California missions: a testament to Spanish heritage

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Spanish missions preserved throughout California serve as a lasting testament to Spanish heritage and its far reaching influence.

Spanish Catholics, who desired to spread their religion to Native Americans, founded 21 missions along the West Coast.

The various sites for these missions were selected for the ability to grow crops, support livestock, and in some cases, support military operations.

These missions have been transformed into the tourist destinations we see today.

For only a few dollars per family member and a small road trip, one can view some of these missions not far beyond Edwards' gates.

Mission San Gabriel Arcangel is located just south of Pasadena, Calif. Founded on Sept. 8, 1771, it was once known for its crops, cattle and wine. 

There are many artifacts there, which are a rich part of the history of the mission. Some of the displays include a baptismal font made of hammered copper given by King Carlos III of Spain in 1771, Indian paintings and other Mexican and Spanish works.

In addition, one can observe where the priests, who once ran the mission, are buried next to their Indian disciples.

Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana can be found in Mission Hills, Calif. Established on Sept. 8, 1797, this mission once produced hides, tallow, soap, cloth and livestock. An original fountain and reservoir still remain.

Mission Buenaventura, founded on Easter Sunday in 1782, can be found in Ventura, Calif. Evidence of an aqueduct, which stretched seven miles for watering the grain fields, is still visible. An olive crusher, which was intended to be operated by a horse and old wooden bells, conjures an image of the activities that could once be seen here.

Beautiful architecture, lush gardens and exquisite relics are just a few reasons to visit any of the missions that can be found nearby. More importantly, these structures are affirmations that our country has long been influenced by many cultures such as the Spanish priests who ran the California Missions.