Gregory Orfalea, “Journey to the Sun” | Talks at Google

Gregory Orfalea, “Journey to the Sun” | Talks at Google


SHANNON: All right. Welcome. Well today, I am
pleased to introduce, on behalf of the Talks at
Google program, author Gregory Orfalea. Greg was born and
raised in Los Angeles and educated at
Georgetown University and the University of Alaska. He is the author or editor of
eight books– I guess nine now, including “The Man Who Guarded
the Bomb” and “Angelino Days.” The recipient of many awards for
his writing, Greg’s “Angelino Days” won the 2010 Arab
American Book Award and was named a finalist for
the PEN USA Award in Creative Writing– I’m sorry,
Creative Nonfiction. He has taught at the
Claremont Colleges, Georgetown University, and
Westmont College. Greg is here today to talk about
his most recent work, “Journey to the Sun, Junipero Serra’s
Dream and the Founding of California,” an authoritative
and incisive biography of the man who founded
California’s missions. Combining European
and American history, his religious scholarship,
geography, and anthropology, Greg masterfully
recounts the story and brings new information
to our knowledge of a man whose massive cultural
project not only created the blueprint for
modern California, but changed the
future of our nation. Please join me in
welcoming Greg Orfalea. [APPLAUSE] GREGORY ORFALEA:
Thank you, Shannon. Who is God’s companion? Junipero Serra might have
contemplated this thought on the road in the Salinas
Valley of California, where in 1771 he met
an Indian woman who offered him “a present.” When he asked her name, she
murmured “Soledad,” Spanish for “solitude.” Or at least that’s what he
heard- “I was astonished, and turning to my companions
said, ‘Here, gentleman, you have Maria de la Soledad.'” He gave her glass beads
for seeds; she nodded. As “the name stuck
to the place,” Serra made a note
to found a mission in that desolate, treeless spot. Soledad later became the hardest
luck mission of them all. Serra had undergone
plenty of solitude, the “soledad” of the trail,
the one that surrounded your neck like water
at night, a “soledad” to conquer by singing
Matins at first light. Not English or
American “soledad,” which celebrated being on
one’s own, without others; Spanish “soledad,”
which longed for them. Serra was not about
“soledad”– neither were the Franciscan fathers. He’d swallowed his
fill of it as a boy, losing two sisters
and a brother, working the quiet
fields of Petra, his home village on the
Spanish island of Mallorca. But his father’s hand,
that leather hand, was always on his shoulder, and
later his confreres’ abrazos; even though strangers in the
confessional cut “soledad” with their pain. Serra respected solitude,
the solitude Christ felt in the garden the
last night of his life when the apostles slept. But Serra wasn’t Simon of the
Desert, standing on his pillar alone. He loved community, loved
performing marriages. He traveled as much as he
could in a pair or group, because outside
the mission walls, lay a solitude so vast only
the sun could disperse it. Now the dew was on the leaf,
the earth shorn briefly of dust, dark and lovely and cool. The sun began its climb of
the Santa Lucia Mountains, casting them in gray outline. As his mule snorted, taking
him north in the early morning, the sun regarded Serra;
he dared not look back. The sun, warm on
his forehead, rising over the crown of the forest,
now arched in his mind above the Tramuntana
range of his old island and its olive groves to the
sea, the Mediterranean waded into the Pacific, the sun
wrapping the world in its arms. Who was God’s companion? He was. For a second, he
looked at the sun; God put a white spot in his eye. Anybody here ever
looked at the sun? Not supposed to do that, right? And just to show you how
complicated the choices are for a writer trying to bring
an 18th century figure back to life, I still don’t know if
those spots are white or black. I chose white
though in this case. What I just read you was
the prologue to the book, “Journey to the Sun.” It’s barely more than a page. At one time, it
was about 20 pages. My editor, whose name
is Colin Harrison, who is an accomplished
novelist, told me to throw out the 20
pages of the prologue, throw out the 10
pages of the preface, throw out the 30 pages
of the introduction, everything at the beginning. And this is what
his rationale was. Colin said, “I want the reader
to encounter Serra’s story right from the start and be
