King Carlos’s royal road, El Camino Real, trod by his agent Junipero Serra, was no doubt paved with good intentions. However, it led straight to hell for the Native Americans of California. Spanish society in the 1700s was a strict hierarchy in which the color of your skin, the origin of your birth, and the language you spoke determined your place in the pecking order. In California, the natives were placed at the bottom of the hierarchy, and those born in Spain and serving the monarchy were at the top.
Junipero Serra, an ambitious, relentless collector of “souls” had no regard for the health or well-being of the natives in this inferior world but wished to commit their souls to the glorious hereafter. To this end he was willing to beat them into submission and had no use for their ancient way of life or their knowledge and wisdom. Prominent visitors at the time described the missions as being exactly like the slave plantations they had visited in the Caribbean colonized by the Spanish. Pope Francis, in spite of his good intentions to declare Serra a saint, reveals he is still in the thrall of the political ambitions of the leaders of the Catholic Church in South America.