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The Road of the Missions
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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The Road of PADRE KINO’s Missions - SONORA

The exploration of the territories of Sonora, Sinaloa and 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 Mexico.

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 New World.
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.

View of Baja CaliforniaBaja 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 Cortez.
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.

   Right picture : View of Baja California

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.
View of the Sea of Cortez
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 lands.

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”.

Left picture : View of the Sea of Cortez

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 Maria Salvatierra.


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 there.

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.

The mission of the Purisima Concepción of Our Lady of Caborca 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 of Caborca
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 and Arizona
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 Mexico-USA.

   Right picture : The mission of the Purisima Concepción of Our Lady of Caborca

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.

remains of Father KinoOn 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.

Left picture : remains of Father Kino

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.

Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción in Caborca (Sonora)Through 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.

   Right picture : Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción in Caborca (Sonora)

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 his work.



Church of the village of Oquitoa (Sonora)


Tours in Sonora : The Seris, La Pimaria Alta, the Petro glyphs, the Yaquis, the Mayos, The Road of the Missions.



  Above picture : Church of the village of Oquitoa (Sonora)


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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