pulled in by the force of it, by that and that alone. I don’t want you parsing
it or indicating upfront with the reader should
expect or look for. I want him captured.” And in a way, that’s kind of
like falling in love, right? Nobody explains to you
why they feel that way. They just do. You just do. I hope that’s what
a good book does. The work on the prologue
was only the first of many waves of
editing the manuscript. It was 1,300 pages at one time. A good part of just 2013 alone
was this relentless onslaught to bring it down. I mean there was blood
all over the floor, Serra martyred many times. My own editor had an
idea– my own editor, Colin Harrison actually, and
my provost at Westmont College, had a title for a talk. I’ve given two different kinds
of talks for the past two weeks on this book tour. One is a general
summary of Serra’s life. And I’m going to do something
different for you Google folks because I think you’re sort of
natively ready for something different. I’m going to give you the talk
I gave my own faculty, which is I’m going to give you
five major obstacles I had to encounter in
writing this book, five challenges about dealing
with the life of Father Serra and indeed researching it. And here they are. I’ll summarize it for you. And then we’ll go
down one by one. Number one, how to transcend
the regional critique? Oh, Serra? That’s a California story. No New York publisher is going
to be interested in that. OK. So the regional critique,
how to get over it. Two, how to deal with the
fact that half of Serra’s life is document poor and half
of it is document rich? Number three, what
is the pivotal moment in the Serra story? Not so easy to figure,
and we’ll explore that. How to understand the fact
of floggings in the missions? A tough one, that’s number four. And number five,
what techniques– writers’ techniques–
what can I bring to bear after
writing for 30 years? What tricks do I have in my
basket and research goals could I best marshall to bring
a celibate Spanish priest of the 18th century to
life for a jaded, if not cynical, American culture? That’s probably the
hardest one of all. OK. Now, I want to say
at the outset let’s make this interactive in a way. We can do the Q&A in
general at the end. Shannon, I’d would
be happy to do it. But jump in if you feel you want
more on something as we go down these five obstacles. I’ll pause after
each obstacle to see if you want to throw
in another obstacle. OK, first, how to transcend
the regional critique? Anybody have an idea? How would you transcend
the regional critique? It’s only a California
story, right? Nobody’s going to be
interested in Junipero Serra. We already have William Bradford
and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. We have Captain John
Smith at Jamestown. What do we need Serra for? All right, I’ll go into it. I wrote the first
outline in 2001. So it’s a 12-year year journey. I toiled alone without
an agent for a long time, with that outline
and a sample chapter. No success. Even my own former editor– I
had a great editor at the Free Press, which is another
subsidiary of Simon & Schuster, for a book on World War II,
about my father, in the war, call “Messengers of
the Lost Battalion.” My editor was Adam
Bellow, who is the son of Saul Bellow, the
Nobel Prize winning novelist. Adam is a pretty
well-educated guy. He went to Princeton. He had never heard of
Serra, never heard of him. So to me, now I
thought I was holding onto a hopeless obsession. Even my old editor
wasn’t going to take it. One day, a friend of mine
from Georgetown days, my undergraduate days– his
name is Jason Berry, who loved what I was trying to
do and was gung ho about it from the start– said send an
outline and a sample chapter to my agent. I think he might look at it. Now, Jason is an
interesting person. I don’t want to get
too off track on him. But I will just say that Jason
Berry was the first author to uncover the
pedophilia scandal in the Catholic priesthood. And he remained a
Catholic, after 25 years of writing this hellish story. I have often told Jason, there’s
the book you got to write, why you stayed after
all that misery. Well, maybe Francis I is
the better part of it. So Jason’s agent, Steve
Hanselman, took a look and he got it. And why did he get it? Because he was born in
Shafter, California, right outside of Bakersfield. But he was living and
working in New York. So he loved it. And he knew what
it was all about. Steve Hanselman understood
