Chronology of the Spanish Incursion 
First Farmworkers, First Braceros
Baja California Field Hands and the Origins of Farm Labor Importation in California Agriculture, 1769-1790
McWilliams: The Indian in the Closet 
By Richard Steven Street
California History 75 (Winter 1996/97): 306-321 

[See also red slider's poems "Spirit of the Ground"  and "Spirit of the Man" (external).] 

On a hot afternoon late in June 1828, 38-year-old French sea captain August Bernard Duhaut-Cilly arrived at Mission Santa Barbara, one of the most successful missions of Alta California, just in time to enjoy a celebration in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Captain Duhaut-Cilly's ship, Le Héros, was anchored off shore, and he had taken advantage of the layover to spend a few days touring the area. He had enjoyed a huge feast with the padre and hundreds of Chumash Indians, and was at the point of walking out on an interminable two hours of what he regarded as cruel and barbarous bull-fights, when he witnessed a curious game: Indian farmworkers vainly struggling to climb a greased pole topped with rewards of clothes and trinkets. According to his diary, he watched one man after another fail at this, and then looked up and saw a young Cochimí Indian field hand from one of the Baja California missions, twenty-two years of age, "perfectly formed . . . of a robust constitution," who by means of scraping the grease from the pole, and spreading ashes on it, managed to make it to the top and grab all of the prizes. The Chumash natives, in a rage, bellowed at the Baja field hand and confederated against him, but none could match his agility, vigor, or the grace of his movements.

Continuing to compete at other games, the Baja field hand won every race, even against the very best of the Chumash runners. Duhaut-Cilly could not take his eyes off the young man, largely because he feared that the Chumash might do him harm and bodily remove him from the field. Eventually the games ended, and the following day Duhaut-Cilly sailed south to San Pedro. But he never forgot the young Baja field hand. "A light piece of stuff was about his loins; and when he was running nothing concealed from sight the vigor and grace of his movements," he later wrote in his journal. Marveling only at the young man's grace and beauty, and his physical appearance, Duhaut-Cilly failed to perceive the historical and demographic significance of that solitary field hand. Writing essentially as a tour guide, and knowing nothing of the development of mission agriculture and the key role Baja field hands had played in developing it, he could neither formulate nor ask the most important questions. Why, out of all the farmworkers at Mission Santa Barbara, was there only this one, solitary Cochimí boy? How had he traveled to Mission Santa Barbara? Why was he so far from home? And what kind of life did he lead in Alta California? [1]

Duhaut-Cilly did not address these questions. Nor did any other traveler. Baja California field hands working at the missions of Alta California seldom inspired among contemporaries much more than passing curiosity and idle commentary. They fared no better at the hands of later scholars. Labor historians ignore them, and church historians barely do a better job. Their descriptions are sketchy, with Baja field hands emerging from their accounts as bit players. The net effect of these omissions has been to create a distorted picture of California farmworkers and denied them their roots. It is as if in writing their collective biography, historians conspired to arbitrarily amputate such salient facts as where farmworkers first came from, who they were, and what brought them into the fields. [2]

But while the missions' Baja field hands have been slighted and taken for granted, they are hardly unimportant or ephemeral. No comprehensive history of agricultural workers in California can ignore them. They were the region's first farmworkers. Separated from their families and homes, forced to march hundreds of miles overland, they were the most important workers in the Spanish missions during the years 1769 to 1790. They cleared and plowed the first fields, planted the first vineyards, made the first wine, harvested the first grain, irrigated the first crops, trained the first generation of local farm laborers, and more than any other group—more than the padres themselves—were responsible for establishing agriculture. They were very different from modern farmworkers or even their immediate successors, and their example provides perspective on the extent to which agricultural labor changed over time. Trailblazers as well as farmworkers, Baja field hands played an extremely complicated role, one with broad, overlapping duties and responsibilities. But more than anything else they functioned as cheap, docile workers. Brought in under an elaborate program to plug a labor shortage, Baja field hands were, in effect, California's first braceros. The work they did, the lives they lived, the obstacles they overcame, force a reassessment of assumptions about when, where, why, and how farm labor importation began in California.

On May 14, 1769, a group of sick, exhausted, half-starved, and dehydrated Indian field hands, whose gaunt faces and skeleton-like bodies evinced their ordeal, drove teams of oxen and mules and wagons into the southwestern coastal area of California. They mark the beginning of the farmworker story. With them was a rag-tag collection of soldiers, "sappers" (trail breakers), muleteers, and missionaries. They had come from the northernmost Spanish missions on the Mexican peninsula of Baja (Lower) California. Now, bypassing dozens of native rancherias (villages) that commanded the area, they were headed for the vicinity of an almost forgotten baysite called San Diego de Alcala, where a group of explorers, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and others from Spain, had preceded them as early as 227 years before. Late in the afternoon, they halted their teams. Both the animals and men could go no farther. They needed a rest. It had been a long, slow, and scurvy-ravaged journey, at least 350 miles across unmapped frontier territory. Along the way, thirty of forty-four field hands had died or deserted. Struggling to prevent further catastrophe, the fourteen survivors now foraged for food and cared for the sick and dying. On July 1, they were joined by the survivors of another contingent of Baja field hands, twelve of forty-two mission Indians who had accompanied Father Junipero Serra's expedition from Loreto, some 700 miles to the south. Together they helped the padres erect huts and a crude chapel. Two weeks later, fifteen of the field hands trekked north with an expedition to search for Monterey Bay, leaving eleven survivors behind to join in ceremonies consecrating the site as Mission San Diego de Alcalà, the first Spanish mission in Alta California. [3]

Shortly, the Baja field hands raised a cross and began work on an adobe church. Living in brush shelters, the stranded Indians survived not by farming and harvesting crops, but by gathering wild roots and seeds, snaring rabbits and mudhens, measuring out the meager rations shipped from Mexico, and scouring food from the nearby beach and wetlands. On August 15, Diegueño Indians from the rancheria of Cosoy attacked the mission, killing Serra's servant and wounding a padre, a blacksmith, and one of the Baja field hands. That winter, before the Monterey expedition returned, six more Baja field hands died. On February 11, 1770, two of the men went south with a resupply ship. On March 23 the vessel San Antonio docked with a contingent of ten more field hands, and on April 17 five of them departed north with a second expedition to Monterey to found Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel). Huddled together, "smelling frightfully of mules" on the verge of starvation, the field hands at Mission San Carlos existed in their flimsy frontier encampment under conditions as miserable and perilous as those endured by their comrades at Mission San Diego. But even if the forlorn farmworkers had considered leaving after that, they could not have done so. They were stranded on the frontier and had no choice but to make the best of it. The Baja field hands would remain in Alta California, and hereinafter their lives and the lives of thousands of other farmworkers would be inextricably tied to the strange and stark outposts that, as colonizing instruments, were known as the Spanish missions. [4]

Spanish missions were recent additions to Alta California when the Baja field hands helped found them. Semi-fortified, plantation-like communities surrounded by fields, orchards, vineyards, and ranchos, and organized eventually around lovely whitewashed churches and chapels, Spanish missions resembled a cross between a European monastery and a small feudal town. Keystones of Spanish frontier expansion, they served as political, administrative, and military centers, and as resting points, havens sometimes protected by nearby presidios (military garrisons) and armed soldiers. The missions and their initial inhabitants were transplanted north from Mexico in 1768, as the result of the machinations of one of the most remarkable men of the era, José de Gálvez, who was assisted by his emissary, the equally remarkable Junipero Serra, so-called "father of California," and other padres. Gálvez was visitor-general of New Spain, and he had moved to Mexico in 1765. He was probably the most ardent expansionist in the Western Hemisphere, the most powerful figure in Mexico, a domineering personality who at times went temporarily insane, believed he was variously God Himself, Montezuma, and the King of Sweden, and once proposed to subdue rebellious Sonoran Indians by importing 600 Guatemalan apes as soldiers. [5]

