November 29, 2010

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Last weekend, my Mom and I visited The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, a Roman Catholic Mission in San Gabriel, California. The Mission was founded on September 8, 1771 by Father Junípero Serra, a Majorcan Franciscan friar from Spain.

With the arrival of the Mission, the communities and culture of the indigenous people, the Tongva, fell into rapid decline. Disease also took its toll on the Tongva population, and by the time the first American settlers arrived in the Los Angeles area in 1841, the surviving Tongva were scattered and working at subsistence level on Mexican land grants.

“The Tongva occupied the entire Los Angeles basin and the islands of Santa Catalina, San Nicholas, San Clemente, and Santa Barbara. From Topanga Canyon to Laguna Beach, from the San Gabriel mountains to the sea, we lived throughout most of what is now Los Angeles and Orange County. The existence of our people on these ancestral lands has been unbroken since long before the first contact between the Tongva and Europeans.” ~

“Despite the European incursion, we have remained an integral part of the Southern California community. Our presence is well documented. Our existence is preserved in records of the three local Catholic Missions and in records of cities in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. We have survived! We are here!” ~

An estimated 6,000 Tongva are buried within the Mission's garden walls. Today, there are around 300 enrolled members of the Tongva in San Gabriel. The name Tongva means People of the Earth.


  1. You have surpassed yourself... I wasn't sure that was possible in view of the beauty of previous work... but in depth, mood, emotion, angst, you have taken me to the place I get to when looking at work by Edward Curtis.

    You would love, I think, the book I'm reading now, Journal Peau Rouge by Jean Raspail, but I fear we will need to translate it for you, for it is out only in French I think.

    This is a truly glorious post, I will return here in silence, to meditate in the blue-grey glow of your radiant images...

  2. A second passage... these images are astoundingly, resoundingly beautiful...

    And one thought that occurred... this building of churches on stolen land is perhaps the greatest arrogance of all ?

    I first heard this song performed live by Bruce Cockburn, but I suppose this is the original.

  3. Thanks for sharing this - never heard Tongva before.
    We have Sami people in Lapland - our minority in Finland...I have to make a post of them one day.
    Freezing greetings from Helsinki!

  4. Your treatment gives the subject a certain deserved somberness. The cathedral of the Tongva was the land and sky itself. The religion, a reverence for life. The path of the Spanish conquest was a long trail of blood across the Americas. The missions, as interesting as they are, seem to me like a cover up, ironically accented by a mourning mother over a dead Jesus.

  5. Your treatment of these photographs and story go so well hand in hand. Wonderful, a beautiful post indeed!


  6. The manner in which you have chosen to reveal the subject of these images is both aesthetically and intellectually provocative.

  7. Dear Stickup .
    I found this message very strong, very moving and very beautiful .. Strong, for history, moving because it's always terrible to hear the story of a people uprooted or invaded by others, beautiful because your Images are perfects,the choice of monochrome is excellent ... thank you for this story, you enrich my world view and I like it .. have a nice week ..
    I kiss you ..

  8. Poor Tongva people! It happened everywhere 'we' went and, worst of all, most of the times in the name of religion. How ironic! The treatment you gave your photos couldn't be better. Great work!

  9. Beautiful treatment of these photos, giving them the patina of time, the scars not healed. Although I was not aware of the Tongva, I have studied the history and art of other N.American tribes and listened to contemporary native people tell their own painful well as stories of healing and renewed pride.

  10. If only we as humans could learn our lessons as well as coyote.
    I like the texture look on your pictures. It looks like linen material.

  11. These steely black-and-white images take my breath away. And I love to hear of Native American survivors living amongst us. What a great philosophy, "to oneself be true."
    There is a mission described by Anne Rice in Angel Time that also is breathtaking: It has a Serra Chapel(I suppose the same Serra?) It is either in or near San Juan Capistrano--have you seen it?

  12. That good effect, a good choice. Very interesting as always your input. Greetings!

  13. Needless to say, I've been in a parallel universe lately, with no immediate plans to return. However, better late than never...

    Beautiful photo study here. My favorite image is the last one of the succulent. I love the distressed bleuatre effect.

  14. this crushing weight of history - and of the thought that nothing can be made good again, every evil that we have done, every pain that we have caused - there is nothing we can do to erase that from time, from history. perhaps only hope that we won't repeat the same mistakes, though looking at what still happens now in the world, this hope is only an utopia.

    i silently bow in front of these images, and thank you for them, from my heart. and for the wonderful legend that i will forever keep in my heart.

    do you know this Brecht poem, written during his exile in the second world war, in 1939? i am always touched by it. and somehow it came to my mind, now. especially the final part, the plea to future generations to think kindly of those who have fought injustice, no matter how many mistakes they have also done...
    you can find a translation here:

  15. These are amazing photos! I love the artistic look. It would be cool to travel up "El Camino Real" and photograph all the missions.

    It's strange to think that when I was a kid I didn't like going to the missions. I was able to appreciate the history but I couldn't stand the musty smell. I think now days the upkeep is much better.

  16. So beautiful, and the mood your photos create is (for me at least) very soothing, I love a good church!

  17. I've seen a gazillion photos of the mission (I even have family buried there) but these re truly engaging

  18. they've started digging around the mission. Interesting. I grew up a mile from here ON San Gabriel blvd