that the Serra story was one that was
important to him from childhood, in fact
since the fourth grade. Now, how many here did a
fourth grade mission project? All right. Which mission, Mike? Do you remember
which one you did? MIKE: [INAUDIBLE]. GREGORY ORFALEA: I see that
was a mission you really loved. Shannon, do you remember? SHANNON: Carmel. GREGORY ORFALEA: Carmel,
San Carlos Borromeo. I just was there. I love that mission. Mine was San Juan Capistrano. Anyone else? Anybody do San
Gabriel, down in LA? That’s a good one. Anyway, Steve Hanselman had
done San Juan Capistrano too. Steve was convinced
that Serra badly needed a realistic,
unbiased treatment, one that was both
celebratory and critical. He was convinced that the
story had ripple effects far beyond California
and could tell us much about the origins of the
Hispanic influenced country we were becoming. So we went at it. And we totally revised the
outline and the sample chapter. But we were turned
down by 12 publishers, even with a gung ho agent. However, just when I was going
to give up– isn’t that the way it always is? Just when you’re about
ready to pack it in, you get a little tinkle
of a bell on your phone or at your door. And in this case, it was Colin
Harrison at Scribner, the best publisher and the best editor,
in my opinion, in New York. Colin– and this is
kind of what he said, I’m sort of paraphrasing. I am interested in
alternate foundation stories for this country. And this is certainly one we
know almost nothing about. And I thought, well,
that’s how it works. You’re lost and then by dint of
a kindred soul, you’re found. Now, the flip side to
the regional critique immediately hit me. Now, we have a contract. We have a pretty decent advance. I’m raring to go. The critique about the
smallness of the story suddenly becomes the
reality of an immense story. So what’s the fear now? And I up to it? Can I handle this? I’m a literature
guy, not a historian, although I’ve written histories. My background is
literature and writing. So what can I bring to
this task that’s different? Well, I thought maybe– what’s
literature most fascinated with? Character, character, a
person, that’s what I want. I want to get into the
character of Serra. I want the people to
walk in his sandals and know what it was like
to live in the 18th century and to do what he did. Luckily, I had an editor that
divined right away that I was insecure and bolstered
me almost from the start. He gave me his cell phone,
his private cell phone. I could call him
on the weekends. This has never
happened to me before. It happens to very few authors
who aren’t best sellers. He said we’re going to go at it
chapter by chapter and we did. 22 chapters, we had
22 conversations of an hour or more on the phone
for each of those chapters. Uncanny. OK. Yeah, the question is
what drew me to Serra? Well, actually answer is
the regional critique. I was part of California. I don’t know. The earliest memory I have as
a child is about 2 and 1/2, of having a bird land
on my upturned arm at San Juan Capistrano Mission. And the bird was pecking the
bird seed out of my hand. There’s a photograph of it. But I hadn’t seen the
photo in many years. And in my mind I thought,
oh, it must be a swallow because the swallows
come back to Capistrano, on March 19, Saint
Joseph’s Feast Day. And I thought I
was part of that. Well, it turned out
it was a pigeon. But that early memory and
that sense of sacred space, the sense too of
going to Georgetown in the East for college,
feeling like nobody understood things that
were really close to me from California, the assumption
that there’s no history. Californians are ahistorical. They’re trying to
escape history. That’s why people go West. Well, people went West after
the Spaniards were there. There’s a lot of history
before the Americans get here. And that’s what I want– I think
I was building up the instinct to do this for many years,
particularly in the East, at Georgetown. OK. Challenge number
two, how to deal with the dearth of material
on Serra’s early life. Up until “Journey to the
Sun,” there was in fact only one extant letter
of Junipero Serra, up to his leaving Spain forever
at the age of 36 from Cadiz. OK, so I said one letter for
the first half of his life before he set sail. That’s not a lot. Five letters for Mexico– he
was in Mexico for 18 years, longer than he was here. So six letters up
through age 54. I found two in my journeys. Doesn’t sound like a lot. But you guys know better than