Farmworkers figured prominently in the plans of José de Gálvez and his associates. Indeed the colonizers could not hope to succeed without them. They had decided that they could profit politically and spiritually by planting new missions in Alta California, which would enable them to block the Russians from settling the northwest coast, while controlling more territory and extending the reach of the Spanish empire without engaging in a full-scale conquest and colonization. On these grounds they persuaded a compliant King Charles III to authorize their plans and endorse Serra's petition to establish his first mission far north of any other, at a remote spot that by a process that seemed logical became Mission San Carlos, near Monterey. San Diego de Alcala would serve as a way-station or staging ground and supplementary mission along the route north to what would eventually become a string of twenty-one missions, each one a short march apart, located near water sources, fertile soil, and Indian settlements between San Diego and a point just north of San Francisco. Farmworkers would become the essential element required for the successful completion of this project. Without their labor the padres could not expect to survive, not to mention feed large numbers of local Indians they hoped to Christianize. At the time of their creation, Missions San Diego and San Carlos had a farmworker population of just twenty-seven or twenty-eight imported Baja field hands, but at the height of the mission era half a century later, the number of Alta California Indian field hands on the string of twenty-one missions had swelled to many thousands. [6]

Serra and the other Spanish missionaries did not venture into the New World intent on creating such an agricultural proletariat. They had no idea that they were planting the malevolent seed from which sprouted the malignant crop of downtrodden field hands. They were pious, zealous, hard bitten Franciscans, members of the Catholic order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1215. Paternalistic "fishers of men" who supposedly lived by a vow of poverty and believed only the poor passed through the gates of heaven, Franciscans identified with the poor. Emulating peasants, they walked rather than rode on horseback, dressed modestly, often went barefoot rather than wearing shoes, ate whatever food was offered them, and ministered to the people as opposed to living a monk-like, contemplative existence as did some other missionaries. At once statesmen, ambassadors, advisors, teachers, superintendents, magistrates, farmers, explorers, emissaries, and one-man tribunals, Franciscans served as cultural and religious vanguards of conquest. Working isolated and alone on the frontier in the remotest corners of New Spain, they carried the daunting responsibility of creating utopia according to their values. In the Franciscan dream, missionaries would roll back the frontier, convert natives, and build missions that would one day incorporate all of California's people. [7]

For two and one-half centuries, Franciscan missionaries (and their brothers in the Word, the Jesuits) collected hundreds of thousands of natives and, while accompanying Spanish expeditions, tried to do their best to ensure "that the conquest be a Christian apostolic one and not butchery," as the first bishop of Mexico explained. Following feudal Castillian precepts about race, religion, and civilization, they endeavored to convert the "neophytes" (as they called recently Christianized New World Indians) into devout disciples of God, to train them in various skills, and to transform the natives from "baby birds," their wings too weak for flight, into tax-paying gente de razon (people of reason), and loyal, lower-class subjects of the Crown. Within ten years, according to Franciscan theory, the neophytes would become self-sufficient Spaniards who would then take over the missions and convert them into towns. But the padres could not import enough supplies to sustain these efforts. Since Spain provided only minimal financial support, the perennially under-financed missions could not proceed with their projects without quickly becoming self-sustaining. So, wherever they went, the padres put the Indians to work, mainly in the fields. As a result, on missions scattered from the Caribbean south into Paraguay and Chile and north through Mexico, Florida, and New Mexico, thousands, upon thousands of indigenous people labored on Spanish mission farms, so many that it was often said that next to Christianity, agricultural work was the principal lesson the padres taught native peoples of South America, Central America, and the American southwest. [8]

A large portion of the Alta California native men in the 30-mile-wide strip along the coast, whatever their wishes and economic standing, were in a real sense destined to suffer this same plight, to become field hands. But not immediately. The process of converting wilderness to productive fields was no less than a desperate matter of life or death. On the Spanish frontier, one thousand miles from the nearest supply port in Mexico, missionaries needed Indians to help them immediately establish the farms and grow the crops necessary to first prevent starvation and to make their outposts self-sufficient. They had to do this quickly and efficiently. Two centuries of missionary experience in the New World had taught the padres that the best way to proceed was not to rely on local natives in the beginning. Unfamiliar with European-style farming, Alta California natives would require considerable instruction before they learned European-style agriculture. Moreover, there was a communication problem: neither the padres nor the natives could speak the other's language. For this reason, when founding their missions padres always followed a very specific procedure. [9]

Careful to bring along enough soldiers for protection, and to stock enough supplies to see them through the first months, they went to great pains in choosing faithful, hard-working, Christianized Indian farm laborers from existing missions. Already trained in the intricacies of agriculture and able to rapidly size-up the situation and deploy with minimal supervision, such workers were routinely shifted from well-established missions to the new ones. Venturing north, Serra and his men adhered to this time-honored strategy. If farming was to go forward, if any field work was to be done in Alta California during the first years of settlement, indeed if the missions themselves were to survive, they would have to rely on outsiders, on imported workers. They would have to depend on the Baja field hands. [10]

And so, by default, the Baja field hands became Alta California's first farmworkers. But these were not just any Baja field hands. The padres were very selective in choosing who would assist in colonization. They had to be. The native field hands of the Baja California missions were hardly uniform in behavior and characteristics. They roughly divided into two groups: the Guaycuras, who lived south of Loreto, the main supply port and mission town midpoint on the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula, and the Cochimíes, who lived to the north. The later were the more dependable and, according to the padres, had a "noble nature" and made the best field hands, while the former, especially the Pericu branch of the southernmost Guaycuras left the worst record as far as the padres were concerned. Furthermore, the more northerly Cochimí tribes spoke a Yuman dialect that proved useful in dealing with other natives. Consequently, when they ventured into Alta California, the padres brought along only the most loyal and trusted Baja field hands from the Cochimí tribes at Missions Santa Maria and San Borja. They would be the first people to engage in agricultural labor on the California missions. [11]

The mechanisms that brought Cochimí field hands north are not exactly clear, shrouded by the vagueness of mission legend and surviving evidence. Some activist scholars of farmworkers would like to believe that the Baja field hands were essentially precursors, the earliest example of imported farm labor, the beginning of a stream of workers brought in and used to undermine the local work force. They assert that certain aspects of farm labor have been present from the beginning, that ever since the Baja field hands arrived, agriculture in California has looked abroad and tapped into pools of foreign workers. This interpretation, which links Spanish colonial labor practices to modern California farm labor traditions, is not widely accepted by writers, but achieves its most strident tone in an interview that an influential Marxist historian and agricultural journalist, Sam Kushner, gave toward the end of his career. According to this view, the Baja field hands had a submissive psychology and cowered in fear of the padres much as farmworkers cowered under the sway of growers two centuries later. [12]

