When someone thinks about Baja California, they usually associate it with good wine, great beer, excellent food and the infamous dark side of Tijuana, however, the peninsula of Baja California is very rich in history and culture. Some of the most important historic treasures are the missions the Jesuits built in order to help colonize the northern part of Mexico.
For all of you who want to get to know a little more about the history of Baja California, we highly recommend the historic missionary route, also known as the “Royal Missionary Road”. This route includes the most important missionary points, rock paintings (yes, Baja California has rock paintings) and museums to help you get to know more about the state and it's founding.
The story tells that by the end of the XVII century up until the XIX, the Jesuit, Franciscan and Dominican monks founded numerous missionary points in California on behalf of the Spanish crown in order to help facilitate the colonization of the northern part of the country. Currently there are 14 Missionary points still standing in Baja California, where you can clearly see the influence the Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans had on the indigenous cultures of the state (Cucapá, Pai Pai, Kiliwa, Kumiai and Cochimi). The ruins are very well preserved and access to tourists is permitted, given that most of the buildings are still functional.
According to the Secretary of Tourism's website, some of the best sites to visit are the following:
1.- San Miguel Arcangel de la Frontera
This missionary point is found in the valley of San Miguel, this place is known as Ja-Kwátl-Jap which means Hot water.
This site used to be known as San Juan Bautista, Father Juan Crespi recognized it as an ideal place to establish a missionary points back in 1769. this was finally achieved on March 12th 1787 when the Dominican Luis de Sales founded the missionary point of San Miguel Arcangel de la Frontera near an Oak Tree. In 1837 it was abandoned due to the lack of personnel. It was the fourth missionary point founded on the Royal Road.
2.- San Vicente Ferrer
This was the third Dominican missionary point which was built on the Royal Road, it was founded on the 27th of august 1780 by friars Miguel Hidalgo and Joaquin Valero. It was established on the western side of the San Vicente watershed, the water from the San Vicente stream allowed this mission to develop agriculture, allowing them to farm corn, wheat, beans and barley.
3.- Santo Domingo de la Frontera
The mission known as Santo Domingo was originally explored during 1775 by the Dominicans Manuel Garcia and Miguel Hidalgo, who founded said missionary point on the 30th of august of that same year. Originally settled about 30 kilometers from the San Quintin bay. Between 1775 and 1797, the religious men Manuel Garcia, Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Aviar, Miguel Abad, and Jaime Covina, worked as resident ministers.
It was a prosperous missionary point, and they were able to farm olives, grapevines, figs, pears, prickly pears, wheat, corn and chickpeas, though it was abandoned in 1839, for reasons yet unknown.