I, what that is, a 33% increase. So I feel pretty
good about that. I also should mention
that part of this problem with a dearth of
material– the challenges, you got to become
not just a historian, but a sort of
investigative reporter. And you’ve got to travel. I did five trips to
Spain and Mexico. You’ve got to
focus on the myths, like a laser,
especially the ones that are most controversial. And I’ve done that I hope
in “Journey to the Sun.” Also the challenge becomes how
to weave a story progression through the creation
of nine missions? That’s a challenge in itself. Because no mission’s story stops
with the creation of a new one. So you’re weaving
this man’s life story through the nine
missions, which is part three of the four
parts of the book. And you’ve got a chapter
for each mission, but then they
overlap, interlace. For example– just
a quick example– the pivotal moment
of the story, which I think I’m coming
up to that soon, is the attack on
San Diego Mission. But the attack on San Diego
Mission occurs in 1775. Mission San Juan Capistrano
is being founded. So I have the attack on
San Diego in the San Juan Capistrano chapter. And those are the kinds of
things you have to deal with. Now, you may wonder why
is the Serra story so document poor for the
first 36 years of his life? Anybody have any just
random guesses or thoughts? There’s quite a few reasons. OK. First of all, he taught
at the Lullian University. He had a chair in theology. He was a very respected,
erudite theologian in Palma at the time. That university, the
Lullian University in Palma was closed in 1835. And a lot of the records, and
sermons probably, and lectures were lost. How about 1936 to 1939? What was going on in
Spain at that time? AUDIENCE: Civil war. GREGORY ORFALEA:
Civil war, to which I would compare the
Syrians’ civil war today. I think that’s the one terribly
tragic and bloody parallel to what’s going on in Syria. The Spanish Civil War had
Franco wiping out anything having to do with
Catalan identities. Towns, Basque or
Catalan, everything was to be Castillian. The language, the
Catalan dialect, he destroyed the dictionaries. So Palma and Mallorca
is part of Catalonia. So it’s very likely we lost
Serra, or at least many of Serra’s holdings at the
time of Generalissimo Franco. So when you see
“Guernica,” the next time you see that great painting
by Picasso of “Guernica,” with the explosions in
San Sebastian and Bilbao, think about we lost Serra
right there, or at least records of Serra. I did unearth four
sermons of Serra to Claretian nuns in the
1730s that very few had ever seen before in Spanish. And someone had done a sort
of bad English translation in the ’90s that I
found in Mallorca. I added my own translation. That really helped
me with his way of thinking about God
and grace and suffering. Walking the streets where
Serra grew up in Petra, being taken around Palma
by a seminarian, who was living in the same hall in
the Confendo de San Francisco in Palma that Serra had
lived in as a young priest, was invaluable. In Barcelona, I sustained
“the terrible triad.” I don’t know if any of you have
ever broken your elbows before. Like an idiot, I chased
a thief out of the metro and hit a little
escalan, which we don’t have in our metros,
a little tiny step. And when flying as
I was chasing him and smashed my elbow against
stone, and broke two bones, the radial, the ulna,
and the tendon came off. And they call that
the terrible triad. So on my wife and I spent a
week in a hospital in Barcelona, all in the service of trying
to find some original documents of Serra’s. And, in fact, I did come up
with an original letter which revealed several things
that couldn’t possibly be seen in the transcription. I actually held Serra’s
goodbye letter to his parents in my hands, given to me by
a Capuchin monk in Barcelona. I had to put the white
gloves and hold it. And I saw two spots, which I’m
going to share with you soon, two spots on the goodbye letter. Now, what do you think two spots
would be in a goodbye letter to parents? Llora, tears, yeah, tears. That’s my guess. Could be moisture
damage too, I mean. But that was sort of my feeling. I also uncovered in Oaxaca,
after some relentless research and coming up empty
for days, I found the name of a man who was having
a 14-year affair with a woman, who confessed it to Serra. Now, we knew about this
unknown person’s confession. We didn’t know the
name of the man. It’s briefly disgusted
