"Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J.
Pioneer Padre of the Pimería Alta"
Kino Biography - English
In Three Languages
Return to Kino's Life
Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J.
Pioneer Padre of the Pimería Alta
By Charles W. Polzer
The desert appears lifeless, deserted, void. Its arid mountains are etched in emptiness by the strong shadows of the parching sun. Mesas of mesquite and cactus are ripped apart by bouldered arroyos. Stillness covers the sun baked horizons. To each generation the desert seems history-less and hostile. It is no place for man, much less his dreams.
This is how the desert appears to one who has never probed its realities, for the desert is alive and filled with the dreams of men who have made history here. The desert is a paradox. It has been for centuries a home for strong men, for men of faith and vision. The desert is a place where life means more because it is set against the backdrop of nature.
This is the story of a man who knew the paradox of the desert - Eusebio Francisco Kino, priest and missionary to the Pimería Alta. He spent his life among backward desert peoples, turning river banks into farms, dirt into dwellings and churches, and dreams into living realities. He respected this land and matched its strength. Padre Kino wrote into the sands of the southwestern deserts a history as strongly etched in time as the mountains that witnessed his work.
Many men have come to the desert and made history - Cabeza de Vaca, Coronado, Oñate, Anza, and Garcés, but none have equaled the record of this dedicated Jesuit missionary. His vision reached beyond the thirsting horizon and his influence has spanned centuries, so well did he know the desert land and its people.
When Padre Kino arrived on the "Rim of Christendom" in 1687, he was already an experienced missionary although a newcomer to northern New Spain. His assignment to the frontier of the Pimería Alta, the land of the Upper Piman Indians, had been another unforeseen development in a life long series of circumstances that seemed like continued reversals. But nothing ever dampened his enthusiasm or dimmed his dreams.
The saga of Padre Kino began in Segno, a tiny mountain town in the Italian Tyrol, not far from historic Trent. There on August 10, 1645, Eusebio was born in a typical stone and timber house similar to those that stud the slopes of the Dolomite Alps along the Val di Non. His boyhood here shaped the powerful frame that would one day explore the mountains and deserts of a land a hemisphere away. Young Eusebio must have shown some degree of brilliance because his parents sent him off to the Jesuit college at Trent where he was introduced to the world of science and letters. Soon he journeyed to the Jesuit college at Hall near Innsbruck, Austria, to carry on a newly won interest in science and mathematics. While studying here, he contracted an unidentified illness that brought him close to death. That sickness drew from Kino one of his deep-down dreams - for he vowed that if his patron, St. Francis Xavier, would intercede for his health, he would enter the Society of Jesus. His health did return and for the rest of his life Eusebio Kino valued his recovery as a gift from God through the intercession of Xavier. Whatever may be said of Kino's recovery, his life was certainly to be a welcome gift for the "abandoned souls" of Baja California and the Pimería Alta.
Now twenty years old, Eusebio Kino set foot on the long trail of Jesuit training typical of the men of the "Company of Jesus." Entering at Landsberg, he followed the intensive course of studies through Ingolstadt, Innsbruck, Munich, and Oettingen - all excellent universities in his time. Toward the end of his theological studies the Duke of Bavaria invited the young priest to teach science and mathematics at the University of Ingolstadt. Kino, however, had some years previously requested to be sent to the China mission, and as he completed his training at Oettingen, word arrived that he and a fellow Austrian were being sent. It looked as though his dreams of China were to come true. But no. One of the two was destined for the Philippines; the other, for Mexico, and Padre Kino drew the wrong slip of paper.
It was 1678 when Kino strode up the slopes of Segno to say goodbye to childhood haunts, his family, and friends. Then in mid-June he embarked from Genoa with eighteen companions, sailing for Cádiz in high hopes of catching the summer flota for the New World. A bit of wrong navigation in the fog and swift currents of the Straits of Gibraltar brought the packet-ship close to Ceuta; the error consumed valuable time. As they approached the Bay of Cádiz on July 13, the Imperial Spanish Fleet was already standing out to sea, bound for New Spain.
To miss the fleet was not quite like missing a transatlantic steamer. Padre Kino and companions had to wait two years to book new passage! However, the time was spent in mastering Spanish and making other useful, if remote, preparations in Seville. The Jesuit missionaries finally got places on the Nazareno, embarking in July, 1680. The fleet weighed anchor for Mexico, but the Nazareno scudded into the sand spit of the "Big Diamond" at the mouth of the Bay of Cádiz; it was promptly battered and smashed by wind and wave. Drenched, baggage less, and dismayed, Kino waited another six months in Cádiz and got his chance in January to broach the Atlantic barrier to his destiny.
Undoubtedly Kino felt much at home as he climbed the mountain trails from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. His Atlantic crossing had been uneventful and his arrival in Mexico, routine. There was a rumor in the wind that he might be reassigned to the Orient, or at least to the Philippines. But a new expedition to Baja California needed the skills of the neo-missionary. Admiral Isidro Atondo signed Padre Kino on as missionary and Royal Cartographer. Again, Kino had to wait while preparations for this expedition were completed in Mexico City. But Kino had learned how to use his time; he penned a small book on a recent comet. This book of medieval astronomy earned the raging rebuttal of the Mexican savant Don Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora. Wise about people and whimsical with the world's ways, Padre Kino presented the book to Don Carlos the day before he went west. Sigüenza was furious, but Kino was gone.
Baja California became Kino's first missionary territory. No Spanish expedition to the forbidding peninsula had yet succeeded, although colonization had often been attempted since the memorable days of Cortez. To Kino, California was a gigantic, unknown island a possible haven for the exhausted crews of the Manila galleons.
The expedition built three ships on the Sinaloa River to make the crossing and maintain a supply line with the mainland. On the first venture the March winds blasted the boats against the windward shore of the Gulf, but finally Admiral Atondo tacked the tiny flotilla across the turbulent Gulf, and anchored in the welcome calm of Bahía de La Paz.
The curious newcomers rode at anchor for two days while royal proclamations were read to the roll of drums. Launches probed the estuaries of the bay, and finally after four days the retinue moved ashore. The Spaniards raised a rough compound between the sea and the tangled brush beyond the beach. Christian civilization was now straddling the fence, and its hopes rested tenuously on the balanced judgments of the colonists. Days passed before the Indians timidly entered the Spanish stockades; they had learned brutal lessons from the pearl fishers who preceded these ships of peace. Soon, though, glass beads and pozole and corn mush calmed their primordial fears.
Padre Kino's kindness reached out for these plain, destitute people whose lives knew little of clothing and less of shelter. Within weeks Kino had opened a trail across the sheer rock barrier that separated the tiny beach-head from the clusters of natives on the plateau. His days were filled with learning the coarse language that conveyed what meanings life held for these Guaicuro Indians. The good father's job was not only to befriend the Indians with the necessities of life, but to teach them the ways of civilization and even Christian doctrine. Baffled by a way to express the Resurrection, the resourceful Kino stunned some flies, and when the Indians saw them "return to life," they uttered the words that then became a part of the Creed in their native tongue. Unfortunately, however, Kino did not realize the Indians had only given him the words for "they are dead." His method for stunning flies was more fascinating than the difficult doctrine he was trying to teach!
