European Colonization of North America

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What was daily life like at the San Gabriel Arcangel Mission?

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The goal of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was to become a self-sufficient agricultural and ecclesiastical base for the region. This was the same goal of the other 20 missions in Spanish California. To achieve this goal, the native Tongva peoples were brought to the mission to receive training in Spanish agricultural techniques. There they learned how to use different agricultural tools for planting and harvesting and how to raise and care for livestock. They also worked to process cowhides, mill grain, make bricks, and construct buildings. This was hard work, and many of the Tongva suffered great hardships. It was very different from the life that they knew before the arrival of the Spanish. Any dissent was punished, often through physical punishment such as public flogging. They were essentially forced to abandon their previous lifestyle and live as the missionaries, priests, and soldiers dictated. Disease was a frequent problem at San Gabriel. There were a number of deadly outbreaks that killed many of the native peoples there.

The Spanish missionaries tended to have an easier time at the mission. They were in charge of the religious instruction of the native peoples in the area. They also oversaw the instruction and labor of the Native Americans there. There were also a number of Spanish soldiers on the missions who lived relatively comfortably off the hard labor of the Native Americans.

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When it was first built it was successful because they did farming which was good. However there was trouble because one of the guards treated the Indians badly and raped a chief's wife and killed the chief. He was sent away and imprisioned and peace was restored.

However another event occured which caused the mission area to become populated. The explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza, from Mexico arrived in 1774. This was the first time anyone came by land from Mexico. By using this way, they could avoid the sea route going the whole way around the peninsula of Baja California. As a result, San Gabriel became a bustling area. Therafter, the Franciscans moved the mission five miles away and found that it was more fertile soil.  It was the wealthiest of all missions in California. Mission San Gabriel was a busy and active mission.

The people who lived on the mission planted crops: wheat and corn. They nurtured vineyards. They also had herds of sheep and cattle. The food was not only used for eating but for trade too. Their large crops were corn and beans. They became known for fine wines and for their soap and candles that other missions bought.

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