The Kushner interview and similar interpretations are open to considerable misgiving. Both the politics and the motivation are questionable, and the claim lacks documentation and seems a simplification, but it does not fly in the face of mission history or some of what historians know about the workers. Baja field hands did not come to the missions under any contractual arrangement. They were not immigrant laborers, venturing abroad in search of opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Nor did they volunteer to make the journey. They were average mission Indians. Their agonizing ordeal overland from Mexico to the fields of Alta California was every bit as difficult as—or worse than—that suffered by Chinese and Japanese farmworkers who would sail east a century later, packed tightly into the holds of leaky ships, or the undocumented Mexicans found lost, abandoned, and wandering in the desert of southern Arizona while trying to cross the border three-quarters of a century after that. The Indians had lived a most tenuous existence on the sixteen Baja California missions and thirty-two mission stations, dying out at a frightening rate. In Alta California, they were destined to endure more of the same. [13]

At Mission San Borja, in the middle of the Baja peninsula, with its limited water supply and arable land, Indian field hands were often sent into the desert to scavenge for food, returning to the mission in relays, every three or four weeks, to attend mass and live and work on the mission farm. On the more prosperous missions, Indians became infected with mal galico (syphilis) and gonorrhea from the Spanish troops, and they constantly suffered from epidemics of measles and other diseases for which they lacked immunity. They were apparently dying off in such great numbers that the padres feared that within a generation they would become extinct as a people. The Indians did not trek north to escape these dire circumstances. They had experienced years of subordination in Baja California, first under the Jesuit, then the Franciscan, padres, who kept them in constant motion from poor missions where there was an overabundance of labor, but no water or arable land, to the better ones where the opposite situation prevailed. They did as they were told. When on March 22, 1769, Fray Juan Crespi of Mission Purisima brought the first group of Baja field hands from Missions San Borja and Santa Maria together with volunteers, muleteers, and soldiers at Velicata, and marched them north two days later, and when Serra brought the second group into Mission Loreto and sent them overland to San Diego on March 28, the Baja field hands were simply doing what they had grown accustomed to doing: packing up, leaving family and children behind, and traveling to some new spot to plant and tend the fields that would sustain yet another Spanish mission. [14]

The twenty-seven or twenty-eight Baja field hands who constituted the first farmworkers in California are not the ones commemorated in paintings and other idyllic depictions of mission agriculture. Indeed, there is not even one sketch of any of them. But what is known of their lives suggests a sharp picture of farmworkers who were very different, and yet in many ways very similar, to those of today. Baja field hands were not just harvesters. They did not do one task, or even a combination of two or three, like modern farm workers. Rather they were general workers, roustabouts, part farmer, part farmworker, part mule driver, part construction laborer, part blacksmith. But more than anything else, the early Baja field hands were people intimately connected to the process of exploration, colonization, and settlement. Before settling down to cultivate the land, most of their work was as "sappers" (trailblazers) who used axe, spade, or machete to cut brush and open passageways for the Spanish expeditions. Hacking out a path through a strange land, they were the advance guard for the mule train that typically followed. [15]

Farmworkers have never been viewed this way, as buckskin explorers, as people who ventured into and confronted the unknown. The fact that they were pioneers with wilderness skills who worked far from home has been entirely eliminated from their story. In the early travel literature, scientific reports, adventure novels, popular biographies, and even in modern, well-researched scholarly histories of western exploration, they do not receive even a mere footnote or token acknowledgement. Yet their adventure was as significant as that of any member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, their challenge as daunting as those faced by members of the Great Survey teams, their sacrifices and exploits as heroic as those of Jedediah Smith and other western fur trappers. Measured according to mileage covered, they had few equals. Evaluated according to work done, they had no rivals. [16]

Baja field hands knew the ordeal and fantastic test of endurance required of long expeditions over harsh terrain. They experienced great hardships, became so ill they received last rites, heard their friends chanting their death songs when supplies ran low with no chance of rescue, saw men go mad with fatigue and exposure and stagger out of the deserts hollow-eyed, sun-burned, and babbling incoherently. Working far from civilization, many never returned to the families and the homes they left behind. Famine, scurvy, and solitude were their constant companions. Bears prowled the woods and the waist-high mustard fields around the farms they worked. Death and sickness stalked them night and day. Perils and hardships were everywhere. When small crews of Baja field hands drawn from the original San Diego group ventured out with pack trains on the various expeditions, they often found themselves entirely alone. In the sandy bottom lands near Missions San Carlos and San Diego, and on the raw plains near the missions established in 1771 at San Antonio and San Gabriel, and in 1772 at San Luis Obispo, they threw themselves into the heavy, back-breaking "set-up work"—the arduous tasks of clearing land, pulling tree stumps, hacking away at roots, moving boulders, digging ditches and wells, throwing brush dams across rivers, excavating diversion ditches, and laying out irrigation systems. When their tools broke and there were no blacksmiths to fix them, they rigged repairs, lashed together implements with rawhide straps, or continued working with digging sticks and sometimes their bare hands. When water was too distant, they carried it to their gardens in cowhide buckets suspended from palos (poles). With arms outstretched crucifixion-style to steady the poles resting on their shoulders, they walked among the plants, pausing to set the buckets down and ladle water one precious gourdful at a time. In doing so, they established the first missions' irrigated fields. Soldiers offered no help in these and other duties, although the padres, most of whom had considerable farming experience from their tenure in Mexico, sometimes assisted in the fields. But not for long. The padres provided supervision and blessings. The Baja field hands supplied the muscle and sweat. [17]

Baja field hands persisted and overcame their circumstances, fought through their fears, did their jobs, and supplied the labor required for feeding the Spanish incursion into Alta California. But for all their diligence, skill, and hard work, they could just barely survive. Drought, floods, and frosts wiped out most of their first crops, and even though they managed to replant everything and salvage a few bags of grain, they could not overcome the poor judgment of their superiors, who persisted in planting the wrong crops, in the wrong places. Well into the 1770s they were still living on the ragged edge, surviving on roots, seeds, and nuts donated by or bartered from local Indians, and on a gruel made of boiled wheat and dried chickpeas. Fighting for their lives, they declined rapidly in strength, numbers, and effectiveness. There were never enough of them, and while the padres corrected some farming problems— by importing more and better tools and work animals, by moving missions San Diego, San Antonio, and San Carlos to better agricultural sites, and by fitting crops to conditions—the missionaries unceasingly complained that the lack of field hands crippled agriculture and imperiled the missions. [18]

Especially during the arduous first months of land clearing, the problems originating with the inadequate numbers of Baja field hands called forth a loud chorus of protest. Reporting insufficient plantings and starving pagans, the padres complained that meager crops and scarce food jeopardized their main tasks of attracting and converting natives and settling the land. "It seems," Viceroy Bucareli y Ursua wrote, "that the great progress of the spiritual conquest was only suspended by the lack of foodstuffs to maintain the Indians in the mission enough time for their instruction." To all these people, the small numbers of Baja field hands, at first seen as a minor difficulty, increasingly appeared to be a major disruptive force that hindered agricultural development and thereby halted the growth of missions. The solution, many believed, lay in the expansion of the Baja farm labor force, which they hoped would increase the food supply and therefore draw more pagans to the missions. The idea, explained Father Serra, was that more Baja field hands would extend the plantings, the local Indians would "see the cornfields which appear wonderful in their eyes" and the missionaries would have "a granary to fill them [natives] with food—and catch them in the nets of heaven.'' [19]