Not uncharacteristically, Baja California was unkind to the colonists. Violent storms kept Atondos relief ships from landing supplies. Stocks dwindled and fear of starvation crept into the Spanish camp. As the summer temperatures rose, water supplies fell; food supplies shortened, and so did tempers. The fear-ridden finale to the expedition sounded when the Spanish soldiers invited some Indians, who were suspected of stealing, to a meal of peace. Suddenly into the midst of the defenseless party the Spaniards fired a round of cannon shot.
This puny act of cowardice earned the awesome threat of revenge. What had been simple Spanish fear turned into human terror. With their backs against the sea, the colonists awaited annihilation from arrows fired in justifiable anger. But the fortunate arrival of the relief ship saved them from death by starvation and snatched them from inevitable slaughter.
Padre Kino was disgusted with the soldiers' deceitful conduct and the colonists' terror-stricken decision to abandon La Paz. Only out of necessity did he join the retreat from the peninsula. The expedition regrouped on the mainland and in the fall planned a new attempt. Kino made it clear to Admiral Atondo that there should be no more fiascos resulting from the cowardly actions of soldiers or colonists. This time a new start was made at San Bruno, on the coast to the north of present day Loreto.
From this new mission station the first expeditions inched across the rocky Giantess Mountains; within four months Padre Kino had reached the shores of the South Sea, the Pacific. Friends were made among the Indians; languages were noted and learned. Baptisms were administered to infants and to the dying. After a year's effort it looked like a permanent mission had been settled in Baja California.
But at San Bruno the sun burned away the water, and with the water, the crops; disease swept through the settlement. The great dreams of Governor Atondo were drying up in the dust. Atondo called for a vote to abandon the royally financed California enterprise. Padre Kino dissented, but to no avail. Orders were issued to salvage as much as could be returned on the overworked ships. Then, warm winds pushed the crafts away from the coast, and Kino's own hopes dimmed as the mountains of destiny sank into the horizon. Baja California would never again feel the tread of his boots on her wilderness trails or witness the glint of the sun on his is astrolabe as he charted the secrets of the austere rugged land.
For one fleeting moment Padre Kino felt there would be a return to California when Admiral Atondo was ordered to maintain the new conversions by the Viceroy, Conde de Paredes. The small ships were again outfitted at the harbor of Matanchel, but all urgent dispatch came from Mexico that five Dutch pirate ships were preparing to waylay the Manila galleon. Admiral Atondo dutifully intercepted the richly laden galleon and escorted it to safety at Acapulco. Padre Kino forever reveled in their successful evasion of the Dutch threat.
Once again on the mainland, Kino traveled, argued, and cajoled to regain a foothold in California, but the Audiencia at Guadalajara said the Spanish Crown wanted no part of the place from Cabo San Lucas far north to Monterey. Padre Kino rode to Mexico City and pleaded his case for weeks. Finally the Viceroy granted him the authority to return and re-establish the missions he knew would succeed. It looked as though fortune was taking a turn. A pack train clopped into Mexico City laden with the silver that could purchase the island's future, but before it was unloaded, the Royal treasury sequestered the $80,000 to pay the French an overdue maritime indemnity. California was through - all because some impetuous Spaniard had sunk a ship in a distant European bay. The Orient was out. California was closed.
Kino was a missionary without a mission. He then suggested to his Provincial in Mexico that he be sent to work among the Seris and Guaymas tribes, who were at least close to California. He still held a glimmer of hope for Baja California. The Viceroy acceded to the Provincial's proposal and the "Padre on Horseback" trotted out of Mexico's capital a hardened, wiser man. He knew the Indian and his ways; he knew the Spaniard; he knew the Crown; he knew his Church; and he had a mission.
Warned by other Jesuit missionaries about slavery in the mines, Kino stopped at Guadalajara to discuss the situation with the Royal Audiencia. The colonials were impeding the conversion of the Indians by their forced labor policies under the repartimiento system. Padre Kino presented the matter to the Audiencia president, Zeballos. The Audiencia swiftly communicated to Padre Kino a Royal cédula recently issued by Carlos II granting the Indians temporary immunity from exploitation. So when Padre Kino rode into the mountain headquarters of the Jesuit missions in Oposura, he clutched a royal decree that read like an emancipation proclamation for the Indians throughout colonial New Spain. It demanded that the Indian converts be free for twenty years from compulsory labor in the Spanish mines; it was a mandate for freedom and a guarantee of eventual education for the outclassed aborigines. This decree would become a sign of division in the battle for Christian civilization on the frontier.
Padre Kino fully expected to receive an assignment to work among the Seris and Guaymas nations; they were, in fact, the tribes closest to California. At least he could wait at the gates for the next time opportunity knocked. What Eusebio didn't know was that a decision had been made in October, 1686, that the next missionary assigned to the northern missions would be sent among the Pimas Altas. Fears of hostility had gripped the northern missions, and a Piman peace appeared crucial. Only four years had elapsed since Kino had come to the New World, but his reputation had grown enormously. Even Padre Manuel Gonzaléz, the Visitor of the northwestern missions, had heard of this Italian Jesuit, recognizing in him a unique talent. Perhaps the new mission among the Pimas Altas might just be suited to Kino's spirit. Certainly the uncharted deserts would challenge the scientist, and the scattered villages, the organizer.
When Kino arrived at Oposura, modern-day Moctezuma, the Father Visitor had been discussing developments on the frontier with Padre José de Aguilar, the missionary from Cucurpe. And while Kino may have hoped to receive a coastal assignment, he was beginning to learn how to keep step with the changing pace of Providence.
Together the three Black robes threaded their way out of the rugged cordillera into the Valley of the Sonora toward the perimeter of civilization. And so it happened that in the ruddy dusk of March 13, 1687, Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino cantered into Cucurpe - and history.
Cucurpe, the place "where the dove sings," nestles over the still valley of the San Miguel. It was then an outpost of empire on the rim of Christendom. For a century the Spaniards on the coast had preferred the nearby Sonora River as a convenient route to New Mexico, so there had been little purpose to penetrate the ridges toward the west. Even thought in the valleys seemed to be polarized in terms of north and south. When Kino rode out of Cucurpe the morning after his arrival, he was literally breaching the Rim of Christendom and opening the minds of people to the unknown west, to the deserts and mountain barriers of the Colorado, and to California. He entered this frontier as a peacemaker to safeguard the province of Sonora; he would emerge not only as a peacemaker, but as pathfinder and pioneer as well.
