Author Shatters the Image of California’s Missions

In a presentation to the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, Author Elias Castillo refutes the myth that the 21 Franciscan missions in California were idyllic sites where Franciscan padres and Native Americans lovingly commingled. In reality, the missions were death camps in which the Catholic missionaries, guided by mission founder Junípero Serra’s direction that the “savage” Indians be controlled through “blows,” practiced unremitting violence against their charges. Drawing on exhaustive archival research, Castillo details the dark secrets that the missions have tried to keep under wraps for over 100 years in his book A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions.

Hear an audio of the Feb. 9, 2015 presentation at

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