Because of their critical importance to early mission life, Baja field hands soon became the center of considerable debate. Hoping to obtain more of them, and to circumvent resistance by Governor Pedro Fages, who Serra believed had withheld the food supplies necessary for attracting local natives as farmworkers, Serra traveled to Mexico City to appeal directly to Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua, the new viceroy. Arriving in February 1773, Serra outlined the situation and lobbied for increased mission support, which included his maneuvers to have Governor Fages removed from office. In the process, Serra delivered what amounts to the first extended brief for a farm labor importation program. Summoning arguments that have been repeated historically by others who have lobbied for foreign farmworkers, Serra predicted dire consequences if he did not obtain the extra manpower. Because of lack of labor, he reported, crops had failed or not been planted at all, and thus he had not been able to gather large numbers of local natives at the missions. Promising success when he obtained more field hands and established large and productive farms, Serra drew up a detailed report, or Representacion. Containing thirty-two other requests covering every phase of mission life, from soldiers to colonists, the Representacion was a remarkable document that would later become central to the case for Serra's sainthood. Baja field hands figured prominently in it. The document represents the mission system's, and thereby California's, first piece of farmworker legislation, in effect a "Bill of Rights" for farmworkers. [20]

If Serra's proposal were adapted, Baja field hands would no longer be forced to trek north. Instead, they "should come of their own free will," as Serra put it. Perhaps anticipating that the end of compulsion would cause a shortfall of workers, Serra also attempted to identify new sources of labor, particularly peons from the vicinity of San Blas, Baja Indian boys, and even entire families, including women. The latter he proposed to maintain as family units and good examples who would reassure and lure other native families. On May 6, 1773, Bucareli granted Serra's request, except for the recruitment of peons. After further edicts, including the removal of Governor Fages and allocation of blacksmiths, workmen, pack animals, oxen, and supplies, Bucareli issued a remarkable directive. Entitled the Reglamento (Regulation) of 1773, it was essentially a temporary law governing treatment of laborers. Placing all responsibilities for the Indians in the hands of the missionaries, it ordered the padres to serve them as parents love and teach their children. [21]

But it was one thing to promulgate such doctrine, and quite another to implement it in practice. However well-intentioned and important the Reglamento of 1773 was as a marker in the long and sorry story of failed efforts to extend legal rights to farmworkers, the document did little good. In mid-June a second big group of imported Baja field hands—ten Cochimí Indian families and twelve unmarried Cochimí Indian boys from Mission Santa Gertrudis —gathered into yet another overland expedition. Marching north, they arrived at Mission San Luis Obispo on July 21, 1773, after a journey of some five weeks. For most of them, the overland trek would neither be the last, nor the worst, of what they would have to endure. For one in particular, it was the beginning of one of the most incredible adventures imaginable. [22]

Traversing the Baja peninsula with a huge supply expedition, this second contingent of field hands rested at San Diego on August 30, and then set out for Mission San Luis Obispo by way of Mission San Gabriel. When they camped at San Gabriel on October 2, the entire mission turned out and honored them two days later with a mass and sermon. It was like the second coming of the "Sacred Expedition" of 1769-70. After an eight-day layover, the expedition continued on to Mission San Luis Obispo, leaving six Cochimí families and six Cochimí boys at San Gabriel.

Placed in charge of seventy-three recently baptized local Gabrielino Indians, the Cochimí families were immediately directed to begin digging irrigation ditches, erecting brush dams, and planting corn, wheat, and beans in the black loamy soil along the Los Angles River near the Indian village of Yang-Na. But the farm work did not go well. The Cochimí could not communicate with the Gabrielinos, who spoke an entirely different language. Nor did they like having to live in tiny huts next to the Gabrielino barracks or being denied rations so that they had to feed themselves from their own gardens and resources. The Cochimí wanted a separate mission of their own. They always remained separate from local Gabrielino farmworkers, and grew increasingly miserable and discontented. Eventually the supernumerary at Mission San Gabriel, Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuén, raised the issue in a complaint to his superiors at the College of San Fernando. But no action was ever taken to rectify the problem. [23]

Soon one Baja family, that of Sebastian Tarabal (in some accounts spelled Taraval), became homesick. Taking with them a young Cochimí boy (perhaps his brother), Tarabal and his wife deserted the mission and attempted to return to their former home at Mission San Gertrudis. But instead of taking the road by which they had come, they struck out across the vast Mojave Desert, on an uncharted route, keeping far to the east to avoid soldiers. All but Tarabal perished before friendly Yuma Indians rescued him near the Colorado River and took him to Captain Juan Bautista de Anza's expedition, then encamped with 34 men, 140 horses, and 65 cattle at the presidio of Altar in northern Sonora. Seeking to demonstrate the feasibility of a direct route across the Mojave Desert from Sonora to Monterey, de Anza nursed Tarabal back to health, installed him as the expedition's unofficial guide and interpreter, and on January 8, 1774, followed the wayward farmworker across the Sonoran Desert by a route known as El Camino del Diablo (The Devil's Road).

After a month of privation, the company reached the Colorado River and crossed it near its conjunction with the Gila River. Lost and parched on a trek through waterless sand dunes, Tarabal led Anza back from this false start on a journey later recalled as the "Heroic Ten Days." After resting at the Colorado River base, Tarabal struck out again toward the west. Swinging southward around the impassable sand dunes on the western edge of the desert where Tarabal's wife had died, he took the expedition across what is now the Imperial Valley, cutting a diagonal course from near present-day Mexicali to the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains. After finding familiar landmarks near present-day Anza Borrego State Park, he led the expedition to life-saving water holes. On March 10 Anza stopped at a spring in the badlands at the eastern base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, near the forks of the San Felipe Creek and Carrizo Wash (the present-day junction of Highways 78 and 86, at the southwest end of the Salton Sea), naming this last important camp on his first journey across the desert in Tarabal's honor. Called San Sebastian, and later Harper's Well, it is today abandoned. [24]

Continuing on, eleven days later Tarabal led the expedition into the Los Angeles basin, crossing Rio Santa Ana by means of a bridge constructed of boughs, and at sunset on March 22,1774, entered the gates of Mission San Gabriel. Scholars would later credit Juan Bautista de Anza with blazing the Colorado Trail, discovering the route through the Borrego Desert, and linking northern Sonora to Alta California, and Padre Francisco Garcés with acting as the expedition's guide. As reward for these accomplishments Viceroy Bucareli promoted Anza to the rank of lieutenant colonel, missionaries praised Garcés as the greatest and most fearless explorer of the missionary period in the Great Southwest, and state boosters in later centuries subsequently honored and enshrined both by naming highways, colleges, and parks after them. The manner in which this particular journey was recorded and commemorated is illustrative of other forgotten and bitter ironies of California farm labor history, where truth and legend fail to mesh, and field hands are denied their due credit and their proper heritage. For, contrary to popular or even most scholarly accounts, the overland route from Sonora had first been established, and later retraced, not by Anza the great explorer, or Garcés the pathbreaker, but by Sebastian Tarabal, a distraught, rebellious, Baja field hand, who lost his wife and a companion and nearly his own life escaping from farm work in the fields at Mission San Gabriel. [25]

But that was not the end of the story. Following his return to Mission San Gabriel, Tarabal continued serving as a guide for Garcés. After leading Garcés back to the Colorado River in April 1774, he accompanied him to Tubac, arriving on May 26, and possibly continued farther on to San Miguel de Horcasitas, a small frontier post in Sonora, in all a journey of over four months and two-thousand miles. Whatever his course, Tarabal reappeared at Tubac on October 22,1775, as a member of Anza's second expedition to California. After crossing the Colorado River with Anza on November 30, Tarabal remained with him until December 4, when he was detailed to assist Garcés on yet another exploration. As Anza headed west, Tarabal guided Garcés along Anza's path. Overtaking Anza in the Colorado Desert near the New River on December 6, they continued west until December 9. Tarabal then served as principal guide for Garcés's conversion efforts among various tribes near the present-day city of Needles. After that he led Garcés on a cold and perilous winter journey across the Mojave Desert.