The first circuit of the new mission territory was gratifying. The terrain promised rich agricultural rewards, and the Pimas were really peaceful and anxious to have their own Padre. Like so many matters in colonial New Spain, the recent conspiracy of the Pima Chief Canito which seemed to threaten the Sonora settlements was exaggerated and generalized. Padre Kino found less to worry him about Indian uprisings than in raising up the Indians to a better life.
The Jesuit practice in mission expansion was a carefully devised program. New missions were established only among the more permanent native settlements. The initial foundation was kept reasonably close to already functioning missions for physical and moral support. Padre Eusebio followed that practice by locating his home base, Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores, at Cosari, only slightly higher up the shallow mountain valley from Cucurpe. His new site would be close, but quite independent. And Cosari was an ideal spot because his church and compound dominated two valleys separated by a narrow defile that closed down on the clear waters of the Río San Miguel. Dolores, Our Lady of Sorrows, may seem an unlikely patroness for such a bountiful village. Kino chose the title because he carried a fine painting of her by Juan Correa, a gift from the famous Mexican artist for his new mission.
The enthusiasm of Padre Kino became the catalyst for a new desert economy! The Pimans had farmed their lands for many generations, but never did they achieve so much as under their new missionary. Drowsy deltas sprang into productive gardens. River lands were cleared for wheat, corn and squash; slopes were readied for grapes and imported European fruit trees. Each village erected an adobe chapel and started the long-term work on the churches which would be the pride of their pueblos. And the names that Kino bestowed on the new towns have become bywords in Southwestern history - San Ignacio, Magdalena, San Xavier del Bac, Cocóspera, Caborca, Tumacácori, and Tucsón. Some names Christian, some names Indian, but all recorded in time through the industry of their founder and provider.
The hard years were the early years. Kino's presence was not appreciated by the colonial miners along the Bacanuche and the San Miguel, nor did the hechiceros, medicine men, take kindly to the threat to their tribal power and superstitious practices. But a program of patience with the natives and firm forthrightness with the Spaniards smashed the opposition to change and Christianization. Help arrived hard on the heels of Padre Eusebio's requests, but the incredibly harsh living conditions and slow progress among some of the Indians discouraged the new men. Kino kept on although the transfer of his new companions tried his eternal optimism.
The little chain of missions on Padre Kino's seventy-five mile circuit was mushrooming. Padre Gonzaléz remarked that he had never seen such growth in such a short time. And then the inevitable, grim reports - rooted in jealousy began to circulate about the "ambitious Padre Kino" and the "quarrelsome Indians in his charge." Both civil and religious superior's across the multiple mountain barriers became wary of this new man on their frontier. Although such reports were endemic to Spanish colonial life, they had to be investigated. So in the spring of 1690 Padre Juan María Salvatierra, the future giant of Lower California, rode into Sonora from his mission station in Chinipas with the powers of a Visitor General. His sole intent was to review the situation on the "rim" and shut the missions down if conditions even approached the rumors rampant in the interior. It was a case of Providence bringing Kino to the brink of disaster all over again.
Lesser men would have crumbled under the hardships and the criticism. But Kino, true to form, met the Padre Visitador with real warmth and genuine enthusiasm. Together Kino and Salvatierra rode the hundreds of leagues linking the mission visitas. The land was alive with crops; villagers greeted the Blackrobes by erecting crosses and flowered arches. Indians trudged in from distant pueblos to beg Baptism for themselves and their families. Every hour of travel saw a panorama of plenty, and every hour of rest received pleas for the Faith and a missionary.
League by league the long face of Salvatierra shortened; the presumed harshness of his task was mellowed by what he saw. Finally a smile broke beneath his hawked features as enthusiasm rose with the prospects of Christianizing this happy land. And Salvatierra heard as much as he saw, for Kino talked of the island of California and the imminent conversion of her peoples. He even suggested the construction of a boat to ply across the Gulf. Why not? The riches of Sonora could supply the wants of California!
By the time Salvatierra was ready to continue south through the extensive Jesuit missions along the Yaqui and Mayo rivers, he had learned to share the deep vision of Padre Kino. The profound conviction imparted by the Apostle to the Pimas not only staved off the foreclosure of the Sonora mission effort, but it also decided Salvatierra on courageously regaining the Californias. A whole new dimension had dawned in the Pimería. Padre Eusebio, remembering the extreme need of the peninsular people, pressed efforts to make his missions even more productive. Success in Sonora meant life for the Church in California. No one knew better than Kino and Salvatierra that without cooperation and mutual sacrifice any missionary venture is untenable and doomed to sterility.
Kino's mission district had hardly any boundaries except to the south and east. His visitas extended 200 miles north and almost as far to the west. Now the disparate system would have to be consolidated into a working unit to supply the frontier and to assist the push toward California. Westward explorations would have to be made to discover a suitable port to ship cattle to the California island.
The expansion of the Pimería was not purely a matter of founding more missions or enlarging the existing villages. The whole chain of missions under Kino's care bordered on the home country of the Apaches and their fierce, nomadic cousins, the Jocomes. A primary task was to knit a bickering Piman group, the Sobaípuris, into a firm, defensive coalition against Apache incursions. Padre Kino mounted once again and rode north from Dolores spreading the word of God and joining the tribes in peace up and down the San Pedro drainage. It was 1692; Kino was bringing to the ravaged land something it had known little of - peace and security. With each day's journey more Indian settlements were drawn into the defensive wall. Communities that had been victimized for generations found a new strength in the strange Blackrobe.
The whole northeastern frontier began to shape up under the leadership of Padre Kino and his allied chieftains. This meant that the Padre could now turn his gaze westward to penetrate the mysterious lands that lay between him and California.
Late in 1693, Padre Kino assembled a pack train to explore the lower Altar river country. The trek brought them as far west as El Nazareno, a high peak on the edge of the sand desert. Through the haze they saw the peaks of distant California and the arching coastline of the Gulf. California was close enough to reach by boat!
Where would he get a boat? Build one. In the desert? Certainly. The vision of Kino was a case of madness to his superior's. But the good father's orders went out for cottonwood, mesquite, and pine timbers. Pack trains wound through the passes to deposit their wooden treasures at Caborca, only one hundred and sixty kilometers west in the desert! Sheer madness -except for madness - except for confident Padre Eusebio.
It was during these first thrusts westward that Padre Eusebio's unforgettable and indefatigable trail companion arrived, Lieutenant Juan Mateo Manje. He was detached from his uncle's "Flying Company" to keep pace with Kino's advance. His presence was always good for a laugh or two as when he crashed to the ground in a cottonwood tree which he and the Indians were cutting for the keel of a boat. After that Manje stalked the desert searching for a dry route.
Although Padre Kino had orders to build his boat from the Provincial, the more proximate and sedentary Father Visitor, Juan Muñoz de Burgos, ordered the project suspended. That was agreeable enough; the wood had to season anyway. So attention was turned to the north, to rumors about a river west and a great house on its banks. It was already Advent in 1694 when Padre Eusebio visited and described Casa Grande on the Río Gila for the first time. He was beginning to realize how vast a land was opening up for Christianization.
