The Road of PADRE KINO’s Missions
The exploration of the territories of Sonora,
Arizona by Father Eusebio Kino is probably one of the most extraordinary
sagas that occurred during the evangelization time in America. He
used several of his skills in mathematics and geography when arriving
in these hostile foreign lands.
Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J. or Eusebio Francesco Chini
This Italian Jesuit missionary was also called Padre Kino. He was
an explorer, a cartographer, geographer and astronomer. He established
a distinction between the Indigenous in the North-West of Mexico
and the South-West of the USA. He evangelized the people and created
20 missions. He was known for his ability to establish relationships
between the Indigenous and the religious institutions he represented.
His origins :
The life of Father Kino started in Segno, Italy, in the Italian
Tyrol, not far from the historic city of Trento. He was born there,
on August 10, 1645 in a typical room made of wood and stones.
There, in his mountains, as a teenager, he started to forge the
strong character that will allow him, later, to explore the mountains,
rivers and deserts of a country far away from his village.
His education :
The young Eusebio Francisco was gifted with an exceptional intelligence.
His parents sent him to the Jesuit College in Trento, where he studied
sciences and literature. He continued his studies in the college
of Hall close to Innsbruck, Austria to improve his knowledge of
sciences and mathematics. So, at twenty, Kino started the long education
of the members of the Company of Jesus.
When he finished his theological studies, the Duke of Bavaria invited
him to increase the number of professors in sciences and mathematics
at the University of Ingolstadt. At the same time, Kino had already
asked to be sent to China at the end of his studies. The fate left
only two available missions, one to the Philippines and the other
one to Mexico. They drew lots and Father Kino got
The false start :
In June 1678, he sailed from Genoa, Italy to Cadiz, Spain with eighteen
companions. They wanted to board the summer fleet heading to the
The fog and the rapid currents of the Strait of Gibraltar led the
boat close to Ceuta. They lost precious time : When they reached
Cadix, on July 13, the Spanish Imperial Fleet was already sailing
to New Spain.
Kino and his mates had to wait two years before being able to depart.
However, they took advantage of their unwilling stay to learn Spanish
and work on different projects.
At last, the Jesuit missionaries boarded the Nazareno in July 1680.
But this boat ran aground on the sandbank of the Great Diamante
just outside the Bay of Cadix. The boat was rapidly destroyed by
the strong winds and waves. Completely discouraged and without any
luggage, Kino waited six more months in Cadix until he got the opportunity
to board another ship to cross the Ocean.
California was the first land of missionary Kino. After several
tries, not one Spanish expedition succeeded in accessing it since
the memorable time of Hernán
The expedition landed in 1683 in La Paz. As that was predictable,
the peninsula was hostile to the colonists. The boat had to go back
to Sinaloa where it came.
Father Kino was mad at the deceiving behavior of
the soldiers towards the Indigenous as well as the decision of the
colonists to leave La Paz, a decision motivated by the fear of the
natives and the shortage of food.
His life :
During the Fall 1683, the expedition went back to the peninsula,
in San Bruno where the Jesuits founded the first mission, close
to present Loreto. Little by little, from this missionary station,
the small expedition crossed the Giganta rocky mountain. After four
months, the expedition of father Kino finally reached the coasts
of the Pacific Ocean.
This time, they could approach the autochthones and even became
friends. They studied their dialects. They baptized children and
the dying. After one year, they finally created a permanent mission
in Baja California.
However, in San Bruno, the sun makes the water evaporate and the
crops dry : The big dream also shattered and, in 1685, Admiral Isidro
de Atondo y Antillón submitted for vote the abandonment of
this Californian business financed by the Spanish Crown. Father
Kino set against it in vain. Orders were given to save everything
that could be loaded in the boats. And the boats left these inhospitable
The dream of Kino to befriend the autochthones
and create a string of missions in Baja California was about to
shatter. He thought : "Other missionaries, cross in one hand,
will colonize the peninsula”.
Father Kino was very interested in the evangelization
of Baja California and, in 1686, Viceroy Count of Walls looked for
a group whose goal was to study and propose the best way to keep
a permanent pied-a-terre on this land belonging to Spain.
This group was formed by Admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón,
Father Kino and the Prosecutor of the Real audience. The Company
of Jesus was asked to take care of this project for an annual wage
of thirty thousand pesos. However, the Company of Jesus turned down
the offer even if they agree to spiritually cooperate with an adequate
number of priests.
