National Geographic : 1942 Jan
San Diego Can't Believe It canyon, you can see the steps cut in rocky hillsides where the Mormons let their wagons down on ropes. Mission Deeded Back by Lincoln "After the Americans took over, they ap pointed an Indian agent, who lived here and protected the property." "Brother Louis, what do you mean by secu larization?" "Well, in today's plain English, confisca tion." "Then how did you get the mission back again?" "Look behind you. See that deed, framed under glass, and hanging on the wall? It's dated 1865, and signed by Abraham Lincoln. He gave the mission back to us." "Did you get back your Indians?" "Some of them. The church is full now at mass. Come any Sunday at ten, and you'll hear the padre choristers singing the old Gre gorian chants, some of which we taught the Indians over 100 years ago." Then Brother Louis opened a cabinet and showed us ancient hand-lettered tomes, in cluding a hymnbook with notes so big that the whole choir read them from 30 feet away. "Before printing was common, hymnbooks were scarce, and one had to serve many sing ers." "In hearing confessions now, what language is used?" "Spanish and English. Early priests, how ever, had to learn Indian dialects. We still preserve the Pater Noster, or Lord's Prayer, written in the local Dieguifio language, as romanized by the padres." Walking through the cloisters and gardens, Brother Louis showed us beautiful golden pheasants, parakeets, and green lovebirds, which are his particular charge, as well as rare plants and flowers from many lands. "The story goes that this pepper tree," said the Brother, "is the first one planted in Cali fornia. It was supposedly brought from Peru by a sailor more than a century ago." Smelling fresh cakes baking, we followed our noses into the great monastery kitchen and found a huge oil-heated oven equipped with thermometers and all modern gadgets. On the table stood seven big chocolate cakes, hot and savory, ready for the padres' evening repast. He cut us generous slices, and we were hugely regaled, just as were the pioneer padres in Spanish times when they roasted a beef whole, and made their own wine and olive oil. "Brother, who cooks this good food?" "We do." "Can you cook?" "Well, turn me loose in a kitchen like this, and I wouldn't starve!" These Franciscans practically ruled Cali fornia for 50 years or more. From the first mission which he founded, San Diego de Alcala, at San Diego, Father Junipero Serra rode north to build missions at Monterey and elsewhere. By 1823, some 21 such missions were strung north from San Diego to San Francisco. On Point Loma California's History Began Most important tip of land in southern Cali fornia is this Point Loma-which runs south, from the mainland, to help form San Diego's harbor. First American flag ever flown over what is now California was hoisted on this point. It was a "shirt-tail" flag, made by sailors from colored calico scraps (page 77). On Point Loma, too, were heard the first Christian prayers ever offered in California. This year San Diego celebrates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of its first white man. He was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who came September 28, 1542, on that persistent quest for a northwest passage to China. On this high tip Cabrillo prayed and dedi cated it to the glory of God and the Spanish king. San Diego still keeps his memory green. Proof of this you see in the lavish way his musical Portuguese name is tacked to cafes, card clubs, theaters, bridges, and real estate subdivisions. Historians especially like to re late how Cabrillo "put shirts on two naked Indian boys, who promptly fled, their new shirt tails cracking!" But it was Sebastian Viscaino, landing on the Point in 1602, who gave San Diego Bay its name. From Viscaino's diary we learn that he thought this "the best harbour in all the South Seas." Where Uncle Sam's ships of war now crowd the bay, Viscaino scoured and cleaned his caravels, which Indians mistook for "whales with wings." "A hundred Indians appeared, with bows and arrows, and with many feathers on their heads," says Viscaino's journal. "Of these, two men and two women came down to the beach, the latter weeping." One woman looked to be more than 150 years old. She the general "cajoled," and gave some beads. . .. "She had wrinkles on her belly which looked like a blacksmith's bel lows, and her navel protruded bigger than agourd".... "This port was given the name of San Diego." . . . It "is large and good, sheltered on all sides."