Meanwhile, organization was catching up with all the dashing to and fro on the frontier. The missions of the Pimería Alta were grouped into a mission rectorate, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, under their first superior, Padre Marcos Antonio Kappus, at Cucurpe. Padre Muñoz, still in authority, clopped about reassigning missionaries. A new man had just arrived, Padre Francisco Xavier Saeta, a zealous young Jesuit from Sicily. Muñoz ordered him to the pueblo of Caborca, Kino's landlocked seaport, and Kino himself was ordered to furnish everything the new mission might need. Nothing could have pleased Kino more, although he must have smiled at the supercilious trappings of the official orders. One hundred head of cattle and one hundred and fifteen sheep and goats thundered down the Magdalena and Altar rivers to Caborca.
Then, ominously, there came another of the recurrent reversals of Providence - this time steeped in blood and racked with violence. Fired by superstitious misinterpretations of mission policy, the settlement at Tubutama erupted in revolt. The baptism of infants and the aged appeared to the faithless and resentful hechiceros as an ominous evil. They looked upon the ritual and rigid discipline as undermining their power; certainly they were being hindered from their accustomed excesses. Indian malcontents set the ripening fields on fire, wrecked the buildings, and ravaged pueblos all along the Altar river. And far downstream they murdered the wary, but defenseless Padre Saeta. In a postscript to his last letter to Kino (written the night before Saeta's martyrdom) he asked that Kino "not lose sight of him." Unfortunately the attack on Caborca came so suddenly that neither warning nor assistance was possible. Saeta's was the first martyr's blood to flow in the Pimería.
Genuine terror clutched the territory. Rumors flashed of mass attacks on the northeastern perimeter - the Jocomes, Janos, and Apaches. The entire Pimería was tensed for a fight to the death. Soldiers of General Domingo Jironza's Flying Company, the fast and far-ranging Spanish cavalry, converged on the Pimería from Fronteras and Real de San Juan. Military justice would triumph.
The Spaniards were split on how to achieve pacification. Some clamored for revenge, others suggested patience and careful condemnation of the instigators of the rebellion. On the cool morning of June 9, 1695, at the request of Padre Kino, the Pima chiefs met the awesome assembly of Spanish troops near El Tupo. It was agreed: the guilty were to be handed over for proper punishment. The ringleaders of the revolt sat among the tribal chiefs and a few friendly Indians on the moist soil of La Ciénega. Encircled by mounted cavalry, the Indians confessed their regrets for the revolt. Then one spokesman dragged a guilty rebel to his feet.
The sword of Captain Antonio Solis flashed in the morning sun; a head tumbled among the astonished Indians.
Such sudden and sickening "justice" horrified the unarmed natives. This was no trial. It was a trap. Crazed with fear they bolted for the open desert and freedom. The morning air sputtered with musket fire. Justice was speaking with leaden balls and swishing swords. The innocent and loyal lay slaughtered with the handful of the guilty. And the verdict of that summer morning still hangs over that desolate spot at a place called "La Matanza" the slaughter.
Padre Eusebio Kino was utterly sick at heart. Justice was made a mockery; peace, a nearly impossible dream. Then the frontier exploded into open war for three terror-filled months. The ponderous Spanish cavalry struck fear into the Indians, but their warriors continued to dart from mountain strongholds to burn missions and fields, escaping long before the Spaniards could react. The "hawks" who put their trust in power made no progress toward peace. Frustrated and irritated by their failure, they handed the problem over to Kino whose friends their justice had murdered. And typically, Padre Eusebio accepted the responsibility of bringing peace back to the Pimería. A few days and many reassurances later, peace returned. One priest did in days what confounded the agents of the Crown for months.
One might expect that after the Pimería had calmed down that Padre Kino would relax somewhat himself. But no. In November, only three months after the peace was effected, Kino was in the saddle. This time his destination was Mexico City! The 1200 mile ride was completed in seven weeks. His visit was by no means to renew old acquaintances; he rode on urgent business to press for the reopening of the California missions and to explain what was really happening on the frontier.
Part of the Padre's explanation was made through the pages of a small book he wrote about the martyrdom of Saeta. His untimely and tragic death provided an occasion for Kino to clarify the situation in the Pimería and to elaborate on his mission methods. Kino knew he was fighting for his own missionary life; rumors had ensnared both the man and his work. So he unleashed all the talent he had in writing and drawing maps.
He really did not need to demonstrate his literary prowess, however, since Kino's plight had come to the attention of the Jesuit General Tirso Gonzaléz in Rome. Comparing Kino to St. Francis Xavier, the powerful head of the order made it scathingly clear to the superior's in New Spain that Kino was not to be hindered in his extraordinary efforts in the Pimería.
Padre Kino had lost none of his ability to argue a good case. The Provincial agreed to send five new men to the Pimería so the expansion could continue apace. Having spent exactly one month in Mexico City, the Padre was back in the saddle and headed homeward. From his own memoirs we learn that despite all the seeming misfortunes and setbacks dealt him by Providence, Kino was being favored all the while. The very military escort he traveled with through the ravaged Jocome terrain was ambushed and wiped out to a man; that is, all except Padre Kino who had made a brief detour to greet two old Jesuit companions!
The whole of the Pimería surged to life when Padre Eusebio returned. Chiefs of distant tribes walked scores and hundreds of miles to celebrate with him at Dolores. The Indian residents of Cosari and their visitors joined together to harvest the crops in the fertile valleys. Many who had earlier been instructed were baptized. In a way it was a miniature demonstration of what Kino's original coming to the Pimería had meant. Here were unity, friendship, industry, gaiety, and plenty revolving around a common sacramental life in the mission pueblo.
However, the years immediately following the Pima uprising of 1695 were turbulent ones for Padre Kino. The missions had to be rebuilt, confidence restored, and factions abolished. The policies of the pastor of Dolores were not too popular with some of the other missionaries in the region. Pens flared in accusation, and faces blushed with embarrassment and shock. Kino was simply not the unthinking "dead stick" he should have been, in the idealistic and unreal minds of some of his companions. "His fame was too great" especially among the Indians. That would really never do if the man were to be a humble religious. Nothing, however, really fazed Padre Kino. He dealt as bluntly with his accusers as he did forthrightly in behalf of his Indian dependents. The Pimería was shaping up just as rapidly as before.
While Kino's critics fussed and fumed, he tirelessly drove herds of cattle and sheep into the San Pedro and Santa Cruz valleys in preparation for a whole new string of missions. Four separate entradas averaged nearly 200 miles each. No one could doubt that Kino was serious about a permanent shift of the mission frontier to the north. And at fifty-two years of age, his inexhaustible vigor peeved some of his confreres - particularly the younger men.
In May of 1697 the hard-riding Padre was scarcely out of the saddle when a dispatch reached Dolores from Padre Palacios, the Mexican Provincial: Kino was reassigned to California! The Crown had accepted the Kino-Salvatierra proposal to Christianize California exclusive of any royal assistance. The new missionaries even held the unusual power to control military units sent to protect the missions. It was the answer to a dream.
