Pala Reservation. The mission church still functions as a parish church, however the church has not been modernized as much as some of the other missions, and has an adjacent museum. Many of the other mission buildings are occupied by a charter school.
When we arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, we found the church occupied by a wedding. That gave us the opportunity to explore the grounds.

The graveyard is still in use, and most graves were heaped with all sorts of offerings; ceramic animals, heaps of well-cleaned plastic flowers, sporting equipment, framed photos, military emblems and even one pack of cigarettes. I dared not take any photos. I figured that if the Pala are this serious about graves, taking a photo might lead to an informal pugilistic encounter with an Indian twice my size. The graveyard photos on the mission web sights only show the oldest graves, which are not adorned at all. One thing I learned from looking at the headstones is that a lot of Indians die young. Hopefully, some of the new-found bingo revenue might be used for health programs.

The mission had a nice campanile (or bell tower in gringo). In this rural location, visitors are allowed to climb the steps up to the bells, and obey the signs asking us to resist the temptation to ring the bells to summon a posse to apprehend Zorro.

The original mission bells hang from the school building’s eaves. People make a big deal out of mission bells.

At this point, the wedding finally ended. We commented to each other that these Indians looked almost like Asians. After talking to the priest while we were touring the church, it turns out the wedding attendees were Filipino, as is the priest. This Filipino priest’s surname is Monahan, which he said is an endless source of humor with the older Irish priests in the area.

The church was pretty much modernized, and I didn’t want to annoy the priest who got stuck with the post-wedding cleanup, so I didn’t get any pictures of the church. The photos in the mission website show the original timber roof, which was the church’s most interesting feature.

The attached museum was a treasure trove of creepy iconography. The museum preserved an altar from the turn of the century. Much busier than the current décor.

Some of the artwork was amazing!
This is the bloodiest crucifix I have ever seen. Awesome!

The priest would wear this on All Soul’s Day. Can you get more goth than this?

I liked the style of these wooden statues.

This place may have spoiled me for all other missions.

Santa Ysabel Asistencia is located in a beautiful agricultural valley, not really near any town. The mission was completely in ruins in the 1920’s when an independently wealthy priest assigned to the mission’s parish led the effort to build a new church, rectory (his house) and parish offices. Since this is all modern, there was not much to photograph. The mission has a very small museum dedicated to bells that were lost. The museum had several interesting photos from the 1920s.

The mostly Indian graveyard by this church was similarly decked out. Again, I was too chicken to take any photos.

Our last stop was San Diego. We visited Mission San Diego de Alcalá. This mission was moved and rebuilt in the 19th century, and has been maintained in a somewhat bland fashion, however it is full of statues and other memorials extolling the virtues of Junipero Serra and the rest of his bunch of Franciscans. The mission gives a nice appearance from the front.

The mission’s original site is now taken by the museum in San Diego’s Presidio Park. The museum is currently closed until further notice, since apparently the foundation that ran it went broke.

We stayed near Old Town San Diego, which was in a great part under construction. Beyond good Mexican restaurants, we didn’t find the area to be terribly engaging.

So ends our desert trip.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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