Surviving by killing and eating several horses, drinking their blood, and supplementing their diet with tule roots, the runaway field hand brought Garcés into Mission San Gabriel on March 24, 1776, thus breaking a new path from the Colorado Basin to the Spanish settlements almost two years to the day after his first visit. After resting for two weeks, he guided Garcés north into the San Joaquin Valley by way of a route approximating present-day Interstate Highway 5. Pausing along the way, as was Garcés's custom, Tarabal served as interpreter at several Indian baptisms. He remained loyal to Garcés even after two faithful Mojave Indians deserted the leader. But near the vicinity of present-day Greenfield, just south of Bakersfield, even the much-traveled Sebastian Tarabal would go no farther among the unknown tribes. As Garcés proceeded further in the company of an Indian from the Noches tribe, Tarabal set up camp. When Garcés failed to return eight days later, the ever-loyal Tarabal struck out on his own, searching the mouth of the Kern River before locating and rejoining the padre. [26]

Leaving the southern San Joaquin Valley, Tarabal guided Garcés along a new route, as the padre insisted on going due eastward along a path that is today followed by the railroad, rather than south by way of the trail he had just followed from San Gabriel. Tarabal's role on this phase of the trip was especially important, since Garcés, having lost his compass needle when his horse stumbled in a gopher field south of the Kern River, could no longer rely on the instrument for directions. To overcome that difficulty and get through the mountains, Tarabal questioned local Indians, obtaining enough information to navigate through the crest of the Tehachapi Mountains on May 17. From there he led the expedition across the Mojave Desert, on to the future site of Barstow, and then to the Rio de los Martires, the Mojave River, arriving on May 19. [27]

Somewhere in the desert, Tarabal developed what was apparently a kind of heart ailment, which slowed him down. But he continued on. Serving as interpreter and intermediary between Garcés and a group of Moqui Indians, he guided the party toward Yuma, Arizona. On May 30, in the desert of northeastern Arizona, he could go no farther. Refusing to venture with Garcés into hostile Indian territory, Tarabal maintained a camp on the Colorado River near Yuma, tending to the mules and waiting while Garcés spent nearly two months preaching among the Jaguallapais tribes. Tarabal is last mentioned in Garcés's diary of July 25,1776. But he apparently continued with Garcés toward Mission San Xavier del Bac (present-day Tucson), possibly arriving there on September 17.

On the march for three years during this second expedition, Tarabal had traveled over three thousand miles entirely by horse or on foot. He remained with Garcés as guide for the next seven years, but his name vanished from the public record after 1781. Whatever his ultimate fate, Sebastian Tarabal's accomplishments and exploits were momentous. Steering Garcés away from hostile natives, leading him to water, caring for his animals, obtaining food from friendly natives, and detouring the expedition around hostile tribes, the intrepid Cochimí field hand remained loyal under conditions so threatening and difficult that they had caused numerous other Indian guides to flee. He was the only native to stay with Garcés throughout all his travels.

Epitomizing the complex role Baja field hands played in the colonization of California and in the exploration of the Spanish frontier, Tarabal is too important to be excluded from the history of the American West, and from the history of California farmworkers as well. Recognizing this, Felipe de Neve, upon becoming commandant-general of the Interior Provinces in 1783, ordered Anza to omit styling himself the discoverer of the route to Alta California on the grounds that the honor belonged to Tarabal. But Felipe de Neve died the following year. Consequently, Anza continued garnering praise. And Sebastian Tarabal—fittingly known as El Peregrino ("The Wanderer" or "Pilgrim") and "Saint Sebastian"—had his contributions swept into the dust bin of history. [28]

Though Baja field hands like Sebastian Tarabal traveled north by the hundreds during the mid-1770s. Padres devoted considerable attention to them, and in agreements planning the formation of each new mission, listed them out as important "items" along with supplies of flour, bundles of colored beads, saddles, and other equipment. They were usually distributed five or six families and five or six boys to each mission. Expected to serve as liaisons with local natives, Baja field hands had to be able to speak several languages, including Spanish, and were also expected to quickly learn the local Indian dialect. Wherever they went, they had to adapt to whatever circumstances confronted them and to accept, uncomplainingly, the most primitive conditions imaginable. [29]

Besides doing stoop labor, establishing fields, training Alta California natives, and doubling as trailblazers, the first generation of Baja field hands brought a number of other important characteristics into the California farmworker experience, some of which are quite surprising. For example, within a decade of their arrival, they had begun growing, tending, and harvesting grapes and making wine. In popular writing, their first viticultural work is often mistakenly located at Mission San Diego and erroneously dated back to 1769. But in fact they did not become involved in grape growing or winemaking until a decade later, probably sometime after May 1779, at Mission San Juan Capistrano. There, early records reveal, Father Pablo de Mugartegui established gardens and grain fields and set six Baja field hands to propagating vine cuttings that had been shipped up from Mexico. In 1781 alone those six field hands planted over 2,000 grapevines. Those men probably first participated in winemaking at Mission San Juan Capistrano during the fall of 1784, possibly even as early as the previous year. [30]

For as long as they worked at the missions, Baja field hands were occupied throughout the year with the tasks of planting grapes, pruning and training them, multiplying cuttings, planting vineyards, harvesting fruit, making wine, and constructing and maintaining the various necessary vats, buildings, presses, and other winemaking facilities. They were also detailed to handle all the attendant duties, such as disposing of vine clippings and pomace (the pulp debris of winemaking). In this way during the 1780s, particularly in the southern missions, Baja field hands established the basis for the modern California wine industry. But ironically, even though the padres drank wine themselves, traded it, served it at Mass, shipped it to their superiors as evidence of their accomplishments, and made a powerful grapebased brew known as aguardiente, Baja field hands could not—under penalty of the lash—taste even a drop. So, apparently from the first, Baja field hands were quite literally denied the pleasure of enjoying the fruits of their labors. [31]

Within a few years after establishing winemaking operations at Mission San Juan Capistrano, Baja field hands began to decline as a significant part of the farm labor force. One reason for this was the expense and difficulty of transporting them north. Hundreds died on those torturous, expensive, and dangerous expeditions up the dry and barren Baja peninsula. For a brief period it seemed that additional field hands would make their way north. They would come from the more prosperous, but distant, missions of Sonora in northern Mexico, and they would follow a new southwestern route that had opened up when Tarabal, Garcés, and Anza crossed the Colorado River near its junction with the Gila River at Yuma. Field hands would be cared for by missionaries and protected by troops sent early in 1781 into the desert about 250 miles northwest of the nearest Spanish garrison, where they planted two small outposts on the California side of the Colorado River: Purisima Concepcion, a garrison on a nob in the vicinity of present-day Yuma; and San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuner, a village about 10 miles north of present-day Laguna Dam. Briefly, that is the route by which they moved north. That spring, when field hands from the Sonoran missions accompanied a large party of soldiers, colonists, and animals down the Altar Valley to Caborca, and from there across the waterless Camino Diablo to the Yuma crossing and on to Mission Santa Barbara, the Alta California missions seemed to be assured of a new and abundant source of farmworkers. But this was not to be. [32]