But one man's dream is another man's nightmare. What would become of the Pimería without Padre Eusebio? The news of the transfer was one of good riddance to Padre Francisco Mora, Kino's immediate superior at Arispe; it was unthinkable to Padre Horacio Polici, the Visitor at Oposura; it appeared catastrophic to General Jironza at San Juan and the governor at
Parral. Frantic letters from the north blew into Mexico City in a storm of protest. Pity the poor Provincial! One month Kino is damned by Dame Rumor and the next, deified by civil magistrates.
And what about Kino? He knew he was being stretched on the rack of obedience - with his feet in the Pimería and his head in California. While the irascible tug-of-war over his destiny was taking place, Kino calmly wrote Father General Tirso Gonzaléz asking to spend six months in each place. He would rather divide his time than his torso. But one thing even Kino had to admit - somehow the colonials had come to appreciate the incalculable influence of this pioneer Padre. They may have obstructed him in earlier days, but now they needed his presence.
Padre Mora, the old scrooge of the Sonora valley, scoffed that Kino had contrived the whole, mass protest! The juice from Mora's own sour grapes mentality penned the best refutation ever to the opposition to Padre Kino.
While couriers on horseback raced the wheels of fate, Kino complied with his orders and left Dolores, the mission he founded ten years before. He rode down the San Miguel and across the scorching flatland toward the Río Yaqui. There he would meet Padre Salvatierra and begin all over again. The desert can be a lonely place, particularly when one has just been turned out of the land to which have been given years of one's life. Padre Eusebio wasn't sad, though; in fact, he wasn't even looking back. Perhaps he should have been because a courier galloped after him wreathed in swirling dust. Finally overtaking the Padre, the messenger displayed new and special orders from the Provincial in Mexico. Kino was to return to the Pimería, as the Viceroy himself had ordered, because the government and the people needed him!
In the life of Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino this was the moment of final fulfillment. There would be no more reversals because the pattern of his work was set. He was destined to be poised between two worlds. His new orders committed him to the Pimería but only on the assumption that Sonora and Arizona would be a base of operations. His missions had to be forged into an agricultural empire that would sustain the bleakest of California years. Now his explorations would have to seek out new ports on the Gulf. His own life would be spent more in the saddle than the sanctuary.
Mountains rise highest where valleys course deepest. The loss of Kino to the Pimería had cut a chasm into the hopes of the Indians, but his announced return propelled them back to newer heights. Warriors and chieftains, women and children converged on the good Padre of Dolores. Now they felt confident in pressing their requests since the loyal champion of their cause had come back. Kino sensed the tempo and channeled all energies into a giant pilgrimage to Bazeraca, to the feet of the Father Visitor.
Some Indians had traveled well over 200 miles to join in the welcome. Why not transform their hopes into a pilgrimage of petition? The triumphant and confident column tramped right through Arispe where Padre Mora could witness the growing popularity of his "problem" Padre. Through canyons and over rugged mountain passes the pilgrims went through Oposura, Guasavas, right to Padre Horacio Polici. The peace march won its point: more missionaries were promised, and soldiers, too, for a new garrison at Quíburi.
The expedition which left Dolores on November 2, 1697, open a new era for the Pimería. Many expeditions had wound out of the hills near Dolores, but a new purpose was being woven into the fabric of Pima life, the sustenance of California by land and sea. Padre Kino, Manje, and ten Indians led a well-provisioned pack train northeast past Remedios, Cocóspera, and Suamca. They threaded the Huachuca Mountains and finally camped at Santa Cruz de Gaybanipitea. Close on their trail came Captain Cristóbal Bernal and twenty-two dragoons from Fronteras. The combined groups rode into Quíburi and greeted Chief Coro of the Sobaípuris who were in the midst of celebrating a victory over their hostile neighbors, the Jocomes and Janos. Seeing scalps and hearing the tales of combat, the Spaniards who had been skeptical of Sobaípuri valor joined in the wild festivities and merriment. It's always a cause for joy when one's allies are strong and effective.
From Quíburi the men of the Cross and the Crown, accompanied now by Coro and thirty braves, continued down the San Pedro valley. The column's route knifed between friend and foe because the eastern slope of the river was Apache country. Apparently the sting of defeat was still too strong, however, for they encountered only friends. The expedition reached the junction of the San Pedro and Gila and turned westward to search out the large ruins in the sprawling desert. The fascination of the great mystery surrounding the disappearance of the ancient tribes who built the great houses and aqueducts along the Gila bit deeply into the Spanish adventurers. It was eerie to be so alone where there had once been such a vast human occupation.
Padre Kino pushed on as far as San Andrés, the old Tudacsón, near modern Sacáton. Indians stained with red pigment stirred Manje's curiosity because a young warrior described the paint in a way that spelled quicksilver. What a boon a new mercury mine would mean to the silver industry of the north! With their interests slaked by new discoveries, the expedition reluctantly turned back toward the Santa Cruz river trail and home. Everyone was elated with the success of the entrada: Kino saw a new peace being born of Sobaípuri strength; Manje felt it was a step toward the reduction of the nations of North America; and the Indians were thrilled by the hearty interest shown in them by the wonderful white men from the south.
Padre Kino's plan worked. The Apaches were contained by the Pimería's solid wall of defense. Now both missionaries and military men could turn their backs on the eastern frontier. The "tierra incógnita" to the west spread before them in all its baffling expanse and hazy rumor. Far ranging hunters spoke of distant people, giant rivers, and even armored white men riding antlered animals. Padre Eusebio's home mission of Dolores had suddenly ceased to be the heart of the Pimería because his mission borders were hurtling westward. Pimas, Papágos, Sobas, Cocomaricopas, Opas, and Yumas all the tribes of the desert west would grow accustomed to the dust clouds of Padre Kino's pack trains. He was a restless man of peace, pushing a four hundred mile frontier farther into the unknown.
It was the fall of 1698 before another major expedition was mounted. The earlier months of the year had seen the tragic plundering of Cocóspora by the Apaches, the swift and savage retaliation captained by Coro, and a resumption of boat-building at Caborca. By September Padre Kino, although still weak and tired from various illnesses, took a new captain, Diego Carrasco, and seven faithful Indians on a reconnaissance of the "great river," the Gila. He fully intended to scale the Sierra Estrella but fever cut him down and he languished for some days at San Andrés. His intentions were also to survey the Gulf Coast from the Estrellas, but the natives explained to him that the Gila flowed around these mountains and emptied into the Gulf far to the southwest!
Partially recuperated but stunned by the news about the course of the Gila, Padre Kino and Carrasco wheeled the pack train southward and cut across the heart of Papaguería. Listening to the Indian reports, they knew the trail to the Gulf would be treacherous, but they were determined to accomplish the purpose of the entrada. The Indians at Sonoita directed the explorers toward Pinacate Peak. Kino climbed its volcanic ridges to see the Gulf coast arching away to the west at today's Adair Bay. He had been wrong about the northern limits of the Gulf waters, and the Gila emptied into another great river somewhere to the north and west. From Pinacate, or Santa Clara as it was then called, they turned back and took the short route home through Caborca where fresh supplies and mounts awaited them.