in a 1787 biography by a friend of his,
Francisco Palou, and then dropped for 200 years. Briefly mentioned in 1959
by Father Maynard Geiger, the last major biography. I thought, whoa, I want to
find out who those people were. And I did. And once I had the
name of the man who was carrying on the affair,
Don Mathias Cortabarria, I ran around Oaxaca
to five archivists And archivists love it when
you give them something. They just love– they sit around
in these kind of dreary jobs all day long– dust
of the archive. And it’s pretty grim. But when they have
something and they know someone’s on the trail
of something centuries back, they love it. And they just really
worked hard for me and found many of these names. OK, any questions about the
document-poor, document-rich? I should save the
document-rich part of the story is that one Serra
gets to California, you have 264 letters. So it’s a bumper crop. Now, it’s what do you use? What do you throw out
and what do you use? OK. Number three, the
third obstacle, trying to pin down
the pivotal moment. Because a lot of the editors,
prior to Collin taking it, want to know, OK,
what’s the fulcrum here? What’s the fulcrum of the story? I struggled at first. I thought maybe it was Serra’s
decision to leave everything. He ever went home. He never saw his parents again. He was so nervous about
saying goodbye to them, he couldn’t address the
goodbye letter to them. He addressed the goodbye letter
to a cousin, who was a priest, and said give it to them. Could that be the
pivotal moment? Well, maybe. But what do you do then? If that’s the
pivotal moment, he’s still got half of his life left. That doesn’t serve. How about the spider
bite at Vera Cruz? When he first landed in
Vera Cruz, and he was 36, he was bitten by a spider,
walking from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, 250 miles. It festered. It necrotized over time. And it pained him for 25
years, the rest of his life, walking all over California. A pretty serious pivotal moment,
but a little amorphous too. Was it his despair after
the Cortabarria incident? I didn’t mention this. But the man who was having
the affair with the woman that confessed to Serra, when he
realized that the woman was not coming back to him,
he hanged himself. And this had great repercussions
in Oaxaca and affected Serra. How about Serra’s meeting
with the viceroy in 1774, when he went all the way
back from Carmel, down through Baja, over on ship
to San Blas, to Mexico City, and pleaded with the viceroy
not to shut the whole project down because there
was a terrible epidemic almost of molestation
by the soldiers, of the Indian women, which Serra
totally decried and fought. But he was worried because
their one was stopping them. The commandantes were not
cashiering these soldiers, that the viceroy was going to
end the project at California. In the end, I
picked the incident I mentioned to you,
Serra’s reaction to the murder of Father
Luis Jayme, who grew up with him in Mallorca, during
the second attack of Mission San Diego by the Kumeyaay. And I’ll read just a
brief little part of that, and then we’ll run to the end. In the wake of the second major
Indian uprising in California, Serra sat down
December 15, 1775, to write a soul-searching letter
to Viceroy Bucareli in Mexico City. I should mention that
although the attack took place in San Diego, Serra
was not there. He was in Carmel. Carmel was his home mission. So he didn’t get the
news for a couple weeks. But when he did, and he knew
that Indians had been arrested, at least nine, and then
later a total of 24, to be executed– they were on
death row– he had to act fast. So he wrote this letter. He contemplated the burned,
shredded baptismal records, the stolen vestments and
utensils of the Sacristy. He hovered on giving up. He reminded Bucareli
of his insistence at the beginning of these
conquests quote, “That in case the Indians, whether pagans
or Christians, would kill me, they should be pardoned.” From the very onset of the
Spanish movement into Alta California, Serra seemed to
sense violence was inevitable and he wasn’t
going to return it. Nor did he want the
military to return it. Serra’s insistent
note to Bucareli was not only exceptional
in its anticipatory mercy, it seemed to beg the question
of the whole enterprise. This is a stunning position. It’s almost as if Serra
were asking for forgiveness, not only for the
Indian, but from him, knowing what the
Indian was going to have to give up even if he
