11 Spanish missions that have lots of stories to tell, but only if we let them.

How much longer will these structures be around?

There are 21 historic mission landmarks along Highway 101 in California — known as El Camino Real or The King's Road — beautiful yet dilapidated buildings with rusty bells and adobe walls.

These landmarks are Christian missions established between 1769 and 1823 during the Spanish colonization, when the Spanish arrived with the intention of spreading Christianity by converting indigenous people.

These missions have many stories to tell but are in dire need of preservation.


The paint on the walls is chipped to the point of no return. You can see the little effort that goes into their upkeep by the dust collected on the shelves displaying the artifacts, if any, that remain. If these missions were being sold, the description on their conditions would most likely read "as is."

Here are 11 iconic Spanish missions erected by Catholic priests and other religious leaders along El Camino Real that are in desperate need of our attention:

1. Mission San Juan Capistrano, the seventh of nine missions established by Father Serra, was designed in the shape of a cross.

San Juan Capistrano, California. Photo (cropped) by Sharon Mollerus/Flickr.

2. Founded in 1786, Mission Santa Bárbara still functions as a parish church.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

3. Built in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first mission in the Southwest. The garden still has olive trees that are centuries old.

San Diego, California. Photo (cropped) by El Cajon Yacht Club/Flickr.

4. Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, is located 9 miles east of downtown L.A. and has walls that are five feet thick.

San Gabriel, California. Photo (cropped) by Ken Lund/Flickr.

5. Named for King Louis IX of France, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is considered the most elegant of all the California missions.

Oceanside, California. Photo (cropped) by Ken Lund/Flickr.

6. Mission San Francisco de Asís (also known as Mission Dolores) is located in the heart of San Francisco and is often called the oldest building in the city.

San Francisco, California. Photo (cropped) by Ken Lund/Flickr.

7. Founded in 1777, Mission Santa Clara de Asís is located about 40 miles south of San Francisco.

Santa Clara, California. Photo (cropped) by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner/Flickr.

8. Mission San Buenaventura is home to two Redwood bells, the only wooden bells among the missions.

Ventura, California. Photo (cropped) by Marianne Muegenburg Cothern/Flickr.

9. Named for a 13-year-old martyr, Mission Santa Inés has an impressive collection of clothing and church records.

Solvang, California. Photo (cropped) by Justin Ennis/Flickr.

10. Mission San Juan Bautista is named after John the Baptist and was a popular place to study the fine arts.

San Juan Bautista, California. Photo by luckywhitegirl/Flickr.

11. Located at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, Mission San Rafael Arcángel first served as a sanitarium for people suffering from disease or depression.

San Rafael, California. Photo (cropped) by Rene de la Rosa/Flickr.

While the missions have controversial and painful histories, they have lots to teach us.

The missions represent a forced type of civilization that perhaps the indigenous did not want at first — or ever. Just the same, they're some of the last visual remnants we have of early colonization in the American Southwest.

In California, the preservation of the missions and their archives and artifacts like these are left up to private organizations using donations that trickle in. There's a different sentiment in Mexico, where the missions are considered an integral part of the nation’s history and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, or the National Institute of Anthropology and History, is responsible for caring for these structures.

A group of about 20 experts from the U.S. and Mexico met at Mission San Gabriel near San Francisco in early June 2016 to discuss how to move forward with a conservation plan.

The University of California-Mexico Initiative's Arts and Cultures Working Group is putting up $25,000 to fund a binational summit to keep these buildings around, with the goal of considering the common history and heritage of the missions and think of new ways of both preserving and presenting the missions to the public.

We didn't get to choose our historic landmarks. But we can choose to take care of them.They are an integral part of our past, and you can help keep them thriving by donating to the California Missions Foundation. As the Foundation so eloquently puts it, "We can save the California missions today for tomorrow."

Most Shared
LUSH

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is putting its money where its mouth is and taking a bold step for climate change action.

On September 20 in the U.S. and September 27 in Canada, Lush will shut the doors of its 250 shops, e-commerce sites, manufacturing facilities, and headquarters for a day, in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike taking place around the world. Lush is encouraging its 5000+ employees "to join this critical movement and take a stand until global leaders are forced to face the climate crisis and enact change."

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Photo by Annie Bolin on Unsplash

Recent tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have sparked a lot of conversation and action on the state level over the issue of gun control. But none may be as encouraging as the most recent one, in which 145 CEOs signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take action at their level.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The fine folks at Forbes are currently falling all over themselves trying to clean up the mess they created by publishing their 2019 list of 100 Most Innovative Leaders.

The problem: The list included 99 men and one woman. For those not so good with the math, that means according to Forbes, only 1% of the country's most innovative leaders are female.

Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

That's how it feels to see a list like this. So how did Forbes come up with these results?

Keep Reading Show less
Innovation

There's something delicious and addicting about those trendy recipe videos circulating online. You've seen them before: the quick and beautiful play-by-plays of mouthwatering dishes you wish you were eating at this very moment.

The recipes seem so simple and magical and get you thinking, "Maybe I can make that five-cheese bacon lasagna tonight." And before you know it, you're at the store loading up on Colby-Monterey Jack (or is that just me?).

For some families, though, the ingredients and final product look a little different. As part of Hunger Action Month, the hunger-relief organization Feeding America is using our obsession with cooking videos to highlight the reality many food-insecure families face when they sit down for dinner: hunger, and no food in sight.

By putting a twist on the bite-sized food videos all over the internet, they hope to raise awareness that hunger is an unacceptable reality for too many families.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
True
Gates Foundation: The Story of Food