Since his Order refused to take care of the project of evangelization
and colonization of Baja California, Father Kino went to High Pimería,
where he started his apostolic work.
He never came back to Baja California even though
he was part of a third expedition led by himself and Father Juan
At the beginning of the fall of 1697, a rebellion
of the Indigenous in the Northern part of Sonora forced Father Kino
to stay there to help in the process of peace. The expedition landed
on the Californian coast of the Sea of Cortez without him. The Mission
of Our Lady of Loreto was founded. It is nowadays a well known municipality
in Southern Baja California.
The Mission, founded by Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra,
was called " Head and mother of all the missions of upper and
lower Californias. The colonization of these lands started from
Father Kino became a missionary without a mission.
He suggested to his hierarchic superior that he should be sent to
work in the Seri tribe and in Guaymas, because he wanted to be close
to Baja California. He got permission and started what we could
call the mission of his life.
He baptized a thousand Indigenous and obtained privileges for them,
created ranches and helped towards land farming. He also verified
and confirmed that Baja California was a peninsula and not an island.
He learned the languages and dialects of his thousand “sheep”.
He taught them how to write and read. He knew how to tame the spirits,
the land and the horses and he found time for writing. In his book
« Heavenly favors », he tells the adventures and misadventures
of his life from 1687 to 1706, 5 years before his death.
The mission of Our Lady of Dolores (1687)
The mission of Our Lady of Remedios (1699)
The mission of Our Lady of Pilar and Santiago de Cocóspera
The mission of San Ignacio de Cabórica
The mission of San Pedro and San Pablo de Tubutama
The mission of la Purisima Concepción of Our Lady
The mission of San Diego de Pitiquíto.
The mission of San Cayetano Tumacacori (Arizona USA)
The missions of High Santa Cruz. Small missions spread out in Sonora
Visitas del Rio Altar
The mission of San Xavier du Bac (Arizona, USA)
and many other small missions called « Visitas
» or visiting stations, built on the two sides of the border
The legend was born : Father Kino died during the night of March
15, 1711 in the community of Santa Maria Magdalena, the present
Magdalena de Kino in Sonora. He was buried there.
For almost 250 years, the exact place of his tomb wasn’t known
and during many years in the past century, his remains were searched
by American and Mexican anthropologists and historians.
May, 19th 1966, they were found under the plaza de Armas on Magdalena
de Kino, thanks to the researches commanded by the governor
of Sonora, Luis Oaks, and the mayor of Magdalena Sonora, Gerald
Nava Garcia. Nowadays, he lies in the very place where he was first
buried, in a mausoleum dedicated to him.
To sum up :
The difficult time of evangelization had a very important cultural
impact through all the indigenous communities in the world. Jesuit
father Eusebio Francisco Kino, born in Italy arrived in South America
first in Mexico City, then in Baja
California (Carolina - La Paz) where he could start his job as a
saver of souls.
Later, from 1687, he landed in Sinaloa
and met the indigenous people of Sonora such as the Yaquis,
the Seris and the
communities of la Pimaria Alta, the Opatas.
his journeys, he built several missions and, later, the Franciscan
fathers pursued his job. The Church of Nuestra Señora
de la Purísima Concepción in Caborca is one of
them; it was rebuilt around the year 1803; there is still on the
façade tracks of bullets from a battle that occurred about
one hundred years ago.
Bahia de Kino was named after Father Kino. This
is a village located on the lands of the Seri
community of Punta Chueca, in the western Sonora. A University
(Universidad Kino) was also named after him. It is still managed
according to the Jesuit codes.
Among all the Christian fathers who came in Sonora at this time,
Kino is remembered as the “black man on a horse”. He
could keep on working among the indigenous communities who let him
alive while other fathers were martyred and sacrificed.
He died in 1711, in Magdalena de Kino. This village,
that still keeps his remains, continues to protect the memory of
Tours in Sonora : The Seris,
La Pimaria Alta, the Petro
glyphs, the Yaquis,
the Mayos, The Road
of the Missions.
Text prepared by Marie Resplandy, founder and manager of the French-Mexican Association AFG AC, official correspondent in Sonora for France
Expatriate and consular delegate for the General Consulate France in Mexico, living always in the state of Sonora since more than 10 years.
Link Asociacion French-Mexican AFG AC : www.lsiaug.net/afg/
French General Consulate in Mexico : www.consulfrance-mexico.org/
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