felt he was offering a better way, salvation, as
he understood it. So Serra attacked the clemency
simply and profoundly. And I’ll give you the
exact quote in his letter to Bucareli. “To prevent the Indian
from killing others, let the soldiers protect us
in better fashion than they did the now deceased padre. And as to the killer, let him
live so that he can be saved. For that is the
purpose of our coming here and its sole
justification.” In short, “the gospel of love.” All right, the fourth challenge. Yes, sir? AUDIENCE: What happened? GREGORY ORFALEA: What happened? AUDIENCE: Did the
letter take effect? GREGORY ORFALEA: Bucareli
was deeply moved. He ordered all the
Indians released. In fact, one of them, probably
the leader of the attack, Carlos, whose native name was
Chisli, Carlos and his brother Francisco, they were both
in on this rebellion, became very close to the
missions, particularly Francisco. I think he was a leader of
Christian Indians in San Diego. Carlos kind of went
in and out of– he was a bit of a recidivist. But he ended up at
Carmel ironically, after Serra died, and
had his family there and worked the
mission in Carmel. The fourth challenge
was how to deal with the most troubling,
if not revolting, fact of Father Serra’s life,
that he allowed and even advocated floggings for penance
and discipline in the missions, often against the very Indians
he was otherwise protecting. I’ll only say here I was
faced with a twofold problem, a moral one and a narrative one. The first was
easier to confront. Serra was wrong. There’s no way to gainsay it. Despite the fact that
disciplinary floggings were commonly used in schools,
as well as prisons, throughout Europe,
Serra should have had the wisdom to be as ahead
of his times in this area as he was in others. The narrative
problem was tougher. If I tackled the issue
of floggings too early, I might lose the reader’s
commitment to the Serra story before it even began. And although I sprinkled
references to the floggings in the book prior, I don’t
focus intensely on it until the last
night of his life. And it’s the end of part
three of a four-part book. And that night, I
begin the chapter actually with this
quote from that night. Serra says, “I have come
under the shadow of fear.” That’s when I deal
with the floggings. It’s hard to explain them away. But you have to
remember that this was a sort utopic
community, the mission. And the Indians were
not forced to come in. That’s a myth. It wasn’t slavery. It was a kind of indentured
servitude though. Because once they
were in, then they were committed to a community
that needed their work. They were given clothes. They were given food and
shelter and a home at a time when lots was going on
in the native villages. The germs were spreading. The microbes were out and about. And a lot of Indians were dying. So the mission, and I
say this at one point, the great irony of the
California missions is that they were both
protection and exposure. The Indians were seen as
children, not– how can I say this? We’ve all read some books where
the padres refer to their flock as “my children.” I don’t think it was
you’re inferior than me. But it was a kind of way
of regarding the neophytes, as they were
called, as newcomers in the Christian faith. As such, the number
of the thrashings was half of what
an adult would get. That’s 12 versus 25. That still doesn’t
make it right. Personally, I think
probably the worst thing about the
thrashings was not the physical pain,
but the humiliation. People would steal. There was adultery that went on. I don’t have to tell you
what went on in New England with adultery. they didn’t whip you. They burned witches
at the stake, who they thought to be witches. We have to be careful
when writing history of what’s known as the
presentism problem, to judge the past with
our present attitudes and moral standards. Still, like I say– and I
make no bones about this, I think it was wrong. Yes, sir? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. GREGORY ORFALEA: It
was actually part of the whole Spanish project. And, in fact, it was part
of the English project. The English thrashed
their students at prep schools, such as Eaton. What was it? Four thrashings was a scrubbing. Six lashes was a
bibling in Eaton. This was the
standard of the time. I suspect it was probably
not much different in Asia. I mean, unfortunately,
corporeal punishment or corporal punishment
was a standard. Now, I will hasten to say