The pace of the trip was typical for Kino. He had traveled some eight hundred miles in slightly more than three weeks. During the trip he took time out to baptize nearly 400 infants, instruct others in the faith, and acquaint himself with hundreds of destitute Papágos throughout the arid land.
After a three month rest at Dolores Padre Eusebio enlisted the aid of Padre Adam Gilg and Captain Manje on a new entrada into the Papaguería. There was nothing scanty about this expedition: he assembled ninety pack animals, eighty horses, thirty-six head of cattle, eight loads of provisions, and a host of Indian vaqueros! Whatever lay to the west, Sonoita was certainly a key and he meant to establish a new mission ranch there to be a base camp for the northwest explorations. The massive column picked up even more supplies from faithful Padre Agustín de Campos at San Ignacio and moved around the hills into the Altar valley. They cut a little westward at the southern flanks of the Baboquívari Mountains and camped near the weird peak that dominates the range and the desert vistas. In nine days, on the 16th of February, 1699, they reached Sonoita and prepared for the death defying crossing of the Cantina del Diablo.
The Devil's Highway is one of those ancient trails that even modern man has not reopened. Its route lies along a jagged, parched path from water tank to water hole. The thrust into the desert missed the first promised water; it was almost as if the devil himself were welcoming the explorers. They rode into the night and finally reached a granite tank glistening in the moonlight. Kino and Manje called it Moon Tank, in memory of their midnight discovery. Surrounded by desolate hills and dry plains they scurried from aguaje to aguaje Tinajas Altas to Dripping Springs. In four days of hard riding they covered more than 125 miles and finally arrived at the "Río Grande," the Gila.
The morning after arriving at the Gila a hundred Yumans padded up the river trail to offer the newcomers gifts and words of welcome. Manje was anxious to go downriver, but Kino sensed it would be better to postpone further penetration. There was something astonishing about Kino's sensitivities to Indian protocol. But Manje managed to satisfy his curiosity by riding to a peak in the Gila mountain range from which he saw the junction of the two great rivers, the Gila and the Colorado. No more could the Gila be misnamed the "Río Grande," because the mighty Colorado made the Gila look like a creek. Following the suggestion of Padre Gilg, the Gila was renamed the "Río de los Apóstalés" and when the trio left the village-camp of San Pedro, the Indian villages along the river were named in a litany of the other apostles. Reaching the great bend of the Gila they struck across the desert and negotiated a pass in the Sierra Estrella which deposited them near the familiar village of San Andrés de Coata. What a marvel Padre Kino must have been to the Pimas who watched this man in his mid-fifties pop out of the desert every few months coming almost always from a different direction!
Once again at Dolores the word traveled throughout the province that Padre Kino was back from lands of fabled riches. A whole summer was spent in crossing epistolary swords over the worth of vast desert lands accruing to Spain from Kino's explorations. Cynical colonists couldn't see the potential of the land or the people northwest of Pimería; Kino was making insects look like elephants and "painting grandeurs in Pima Land which did not exist there."
During the last week of October, 1699, Padre Antonio Leal, the new Visitor, and Padre Francisco Gonzalvo, accompanied Kino and Manje on a new entrada scheduled this time to reach the juncture of the Gila and the Colorado. Some of Padre Leal's attendants fell ill at Bac and the military escort under Cristobal Bernal was diverted in an action with Chief Coro against the troublesome Jocomes. With the impatience of seasoned adventurers Kino and Manje dashed from village to village hoping that prospects would improve, but they didn't. Although Kino never openly remarks about his suspicions of danger along the Colorado, without an escort he could only abort the expedition and take Leal through the central Papaguería instead. The desert seemed to spring to life for the Padre Visitor since hundreds of Indians poured into each pueblo along the route. It may have been a disappointment not to have attempted the trek to the Yumans, but it was a welcome reward to see that Padre Kino was correct in his assessment of the Pima and Papágo nations.
While Padres Leal and Gonzalvo jostled wearily along the desert trails, Padre Eusebio and Captain Juan Mateo were undertaking a kind of "flying mission." In the five days they were separated from the main cavalcade, the pair rode over three hundred miles throughout the territory adjoining the main trail. Kino preached and baptized; Manje counted heads for the Crown. Apparently the main body moved faster than they anticipated, because the last day and night out Kino and Manje churned through fifty leagues of desert wash and cholla forest! They caught Leal and Gonzalvo at Busanic, slept four hours, and then rose early to butcher some livestock, distribute presents and hold a civil ceremony to appoint justices. No wonder Leal and Gonzalvo were glad to get back to Dolores and rest.
But Kino wasn't in the mood to rest. Something had been bothering him since the trip to the lower Gila. The sturdy Yumans had given him a simple, precious gift - some blue abalone shells. At the time he smiled and thanked the natives, but perforce he had to concentrate on his explorations and survival. It was on the return ride when Padre Kino was reminiscing beneath the winter sun that the salty breeze and crashing surf of Baja California thundered into his memory. Those shells were seen by him only once, fifteen years before on the mapping expedition to the "opposite shore" of the Isla de California! Could there be a connection? Possibly, but not probably.
Padre Kino welcomed the turn of the century at Dolores. His work load was heavy and the new California missions under Salvatierra needed much assistance. The thrust to the Colorado just meant more work. Dolores was a long way from the new concerns on the Gila and the Colorado. It would be a prudent plan to build a mission closer to these new fields of labor, so Padre Kino chose the fertile and extensive rancheria of Bac to become the base of future north western entradas. The foundations of a large church were laid in 1700, but the shortage of missionaries prevented the transfer of Kino's headquarters to this favorable site.
No new blood was being pumped into the Pimería these days. Life was getting to be a bit more routine. That is, until March. A chieftain from the Gila Pimas greeted Padre Eusebio at Remedios with news of the river peoples and a gift of a cross strung with twenty blue shells from the governor of the Cocomaricopas. The cross was accepted with graciousness but once again the shells made the Padre uneasy. The unanswered question of their origin nagged at his scientific nature.
His blue-shell problem simmered for a few weeks, and then began to plague him for an answer. With ten Indian friends he set out for the Gila pueblos in late April. Enroute down the Santa Cruz he got news of possible trouble in the Soba country. He had not forgotten the tragic lessons of '95, so he pulled up short and stayed at San Xavier del Bac. He could not prudently leave the Pimería if trouble were brewing, but he could still study the problem of the blue shells by calling a conference. Runners went north,
west and even east to call the great chiefs to the "Blue Shell Conference" at Bac. In mere days the Padre's message got their response; chiefs and couriers came with the information. The blue shells from the Yumans could not come from the Gulf because the blue-crusted abalone didn't occur in those dense waters. They had been traded hand to hand from the distant Pacific. Obviously, California was not an island, but Kino needed to prove it on foot.
