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How the Spanish Inquisition affected the history of California

Everyone knows about the Spanish Inquisition. If you're like me, you've heard of Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor, who lived in the 1400s. You also may have visited some of the Missions that were built in the 1700s in California. And yes, there is a connection. And while there are many things that people don't talk about, I will. Time-travel with me to the Dark Ages.

Friar Tomás de Torquemada

The Dark Ages in Europe, also called the Medieval Era, can also be called The Age of Faith. No, I'm not defending the Spanish Inquisition, I'm looking at it from their point of view. And while ultimately the Age of Faith gave way to the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment, that doesn't help you to understand the history of California. For that, you will have to understand Faith, a Faith that was stronger than the fear of death.

When the United States of America was established, it embraced the ideals of the Enlightenment. That is, humanism, truths that were seen as self-evident. The new country rejected the idea of Kings, and that government needed to be based on divine power. This was a country by the people, and for the people. There was to be no official state religion. Authority to govern was the power of the people, not God.

California, created as New Spain, was not a product of this ideology. Spain was a Catholic country, and even though the extremist attitudes of people like Torquemada had diminished, the basic concept remained - the importance of spreading the word of the Gospel all over the world. And so, while we take the word "Mission" for granted, take another look it it. It was a project, a goal. A mission for God, that people were willing to die for. And many people did.

The Missions of California have become curiosities, tourist attractions. Most people just know that they were built "back in the day". That day was a dangerous time, and a time of Faith.

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