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Junipero Serra: California's Founding Father
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Junipero Serra: California's Founding Father

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  47 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A portrait of the priest and colonialist who is one of the most important figures in California’s history

In the 1770s, just as Britain’s American subjects were freeing themselves from the burdens of colonial rule, Spaniards moved up the California coast to build frontier outposts of empire and church. At the head of this effort was Junípero Serra, an ambitious Franciscan w
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Hill and Wang
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While growing up in California in the 50s and 60s, the name of Father Junipero Serra was well known to every school kid. As the title of this new biography states, he was considered California's founding father. There's a statue of Father Serra gracing the U.S capitol rotunda as a representaton of California's history. He was the person that "civilized" the west coast. His missions still stand as a symbol of the Western exploration and settlement of California. You didn't have to be Catholic to ...more
Thoroughly documented, well written, and a real eye opener.

As a product of the California public school system, I thought I knew about Father Junipero Serra. As children we were taught about a heroic, larger than life founder of the California Missions.

It turns out that he may have been a short, self-righteous, opportunistic tight-ass. If the accounts presented are to be believed, the only thing he succeeded in doing was to set things in motion that those who followed had to clean up. He had no
Josh Muhlenkamp
I got this book as part of Goodreads' First Reads program.

When I first started reading this book, I joked that I didn't like Serra because he was a Franciscan (I went to a Dominican school for undergrad, and there's a rivalry between the two orders). Now that I've finished the book, I still don't like Serra, but it has nothing to do with his religious order.

Serra was an insufferable egotist who made a career out of assuming that Native Americans were stupid and immature, and physically abusing t
I was raised around the popular history of the California Missions and Junipero Serra as a hero - so now that Father Serra is nominated for sainthood I thought it was time to learn a little more about the man vs. the era. Through this book I learned a lot about Spanish history, Catholicism and the pre-enlightenment era as well as Serra himself. Although at first I thought the book would be apologetic for Serra, the book is well-balanced between the thinking of Serra's time and what we see as wro ...more
This is a dry historical look at Blessed Fr. Junipero Serra, considered one of the founders of the state of California and representing that state as one of the two California statues in the hall of statues in the US Capitol building.

While Serra is being considered for canonization, if today's standards were used to measure his life's work he most certainly wouldn't qualify. As the American Revolution was unfolding on the East Coast, Serra was busy creating a "ladder" of missions up the Californ
Mathew Whitney
I received this book free through Goodreads' First Reads program.

Junipero Serra: California's Founding Father is a detailed account of the life of Junipero Serra, the Franciscan missionary responsible for a great deal of the founding of the series of missions which became the backbone of Spanish colonization in California. Steven W. Hackel uses an extensive breadth of source material to produce a biography of Junipero Serra which attempts to pierce the veil of mystery and legend that surrounds m
Elaine Mulligan
** received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads **

16 pages of b&w illus. and 4 maps, Junípero Serra (1713-1784 in Carmel, California), a Franciscan priest and one of the founding fathers of California (in 1769, only a couple years before The Boston Tea Party) he arrived in Southern California at age 55.

He is closely linked to the famous Roman Catholic missions in California. Born in Spain in 1713. As an adult he is historically seen as pious, ambitious and stubborn. The book tell
Christopher Lonero
I picked this book to read because I was extremely interested in learning more about our history of California. I grew up in the Bay Area and I remember the statue of Junipero Serra on Highway 280 on the way to San Francisco. This book is a pretty easy read which doesn't get too bogged down in overall detail of names or loose history. I thought the author did a fantastic job of hitting all the major areas of Serra's life and presenting a good understanding of the Spanish Franciscan Friars on the ...more
"Serra's grandparents and parents were indisputably practicing Catholics, but the names Abram and Salom suggest that some of Serra's distant ancestors might have been Jews or conversos." (15)

"The college [of San Fernando in Mexico City] forbade the missionaries to bring with them certain theatrical props for use during sermons, such as crucifixes with attachments and hinges that allowed the padre to make Christ's eyes open and close and his arms and legs move. Apparently, leaders at the college
A balanced assessment of Junipero Serra is a rare find, and this book is it! And a story of his pre-California days is also rare, and here it is. And in addition this books tells of the times: the Bourbon takeover of Spain, the Mexican Revolution, and much else. For a Californian, this is a critical read! It gives new insight into our state and includes more modern thinking, such as the disease deaths of the Indians, the paternalism and, yes, the prejudices of the times.
As a modern Californian, this is a difficult book to read, meaning, the history is so painful with the advantage of hindsight: "By... the early 1830's, more than 80,000 Indians had been baptized between San Diego and north of San Francisco, but almost 60,000 had been buried, nearly 25,000 of whom were children under the age of 10..." (p. 239-240). Would that have happened anyway? Probably; if not Serra's missions, other Europeans would have brought the same diseases & environmental destructi ...more
As a Californian, of course I knew about Junipero Serra. But after reading Steven Hackel's fine book, I learned that I really did not know much about this Franciscan friar. He was critical to the development of California and I enjoyed learning how his upbringing influenced his religious pursuits and how all that colored his dealings with the Native Americans. It is upsetting to see just how dismissive Serra was of the culture of the Indians and just how myopic he was. He was a political animal ...more
Megan Dukett
Steven W. Hackel did a fantastic job in pulling together primary sources and making them come together in a well thought out narrative. Hackel's work made me realize the full story behind the San Diego uprising in 1775, that had never been clear before. Serra's pushing for soldiers more or less made San Diego vulnerable to the attack. I also was unaware of Serra' involvement in the Inquisition while in New Spain, now central Mexico. Really fascinating and well documented book.

Hackel's exhibit a
Mills College Library
Biog S487h 2013
This was a great introduction to the pre-American history of California in the person of Junipero Serra. Frankly, I was really only interested initially in the California part of his life, but I enjoyed the Spanish and New Spain background. Great book, and just about the right length.
Very complete and interesting biography of this interesting character. He was a super-energetic friar who helped create the best missions in California. I really liked the book and would recommend it.
Very well-written biography. If you are interested in early California history, this is a must read.
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