Sonoran field hands who came north on the 1781 expedition were the last to make the Yuma crossing. Several months after they passed through, Indians attacked and wiped out both of the Colorado River outposts, killing almost 100 soldiers and padres, including Father Garcés (and possibly Sebastian Tarabal), capturing others, and sparing only the women and children. Following the massacre, Spain abandoned the Yuma crossing, closed the Sonoran trail, and relied entirely on sea routes to resupply the missions. But few field hands ever went north via the sea route, as the fragile transports, struggling to tack against the prevailing winds and currents, were only used for delivering food, tools, artisans, colonists, and Spanish officials. Because of this, after the 1780s imported farmworkers declined dramatically in numbers. [33]

Baja field hands continued to travel north with overland resupply expeditions and aboard ships delivering new missionaries. Single male field hands never married Alta California native women. Childless, they died off, bachelor laborers worn-out by the rigors of the frontier, a plight similar to that of the Filipino ("Pinoy") men who began working in California a century and a half later. Those few hands who did come north with their families never returned home. Remaining on the missions, their sons became loyal and trusted foremen, and often later intermarried with local native women. Over the years, completely integrated into the mission farm labor force, they lost their ties to Baja California. By the 1820s, newly arrived Baja field hands had become a rare sight indeed, so much so that when Duhaut-Cilly saw one of them at Mission Santa Barbara, he deemed it important enough to record in his journal. That solitary man may have been the last Baja field hand to come north.

Baja field hands did not call themselves braceros. At first glance it would seem that they had little iii common with those Mexican campesinos who traveled north to work in California agriculture 150 years later. Nor apparently did they even know the word or anything like it. They did not work for wages, and therefore could not send money back home as braceros did faithfully. Remaining on the frontier, never to return to their families, they did not follow the traditional bracero pattern of periodically visiting friends and relatives. Indeed, once venturing north they had no way of knowing what happened to those loved ones they left behind. Yet their similarity to braceros of later years, in certain respects, is striking. Their role in averting a farm labor shortage, their long and torturous journey to Alta California, their foreign origins, and the way they were brought north under an elaborate church and government program that defined their status, however minimally, and deployed their labor as it best suited their masters, and used them as models against which the performance of local Indian field hands was measured, conforms in major aspects almost exactly to the experiences of the bracero laborers who, to alleviate agricultural labor shortages, were imported from Mexico during the years 1917 to 1920 and again from 1940 to 1964. [34]

Like braceros, Baja field hands allowed farmers to work out the best combination of crops and farm sites without having to do farm work themselves. Like braceros, they also decreased their master's dependence on local laborers. And they allowed farmers to proceed without having to alter their system of agriculture or their goals. Baja field hands, it seems, became the basis for a government approved, quasi-bracero labor program 150 years before the date usually cited for the start of such arrangements. They understood the vagaries of this early farm labor system quite well before they even arrived in Alta California, and they refined many agricultural methods while they were the missions' principal farm hands. This is especially important in understanding the significance of their role and its evolution in the mission system. During their fifteen or twenty years of toil as the principal farmworkers in the mission fields, the Baja workers unknowingly established a pattern, later replicated, modified, and expanded, whereby various private, semi-private, and official government programs would repeatedly overcome labor shortages by importing large numbers of cheap, industrious, "trained," Mexican workers. That imported laborers toiled in California agriculture from the beginning of the mission period reflects a hidden reality of the farmworker story in this region. [35]

Richard Steven Street is a journalist, photographer, and feature writer who covered agriculture and farm labor for 15 years. He is the author of Organizing for Our Lives: New Voices from Rural California (New Sage Press, 1993), introduction by César Chavez. He received his Ph.D.from the University of Wisconsin, and is completing a two-volume, definitive history of California farmworkers, 1769-1996, and an accompanying photographic history.


1. Franklin Carter, ed. and trans., "[August B.] Duhaut-Cilly's Account of California in the Years 1827-28," California Historical Society Quarterly 8 (Winter 1929): 329.

2. See for example Cletus Daniel, Bitter Harvest: A History of California Farmworkers, 1870-1941 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press,1982); Carey McWllliams, Factories in the Field (New York: Little and Brown,1939); Stuart Jamieson, Labor Unionism in American Agriculture (U.S. Department of Labor Bulletin No. 836, Washington, D.C., 1945); Varden Fuller, "The Supply of Agricultural Labor as a Factor in the Evolution of Farm Organization in California" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1939).

3. For details of the journey see Donald Eugene Smith and Frederick J. Teggart, eds., Diary of Gaspar de Portola During the California Expedition of 1769-1770 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1938), 1: 21-89.

4. The exact number of Baja field hands who came north in 1769 is debatable. The best source, Father Juan Crespi's diary in Herbert E. Bolton, trans. and ed., Francisco Palóu's Historical Memoirs of New California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1923), 2: 40-104, calculates that 26 of the original 86 Baja Indians survived. Hubert H. Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco: The History Co., 1886), 1:132-41, 165-68, also cites these numbers. Don DeNevi and Noel E Moholy, Junipero Serra (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 99-105, claim that 27 of the Baja Indians survived, and that 93 started north, (13 of 51 Loreto Indians surviving), but cite no sources. Various other accounts state that a total of 91 field hands left from Baja, and that 49 departed on the Loreto expedition.

5. For José de Gálvez, see Luis Navarro Garcia, José de Gálvez y la Comandancia General de las Provincias Internas (Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1964), 135, 154-57; and Herbert I. Priestley, José de Gálvez, Visitor General of New Spain, 1765-1771 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1916), 279. For Serra, see Francisco Palóu, Life of Junipero Serra (Washington, D.C.: The Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955), trans. Maynard J. Geiger.

6. The classic interpretation of the Spanish mission system is still Herbert E. Bolton, "The Mission as a Frontier Institution in the Spanish American Colonies, " American Historical Review 23 (October 1917): 42-61. A modern update is John Francis Bannon, The Spanish Borderlands Frontier, 1513-1821 (New York: Holt Rinehart, and Winston,1970), 49-54. The best recent effort is Harry W. Crosby's magisterial Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1677-1768 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994), esp. 390-93.

7. J. C. H. Aveling, The Jesuits (New York: Syein and Day, 1981); Herbert E. Bolton, Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, Pacific Coast Pioneer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1936).

8. Quote from Bishop Juan de Zumarraga to nephew, Aug. 23,1539, in Agapito Rey, "Missionary Aspects of the Founding of New Mexico," New Mexico Historical Review 23 January 1948): 23. For the reciprocal relationship between mission building, agriculture, conversion of Indians, and farm labor, see Robert Archibald, The Economic Aspects of the California Missions (Washington, D. C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1978), 142; Eugene David Burnett, "The Role of Agriculture in the Upper California Mission System as Illustrated at Mission San Diego, 1769-1784" (Unpublished M.A. thesis, St. Louis University, 1958), 21, 25; Lionel Ridout "Fermin Francisco de Lasuén and the Economic Development of the California Missions" (Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1940), 16-23.

9. Clarence H. Haring, The Spanish Empire in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947),158-60; and Peter M. Dunne, Black Robes in Lower California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952), 392, 436-37.

10. Bolton, trans. and ed., Palóu's Memoirs 1: 284; and Herbert I. Priestly, trans. and ed., Pedro Fages' Historical, Political, and Natural Description of California, 1775 (Berkeley: University of California Press,1931), 19, discuss the labor practices used in establishing missions.

