Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Apr. 12: Francisco Garces, Spanish Franciscan missionary


Name Francisco Garces (1738-1781) was a pioneering Spanish Franciscan missionary and explorer of northern Mexico, the American southwest, and both Californias. Born in Aragon in north-central Spain, he was ordained a priest in 1763. He was among the Franciscans who replaced the Jesuits when the King of Spain expelled them from his domains, and was assigned to the renowned Mission San Xavier del Bac now near Tucson, Arizona. (He was in the group of Franciscans that took charge of present-day Sonora, Mexico and Arizona, USA. Other Franciscans, under the doughty Junípero Serra, took Baja California and expanded into what is now the state of California, USA.) Not resting on his laurels, Garcés conducted extensive explorations in the Sonoran, Colorado, and Mojave Deserts, along the Gila River, and the Colorado River from the Gulf of California and Lower Colorado River Valley to the Grand Canyon, recording encounters with the Native American tribes along the way. Twice he traveled with the conquistador Juan Bautista de Anza, and also entered the San Joaquin Valley in 1776. With Juan Díaz he established two missions on the lower Colorado River near modern Yuma; in July 1781, he and his fellow friars were killed in a violent native uprising. He left behind two diaries (available online in English and Spanish), one covering the first de Anza expedition (January-July, 1774) and the other covering the second (October-December, 1776).


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