that even during Serra’s time, people took issue with it. One of the governor’s
took issue with it. And he got into a big
argument with him in 1780. And I mention that. By the 1820s, it was abolished
throughout the Spanish lands. So although it was
the standard, it was beginning to
come under question. To move forward
to last obstacle– and then we’ll open it
up– the last obstacle was, in the words of Frank Buck,
how to bring him back alive. Another way of stating this
is how to make the Serra story neither hagiography–
and hagiography, overly praising or
excessive adulation of the subject– nor
a broadside attack. In short, how to make
Serra a real man. One way to do this
was to make those that he came to save for
Christ, real men and women, that is the Indians of California. So I had to do a lot of
research about Indian culture. As those of you have
written books know– or people who’ve organized
them, been involved with researching–
organization is theme. I tried to effect
a kind of ecumenism by dividing the first two
parts of the book like this. Part one is Serra
before California and part two is
California before Serra. Then we combine
them in part three. And then it’s after his
death and the sainthood issue in part four. So it’s pretty simple. But there was a
method to my madness. Another method of
bringing him back alive was to bring back
alive the women he loved, which included
the Blessed Mother herself, his sister and mother,
Maria Contreras in Oaxaca. That’s the woman who
confessed to him, the affair. And Maria de Agreda– has
anyone here ever heard of the 17th century
nun, Maria de Agreda? I had never heard of her
before I started the story. She was said to have
by bilocated 500 times from Spain, Agreda,
Spain, to New Mexico. And in the book, I
say, well, there’s a spiritual frequent
flyer if there was one. It’s quite a story,
Maria de Agreda. But all this to say that
other than his Bible and his divine office,
the only other book that Serra had in his
bag all over California was “The Mystical
City of God” written by Maria de Agreda, a
four-volume novelistic treatment of the Blessed Mother. Anybody here interested
in women studies, take a look at that book. Not too many women novelists
in the 17th century. And here’s one writing
four volumes about Mary. Serra was entranced. Another way I tried to
bring him back alive was to use fictional
techniques about nonfiction. And that is, occasionally I
will put interior thoughts in italics. I try not to overdo it. I always ground it
in the real record. And when the record
runs out, I’ll sometimes use the
subjunctive mood. And my editor said, oh,
yeah, the subjunctive will be the salve for the wound. Beyond research for new
primary and secondary material and the somewhat
risky techniques was the matter of
walking in his shoes, in Mallorca, mainland
Spain, Mexico, and the two Californians. This was exhausting,
exhilarating, and for me at times
deeply humbling. The Serra story is
interdisciplinary from start to finish. You must steep yourself
in the art he loved, his theological models,
the history of the times, the history of the Church,
music, literature, geography, and the environment. And finally, I had a
field day envisioning the beauty of our wondrous state
through the eyes of one who fell in love with it for
life, causing great hope and great pain for
its inhabitants. And I’ll leave you with
this short paragraph of Serra traveling south,
looking out on the water. Troubled before La
Assumpta– La Assumpta is an Indian village near
present-day Ventura– Serra saw something out on
the blue of the calm morning, a wound on the sea,
a lambent dark red, the kelp beds, like a stigmata
on the water. At the hottest
point of the sun, he might have climbed off the mule,
taken to the sea, the water making his robes heavy,
but his heart light. Close up, the kelp was golden,
its pods upright in the water. The kelp leaf could pass
over his face like a hand. God, he loved suffering
for this beauty. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] So a couple of quick images and
then we’ll call it an evening. This is Mt. Ronda in Mallorca, a
beautiful upsurge of mountain. They’re all over the island. And there are sanctuaries and
monks, monasteries up there. This is where one
of Serra’s models, the 13th century
monk Raymond Lull, claimed to have seen a vision
of Christ crucified while he was living his dissolute
life, sort of like Saint Augustine in his 20s. Raymond Lull was writing a