11. Quote from Miguel Venegas, "Empressas Apostolicas de los Misiones de la Compania de Jesus de la Provincia de Nueva Espana Obras en la Conquista de Californias . . . por el Padre Miguel Venegas de la Misma Compania de Jesus," Sabado, 7 de Noviembre de 1739, incomplete copy, Huntington Library, [hereinafter cited as HL], and complete copy in Herbert Bolton Collection, Bancroft Library, [hereinafter cited as HBC, BL] 519, also 516, 523. The best scholarly account of the Cochimíes is Sigismundo Taraval, The Indian Uprising in Lower California,1734-1737 (Los Angeles: The Quivira Society, 1931), trans. by Marguerite Eyre Wilbur, 38. See also Anonymous [probably written by a Dominican missionary of the post-Jesuit period], "Descripcion breve de la California, su situacion, extension, costas, etc. [sic] con otras noticias gue pueden conducir para el conocimiento de ellas," Archivo General de Indias, [transcripts] Bancroft Library [hereinafter cited as AGI, BL].

12. Sam Kushner interview, August 7, 1973, Arvin, California. Kushner was a reporter for People's World, the U. S. Communist Party newspaper, and covered farm labor extensively during the 1960s and 1970s. Kushner sees the importation of Baja field hands as "the beginning of a long history of labor manipulation and siphoning off of an inexhaustible source of farm labor south of the border." In The Long Road To Delano (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 5, Kushner views the mission farmworkers as the beginning of a story of "oppression and near slavery" extending into the twentieth century.

13. Gálvez to Serra, La Paz, Nov. 23, 1768, Documentos Relativos a las Misiones de Californias, Lancaster-Jones Papers, Archivo del Museo Nacional de Mexico, l: 200-203, [hereinafter cited as DRMCLJP, AMN]; Gálvez to Serra, Real de Santa Ana, July 22,1768, Ibid., 1: 163-64; Gálvez to Lasuen, La Paz, Nov. 23, 1768, Gálvez to Serra, Real de Santa Ana, Oct. 10, 1768; Gálvez to Lasuén, Cape San Lucas, Feb. 20, 1769; Palóu to Juan Andrés, Loreto, Nov. 24,1769 [describing the syphilis infection at Todos Santos Mission, Santa Barbara Mission Archives, California [hereinafter cited as SBMA]; Bolton ed., Palóu's Memoirs 1: 38-41, 85-86, 119.

14. Homer Aschmann, The Central Desert of Baja California: Demography and Ecology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), 145, 148, 187, 251, gives figures on population decline. Palóu to Rafael Verger, Mission San Francisco Javier, June 13,1772, Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de Mexico, First Series 3, Archivo General y Publico de la Nacion, [hereinafter cited as CDHM, AGN] expresses fear that the Indians would die out. See also Informe General, Correspondencia de los Virreyas, First Series 172, No. 699, Paragraph 14, Archivo General y Publico de la Nacion, [hereinafter cited as CV, AGN] for an overview of diseases among Baja field hands. José de Gálvez to Council of the Indies, Madrid, Dec.18,1773, Archivo General de Indias, Guadalajara, 418, [hereinafter cited as AGI] reports on the failure of plans to reduce Baja Indians to organized town dwellers.

15. My estimate that there were 27 or 28 Baja field hands in Alta California in 1770 is based on figures in Bolton, ed., Palóu's Memoirs, passim; Bancroft, History of California, 1: 165, 167-68, 175-77; and Charles E. Chapman, A History of California: The Spanish Period (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1949), 222-23. The accounting is as follows: 26 (or 27-28) survivors from the original 86 sent forth in the two overland expeditions from Baja California in 1769, minus one killed in an August 15 Indian attack on mission San Diego, 6 who died of sickness that winter, 2 who went south with Rivera's resupply expedition to Mexico on Feb. 11, 1770, and 10 dropped off by the ship San Antonio on March 19, plus one deserter recovered by Portola in April while crossing the Santa Lucia Mountains while headed for Carmel, giving a total of 27 or 28 field hands. However, Bancroft's account can be interpreted as indicating that the 10 field hands referred to were those left behind when the second Monterey expedition departed on April 17. This would lower the total Baja farmworker force to 17 or 18. Another accounting discrepancy may be caused by the presence of three Baja Indian "boy servants," one of whom was killed in the Aug.15 attack, and who seem to have been included in some lists of field hands but not others.

16. One magnificerrt book, William Goetzmann's, Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1966), illustrates the point by saying nothing about Baja field hands, mission farmworkers, or any of the laborers, muleteers, and roustabouts participating in the various Spanish, French, and American expeditions and colonization efforts. An exception is Harlan Hague, "Guides for the Pathfinders: The Indian Contribution to the Exploration of the American West," Pacific Historian 26 (Fall 1982): 54-55, 58, 62-63. For Baja field hands doubling as trail blazers on Gaspar Portola's expedition to San Francisco Bay, see Peter Browning, ed., The Discovery of San Francisco Bay: The Portola Expedition of 1769-177O; The Diary of Miguel Costanso (Lafayette, CA.: Heyday Books, 1992), xxixxxi, 191.

17. For early planting and descriptions of starvation see Antonine Tibesar, ed., Writings of Junipero Serra (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955), 1: 227, 297, 367; 3: 145; and Herbert E. Bolton, ed., Font's Complete Diary: A Chronicle of the Founding of San Francisco (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1931), 177-78, 301-303. For irrigation as early as 1773, see E E. Green, "The San Diego Old Mission Dam and Irrigation System," (typewritten, 1934),16, SBMA; Lasuén, Informe de la Mision de San Diego, Dec. 31, 1779, original in AGN, copy in SBMA, and Herbert E. Bolton, ed., Anza's California Expeditions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1930), 4: 303. Father Rafael Verger, head of the College of San Fernando in Mexico City, complained in a letter to Viceroy Antonio Maria Bucareli y Ursuia, Dec. 25, 1772, that "What is lacking is hands to cultivate and work the fields because the soldiers do not want to help in any way in this task," AGI, Chapman Document No. 1939, HL.

18. Gov. Pedro Fages to the Viceroy, Monterey, June 26, 1772, AGN, Californias, 66; and Informe del estado las misiones de Monterey, Father Francisco Pangua, Mexico, Dec.9,1776, AGN, Californias, 72, transcript in SBMA. See also Augusta Fink, Monterey County (Fresno, 1978), 45, and Zephyrin Engelhardt, San Diego Mission (San Francisco: The James H. Barry Co., 1920), 103.

19. Quote from Tibesar, ed., Writings of Serra,2: 141; 3:299. See also "Anza's Return Diary," in Bolton, ed., Anza's California Expeditions, 2: 110,224; Rafael Verger to Bucareli, Dec.25, 1772, AGI, Chapman Doc. No.1939, and Bucareli to Julian de Arriaga, May 27, 1774, Ibid., Chapman Document No. 2625, both in HL. The food crisis is described in Serra to Father Francisco Palóu, Monterey, August 18, 1772, in Maynard Geiger, ed., Palóu's Life of Junipero Serra (Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History,1960), 124-26.

20. Representacion of Serra to Bucareli, Mexico, March 9, 1773, copy in SBMA unfolds the original petition. Serra's Representacion of March 13, 1773, contains a request for peons, farm families, and artisans, as well as notes thirty-two points covering every phase of mission activity.

