The Hispanic-American History Timeline
1769 Father Serra Opens San Diego de Alcalá,
California's first Spanish mission
Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest, arrives in California, from Baja California, as part of the Gaspar de Portolá overland expedition and establishes the San Diego De Alcalá Mission, the first of 21 Spanish missions built along the coast of California to convert the natives to Christianity -- and the foundation for today's City of San Diego.
Known as the "Mother of all missions," San Diego De Alcalá marks the beginning of Catholicism in this region, and the gateway that opened California to Spanish and Mexican settlement.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo had claimed California for the Spanish empire in 1542, but they did not settle in the area until Father Serra leads a groups of Franciscan priests who establish the first nine of California's 21 missions.
With a reliable source of water, fertile land, and the proximity to a Native American village, Father Serra choses the site of the mission, overlooking the Bay known today as Presidio Hill, to cultivate crops such as wheat, barley, corn, and beans.
Today Father Serra is remembered for his dedication to his faith, and for bringing Catholicism to California. To recognize his dedication, Pope Francis canonized Father Serra during his first visit for the United States in 2015, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
There is a bronze statue of Serra in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Throughout California, his work is recognized with statues -- in Ventura, Hillsborough, San Juan capistrano, Fremont, and Monterey. There is even a Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park, California. It showcases San Diego's cultural influences from the indigenous Kumeyaay to the Spanish, Mexican and early American settlers.
By Jungmin Park, Lehman College