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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spanish Missions in the Indigenous Landscape: A View from Mission Santa Catalina, Baja California


Mission Santa Catalina was founded on the margins of the Spanish colonial frontier in northern Baja California, but over time it became an important place in the indigenous landscape of the region. Dominican friars established the mission at a crossroads of native interaction, and recent archaeological, archival, and ethnographic research suggests that indigenous mission neophytes continued to engage in dynamic social and economic relationships with other native groupsthroughoutthecolonialperiod.Atthesametime,however,thediversenativepeopleswholivedatSantaCatalina formed new bonds to each other and to the lands around the mission itself. Together, these two processes suggest that the mission’s neophyte population was not isolated from the broader indigenous landscape, and that although it was marginal from the point of view of the Spanish, Santa Catalina was—and continues to be—an important place in native Baja California.

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