letter to one of his lovers. And he saw this image of
Christ crucified on Mt. Ronda. And it was a place
that Serra loved. Here’s Soller. Now, what does that remind
you of, that landscape? California. So I always say, Serra
left home to go home. It’s beautiful. If you’ve never been to
Mallorca, you won’t regret it. This is Soller, which is
where the olive press, the great olive press was. And Serra and his father
would take the olives on a mule train over the
mountain, the Tramuntana, down into Soller,
which was a port town, and put the olives
in the great grinder. There he is. Now, that’s probably the only
painting he really sat for. But we’re not even
sure that he did. But we guess around
1773, we think it was Jose de Paez, who
was a great Mexican painter. He looks a little
fraught, I’d say, puzzled. The copy– the original, if
it ever existed, is no more. This is one extant copy. And it’s at Mission
Santa Barbara. So if you ever want to see
it, that’s where it is. OK, the goodbye
letter to his parents. I flipped it. This is the fourth leaf. Remember, I was
talking about the spots on the goodbye letter? Let’s see, can you see it here? There’s one way up here
and then one down here. I don’t know if you can see it. It’s not quite focused. But it’s there. Also take a look at how
he finished the letter. This is the actual letter. This is the margin. And on the side of
the leaf, he just couldn’t stop saying goodbye. Goodbye to my– please express
goodbye to my cousins, Jose. And please say goodbye to the
baker down the street in Petra. He just filled
this with goodbyes. It’s obviously a
very painful letter. And then he ends
it, cordial amigo in Cristo, your cordial
friend in Christ, Junipero Serra, Junipero
Serra, indigno sacerdote, which in Latin is
“unworthy priest.” But look at this. There’s a little squiggle here. And I think– and
you wouldn’t see unless you saw the original–
that he added a superlative. It’s not “indigno.” It’s “indignisimo,” which
means “most unworthy priest.” All right, here’s
North America in 1663. You see California? It’s this huge island. And that’s what California
was taken as for a long time. Into the middle of
the 18th century, California was thought
to be an island. And in this case, it’s half the
size of the continental United States. This is “The Founding”
in Monterrey– the great painting
called “The Founding.” The painting is 1877, but the
event was 1700– 1770, sorry, the second mission. This is the Vizcaino. It’s no longer there today. But there was an earlier
mass done in 1602 by the explorer
Sebastian Vizcaino. And in it lasted for many
years, until it finally rotted and was thrown
into the bay when they were building a
train, in about 1905. Probably one of the more famous
trees in American history. I mentioned Maria de Agreda. This is a picture of her I
got from Zacatecas in Mexico. Here’s Maria. And she’s sitting next to
one of the evangelists. Can you guess which one,
the four gospel writers? It’s John, Saint John. And they each are
wielding a pen– writers. And this is the name of
her great book on Mary. I mentioned to you the
last night of his life was– great fear
had come over him. This is the great fear painting. If there was any doubt that’s
what he had said– very soon, he died in 1784. So six years later, there’s
a painting about this moment. It was legendary even then. And it would have to
have been transferred by his very close friend and
first biographer, Francisco Palou. Here’s Serra in the middle. This is Palou himself,
doing last rites. Can you see? It’s not easy to see it. Maybe over here, more easy. There’s a face above Palou. Can you see it? It’s very difficult to see
on this project– that’s an Indian, Indian chief. And on the left is probably
Governor Pedro Fagus, who clashed with
Serra constantly. I love this painting. It’s shown in Carmel
Mission once a year, for the week before Christmas. And it’s Mary being visited
by St. Elizabeth, who’s pregnant with John the Baptist. And Mary, of course, is
pregnant with Christ. The painting was
done around 1500. And it is in the Uffizi in
Florence, the great Uffizi gallery. This is a copy. And the copy– a very good
one– is in Carmel Mission. Oh god, forget him. I’m out the childhood window. And the last picture
will make my wife– she’s in the backyard of
Serra’s home in Petra, looking a little– oh, Greg,
isn’t it time to go? Well, thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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