In early May a flurry of letters expressing Kino's opinions about a "royal road" to California were sent throughout the province. Encouragement for a new expedition came from all quarters. On September 24, 1700, Padre Kino and ten Indians departed from Dolores; destination: the Colorado. He angled northwest along a more direct path to Gila Bend, making new friends as he went. In twelve days he had arrived at the village of San Pedro where he had been the previous year with Padre Gilg and Manje.
One wonders why Kino pressed on to the Colorado alone. Perhaps his trail companions were too busy or too weary of grueling expeditions. Perhaps they no longer shared Kino's vision of the importance of a land route to California. But one must also suspect that Kino wasn't anxious to risk the lives of others in stepping off into the unknown. The Pimas, he knew; the Cocomaricopas, he trusted; but the Yumans somehow called for caution uncharacteristic of Kino. Did their resemblance to the Californians trigger earlier fears?
Alone and nearly three hundred miles from help he climbed a peak at the tip of the Gila range and surveyed the Colorado delta with a long-range telescope. He was on the edge of a vast valley that could swallow him without a trace. His Pima guides were queasy about their situation, and besides, the round-up had to get under way if cattle were to be sent to California. The long range survey was done and the pack train was turned back up the Gila. But in the slanting shadows of late afternoon the Yumas caught up with Padre Kino on the trail.
If he didn't postpone the return, he was certain to offend the sensitive and powerful Yuman people. It was a double dilemma between time and fright. Tossing caution to the winds and letting his customary optimism be his guide, Padre Eusebio smiled at the insistent, tearful Indians and agreed to go to their village on the Colorado. He rose before dawn, celebrated Mass and cantered downriver, coming across clusters of Indians who had traveled through the night to meet him on the trail. His horse's gait slowed with each mile as the welcoming throng grew. By noon he rode into the huge Yuma town where over a thousand Indians greeted him in peace. Within another day some five hundred more arrived and word came that hundreds were on their way from north and south along the Colorado! The Yumans were gigantic in stature, and one of them was the largest Indian Kino had ever seen. It must have been a little nerve-wracking to be the willing captive of such giants. But Padre Kino's own good will and understanding of the Indian ways won a whole new nation in friendship. His duties at Dolores called and he had to leave, but he promised a return soon. On the homeward route he climbed yet another peak and saw the head of the Gulf glistening in an October sunset. The devil himself must have been grumbling as Kino turned his trail of death into a highway of conquest.
Padre Juan María Salvatierra in the meanwhile had not been idle. His new mission at Loreto in Baja California desperately needed supplies from the mainland. So the industrious missionary crossed the Gulf and scouted the harbor of Guaymas for a new mission and seaport site. Salvatierra had gotten Kino's reports on the shells and the trek to the Colorado. He was shipping cattle to California by sea at a cost of $300 a head; even the worst desert in the world would offer a cheaper route. By late February both Salvatierra and Manje were rapping at the door of Kino's adobe in Dolores. It had been five years since they were in Mexico and ten since they rode the Pimería together discussing the future of the missions.
Another expedition west was in the making. But Padre Kino had first to attend to the fortification of the mountain missions since the Apaches were opening a new and bold campaign of attack all along the Sierra Azul chain. Knowing Piman fluently from his days as a missionary in Chinipas, Salvatierra went on ahead preaching his way through the valley of the Río Magdalena. A week later Kino joined the party at Caborca and they set out for Sonoita where provisions had been forwarded. This time the explorers were determined to bypass the Devil's Highway and find a direct route to the mouth of the Colorado.
What might have been one of the most significant expeditions of the careers of both Kino and Salvatierra was bungled by a half-wit Indian guide. Apparently that summer guides were at an unpayable premium; already some had refused to disclose watering places on the trail up from Caborca. Salvatierra wanted to go due west from Sonoita which would have brought them north of Pinacate into impassable sand dunes. Kino listened to the Indian guides who favored a passage south of Pinacate. Manje argued for the only rational path the Devil's Highway.
Kino prevailed and they turned south around Pinacate onto the horrifying volcanic mesa spewed out by the burned-out mountain. All Salvatierra could think of was what the world would look like after the final ordeal by fire. All they encountered save for a few destitute Indians and a withered centenarian were ashes, boulders, and sand. Water became a critical problem, particularly for the animals. The guides recommended a trail along the Gulf shore, so they inched across the searing boulders and sand. For three days they searched out a way; it was hopeless. The water at Tres Ojitos just north of modern Puerto Peñasco was insufficient and the remainder of the pack train they had left at the foot of Pinacate had to be brought back to water. Reluctantly they turned back.
Having replenished their supplies at Sonoita they set out again toward the north, but the Pima guides refused to enter into Yuman territory. It was a bad show all around. But the trio did manage to climb a steep, high peak north of Pinacate and from its heights they viewed a sunset glinting on the not so distant California mountains. Salvatierra was satisfied, but Kino and Manje were disgruntled. By violating their unwritten law of conquering the tierra incógnita by known quantities, they lost the marvelous opportunity to link the Californias inseparably to the Pimería during their lifetimes.
Word spread through the Pimería of the new confirmations of Kino's discoveries. Another expedition was planned by the indefatigable trio for October. But Salvatierra had to beg off because Mission Loreto in California lacked horses to explore the west side of the Gulf. Manje was caught in a reshuffling of policy when General Jironza retired at the end of the summer, so Kino was left holding the reins all alone.
Padre Eusebio invited a Spaniard to accompany him on the next trip to the Colorado. He left Dolores on November 3, 1701, and remaining resourceful as ever, found another new route across the Papaguería as far as San Pedro on the Gila. Hundreds of Yumans and Pimans thronged around the Blackrobe just as they had done the year before. Kino was in his element, but as the cavalcade moved south along the Colorado, fear gripped his traveling companion. A full quarter hour had elapsed before Padre Kino realized the poor Spaniard had ridden off in terror of his life. Two Pima cowhands chased after him on the fastest horses in the train, but they could not catch the timid, terrified man. No doubt he would hatch some choice rumors to exonerate his cowardice. Well, it wouldn't be the first time rumors reached the Pimería that Kino had been eaten alive by angry savages.
Padre Kino was touched in observing that the Yumas and the Quiquímas were fascinated by the celebration of the Mass. He was amused by their reaction to the horses and mules which they had never seen before. When the Quiquímas were told that horses could run faster than the Indians, they scoffed incredulously. So the Dolores cowboys arranged a race and the fleet footed Quiquímas dashed ahead of the ambling horses; then the spurs were put to their flanks and the galloping steeds passed the astonished aborigines in a victorious cloud of dust.