21. Quote from Serra to Bucareli, May 21, 1773, SBMA. This letter goes on to describe labor shortages and other problems at length, as does Palóu to' Bucareli, Report on the State of the Missions, San Carlos, December 10, 1773, in Bolton, ed., Palóu's Memoirs, III: 21338.

22. Bolton, ed., Palóu's Memoirs, I: 298-303, reports Lasuén's expedition took along only six families of Baja field hands. However, Palóu to Serra, Mission San Carlos de Monterey, November 26, 1773, DRMCLJP, 2: 78-86, AMN, reports 10 Cochimí families and 12 Cochimí boys traveled north. See also Richard Pourade, The Call to California (San Diego: Union-Tribune Publishing Co., 1968).

23. For various aspects of the program to import Baja field hands see Decision of His Excellency and the Royal Council, Mexico, May 6. 1773. in Bolton. ed.. Palóu's Memoirs. III: 37-55; Regulations for the Peninsula of California and the Establishments of Monterey, Juan José de Echeveste, Mexico, May 24, 1773, ibid., 57-77; Opinion of the Fiscal, Mexico, June 14, 1773, ibid.; 78-89; Bucareli to Del Campo Viergol, Mexico, August 4, 1773, in Bucareli, 113, AGN; Serra to Viceroy Bucareli, Monterey, February 5, 1775, Provincias Internas, 166, ibid; and Serra to Bucareli, March 13, 1773, "Report on the general condition and needs of the missions of Upper California," in Tibesar, ed., Writings of Serra 1, 295-327. My tally of farm laborers in the July-August-September expedition to San Diego and San Gabriel is from Palóu to Serra, Mission San Carlos de Monterey, November 26,1773, DRMCLJP, 2: 78-86, AMN.

24. Bancroft, History of California, 1: 221, states Tarabal deserted with his parents in August, not with a Cochimí boy in October, but cites no evidence. Chapman, A History of California, 298-99, states Tarabal escaped with his wife and brother, but also fails to cite a source. Hildgarde Hawthorne, California Missions: Their Romance and Beauty (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1942), 66, asserts that Tarabal fled with two other natives, and gives no further details. Biographical information on Tarabal is from Zephyrin Engelhardt, San Gabriel Mission and the Beginnings of Los Angeles (Chicago: Framciscan Herald Press, 1927), 17-19, 24. Information on landmarks is from Mildred Hoover, Hero Rensch, and Ethel Rensch, Historic Spots in California (Stanford: Stanford University Press, rev. ed., 1966), 107. For the journey west see Bolton, ed. and trans., Anza 's California Expeditions (Berkeley,1930), esp.5: 117, Anza to Viceroy, Santa Olaya [on the Colorado River], Feb.28, 1774; and Engelhardt, Missions and Missionaries of California (San Francisco: James H. Barry Co., 1912), 2: 135-36.

25. Finbar Kenneally, ed. and trans., Writings of Fermin Francisco de Lasuén (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History,1965),1: 49-50; Harlan Hague, The Road to California: The Search for A Southern Overland Route, 1540, 1848 (Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1978), 58-67; and Richard Pourade, Anza Conquers the Desert (San Diego: Union-Tribume Publishing Co.,1971).

26. Raymund E Wood, "Francisco Garcés, Explorer of Southern California," Southern California Quarterly, 51 (September 1969): 189, 193-97. See also E.E. Latta, "Indian Buckaroos," Ms., 2, in E.E. Latta Collection, Sky Farming, HL.

27. Engelhardt, Missions and Missionaries, 2: 136, 192-93, 195, 199; John Galvin, ed. and trans., A Record of Travels in Arizona and California, 1775-1776: Father Francisco Garcés (San Francisco: John Howell Books, 1965), vi, (Dec.5, 1775) 15; (Dec. 18) 21; (Dec. l9) 22; (Feb. 29, 1776) 29; (Feb. 29) 34; (March 4) 35; (March 17) 37; (April 13) 44; (April 26) 45; (April 27) 47; (April 30) 47; (May 3) 50; (May 6) 55; (May 7) 56; (May 30) 60; July 25) 81.

28. Elliot Coues, ed. and trans., On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer: The Diary and Itinerary of Francisco Garcés on His Travels through Sonora, Arizona, and California, 1775-1776 (NewYork: The Macmillan Co., 1900), entry for May 7, 1776; Bolton, ed. and trans., Font's Complete Diary, 84; Chapman, A History of the Spanish Period, 316, 340-41.

29. Ynez Viole O'Neill, "Father Serra Plans the Founding of Mission San Juan Capistrano," California Historical Quarterly 56 (Spring 1977): 47, translates a list of supplies which , includes Baja field hands "who . . . came up . . . of their own free will . . . assigned to this mission for its inception and for its agriculture."

30. The document establishing Mission San Juan Capistrano as the birthplace of winemaking in California is Father Pedro Pablo de Mugartegui to [Sindico of the College of San Femando], March 15, 1779, DRMCLJP, 2: ANM, copy also in SBMA. Serra to Lasuén Dec. 8, 1781, Mission San Carlos, suggests that vines were also planted at San Diego in 1779. For plantings in 1781, see Lasuén, Informe de la Mision de San Diego, Dec. 31, 1781, original in AGN, copy in SBMA. The implication that these plantings were done by six neophyte Indian field hands is in Zephyrin Engelhardt, San Juan Capistrano (Los Angeles: The Standard Printing Co., 1922), 1931. For the status of winemaking on five of the southern missions, see Lasuén, Biennial Reports, 1797, 1798, Feb. 20, 1799, San Carlos, SBMA. For the northern missions see Biennial Reports, 1809, 1810, Father Esteban Tapis, San Luns Rey, May 25, 1811, ibid. For the ban on liquor see Repuesta (reply) to article 18, Interrogatorio (questionnaire) of 1812 (1814) to Mission San Jose by Fray Duran, November 1, 1814, translated from the original by Francis Florence McCarthy, ibid. The most succinct discussion of when and where Indians and padres harvested and produced the first California vintage is Roy Brady, "The Swallow that Came from Capistrano: How the vine really got to California and who really made the state's first wine," New West 3 (September 24,1979): 5560. See also Edith Webb, "Agriculture in the Days of the Early California Padres," The Americas 4 (January 1948): 330-35.

32. For the problems of overland transportation and the need for a route across the Sonoran Desert, see Miguel Costanso, Report to the Viceroy, Sept. 5, 1772, in Bolton, ed. and trans., Anza's California Expeditions, 5: 8-11.

33. For the founding of these outposts see Richard Yates, "Locating the Colorado River mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuner," Journal of Arizona History 13 (Summer 1972):123-30. For the Yuma massacre see Kieran McCarthy, ed. and trans., "The Colorado Massacre of 1781: Maria Montielo's Report," Journal of Arizona History 16 (Autumn 1975): 221-25.

34. Considered the standard account of the beginning of farm labor importation programs, Otey Scruggs, "The First Farm Labor Program, 1917-1921," Arizona and the West 2 (Winter 1960): 320-23, establishes the World War I era as the beginning of government sponsored bracero programs but does not consider the arrangement under which Baja field hands came north.

35. Some writers have suggested that labor importation first began on an organized basis with the recruitment programs of the sugar beet companies around the turn of the century. See for example Theresa Wolfson, "People Who Go to the Beets," The American Child 1 (Nov. 1919): 220.
Chronology of the Spanish Incursion 
McWilliams: The Indian in the Closet
McWilliams: The Indian in the Closet