The horses may have been excellent for exploration, but they needed to have the brush cleared away in order to negotiate the river lands. It was obvious they couldn't swim the swift Colorado. Yet the Quiquímas insisted that Kino visit their lands on the opposite bank. Nothing could be more agreeable because Kino hoped to reach the shores of the great South Sea still ten days to the west.
Dry timbers were lashed together for a raft and the horses were led toward the shaky craft; however, the horses mired down and shied from the strange surface of rippling timbers. Even Padre Kino was reluctant to get his boots wet not because he was fastidious, but he knew too well how essential good footgear is to the desert explorer. The Indians fastened a large waterproof basket on the raft and Kino carefully sat down in his private compartment for the historic crossing of the Colorado.
His sojourn in Quíquima land was brief but hospitable. He had to return to Dolores because the Spaniard who deserted him might cause untold troubles for the Indians of the west should the garrison at Real de San Juan or Fronteras mount a search for a "missing" Padre Kino. At least Kino was now absolutely sure the Gulf ended to the south of the juncture of the Gila and the Colorado and that a land route to Loreto was possible. Back on the east bank of the river the Padre was laden with two hundred loads of foodstuffs as gifts from the Quiquímas. What he gratefully accepted he graciously gave to the needy Yumas whose crops had failed that year.
The news of the crossing of the Colorado hardly jolted the Pimería, now accustomed to the rapid advances made by the aging Padre on horseback. Everyone realized the immense importance of a land route, but one suspects that the Indian raids along the whole northern perimeter were sapping the Spanish strength. No one could break free for the next entrada of 1702 except for Kino's old Jesuit stalwart, Padre Manuel Gonzaléz, who had first introduced Kino to the Pimería.
The cavalcade that formed at Dolores in early February was worthy of the two missionaries. One hundred and thirty horses and mules, laden with provisions, were the core. Kino would amplify that with some of the 1000 head of cattle at Siboda! The whole Spanish colony must have been dumbfounded to think that Padre Kino with one other priest-companion and a few cowhands from Dolores could move herds of animals in perfect peace across the open desert when they couldn't keep a goat or a mine secure for a month.
Padre Gonzaléz was a perfect trail companion. He was as warmly received as Kino and equally enthusiastic about the extensive mission foundations that could be set up on the Colorado. The pair directed the pack train south from San Dionisio and studied ways of crossing the immense river. The difficulties remained the same: the horses mired down and the rafts were useless. And to complicate the problems, Padre Gonzaléz became very ill. Pain and hardship were constant companions to any missionary, so the discomfort Padre Gonzaléz experienced along the trail was nothing out of the ordinary. But the long hours in the saddle had aggravated an old hemorrhoid condition, and the rugged travel and exposure to winter weather had not helped at all.
Padre Kino now realized it would be impossible to cross the river and penetrate to the Pacific coast. Nor could time be lost in getting Gonzaléz back to help. The urgency can be learned from the fact that Padre Kino turned due east from where he was on the Colorado. He committed himself to crossing the sand dunes of the Gran Desierto, the Sahara of Sonora. Howling winds lashed the company with stinging sand. The animals and men sank in the dry drifts making every step in advance an agony of frustration. They had fought their way nearly forty miles, about half-way to Pitaqui Peak, when they had to give up. They retraced their steps and turned back along the more reliable river trails. Padre Gonzaléz braved his painful condition down the Devil's Highway, to him now so appropriately named. Reaching Sonoita, he rested for three days but worsened. Loyal Pimas placed him on a litter and carried him back across the desolate Papaguería.
It was Padre Ignacio Iturmendi who met the desperate and now bedraggled cavalcade. Gonzaléz lingered between life and beckoning death; nothing brought him relief or strength. In a few days he died.
Curiously enough those three Fathers who met under such trying circumstances would all be dead within ten years, and each would lie buried in the same chapel for centuries awaiting discovery and the honors of historical fame.
The death of Padre Gonzaléz was a blow, but the loss did not lessen the importance of the expedition. The reality of a land passage to California was beyond a dream, and true. A mainland port on the Pacific could at last end the agony of anxiety which dogged the Manila galleon; it could mean naval supremacy for the whole hemispheric coast; it would halt the advance of Russia into the New World. And above all it would mean an earlier Christianization for the tens of thousands of Indians hunting and scrabbling out an existence in the chaparral of the Southwest.
Padre Eusebio Kino came back from the Colorado and settled down to the exhaustive routine of pueblo life. At fifty-six years old, it was time to slacken the pace. But Kino didn't understand life quite that way. The last ten years of his life set a staggering record for a man of any age. Even incomplete records of his expeditions give a total of over eight thousand miles on horseback through the most hostile desert on the continent. A day's ride continued to average well over 30 miles, not accounting for side trips to visit the sick, to instruct and baptize. With him he drove herds of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and burros. How these animals were fed and watered was a problem that apparently only the genius of Kino could resolve.
Padre Kino was no longer on the brink of discovery. He had crossed the Colorado, charted the approaches to the California coast, crisscrossed the head of the Gulf, and defied the Gran Desierto itself. While he unraveled rumor from fact in the western haze, the mission frontier behind him struggled to keep pace. Armies of carpenters, bricklayers, farmers, and irrigation experts swarmed through the pueblos updating and expanding the economy. A dream was coming true. Padre Kino had come to a desert. He came among abandoned peoples. He rode the arid trails. He bore the acid criticism of colonials. Why? Because he recognized that the paradox of Christianity is locked in the paradox of the desert. Life is more meaningful where life seems not to be. People are dearer where people seem they could not be. Peace is more possible where man recognizes the potentials of hostility.
The Pimería Alta had responded to the vision of Padre Eusebio. His dedication, his dreams, and his devotion had not changed the Pimería as much as it had brought it to life. But Padre Kino, like every man, had to come to the end of the trail.
With joy and gratitude in his heart Padre Eusebio rode into Magdalena in March, 1711. He had come to dedicate a new chapel to St. Francis Xavier his personal patron and that of the Pimería. He began the Mass of dedication and during it fell desperately ill. Padre Campos helped the indomitable missionary to the modest priest's house where Indian friends milled about praying for his recovery.
Life lingered until midnight on that 15th day of March, then drifted away from the figure on the adobe floor. Kino died as he had lived in peace and poverty, and on the brink of something greater.
Padre Campos chose the chapel for his burial place. And through the centuries since his death the village of Magdalena has been the center of an undiminishing devotion to St. Francis Xavier. For dozens of decades the faithful from Sonora, Arizona, and even Chihuahua have traveled hundreds of miles, many of them on foot, to participate in the fiesta of San Francisco. The reason baffles many people. But ethnologists offer a simple explanation: the Indians have simply transformed Padre Kino's devotion to San Francisco into one of mutual homage to the patron of the Pimería and to the pioneer padre himself. And who knows but what they're right?
Kino's biography excerpted from "Kino Guide II: A Life of Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J. Arizona's First Pioneer and A Guide to His Missions and His Monuments
by Charles W. Polzer, S.J.
To Site Index, Search and Navigation & Printing Tips
To Main Pages